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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

Displaying poll results.
One or more eyes -- that's all
  8332 votes / 41%
I have a handheld monocular or binoculars
  4948 votes / 24%
My own telescope, convenient to carry
  1751 votes / 8%
My own telescope, inconvenient to carry
  2956 votes / 14%
My friends' much better equipment
  711 votes / 3%
Easy/regular access to institutional scope
  464 votes / 2%
I run the planetarium
  966 votes / 4%
20128 total votes.
[ Voting Booth | Other Polls | Back Home ]
  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

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  • by jhumkey (711391) on Monday January 20, 2014 @06:36PM (#46018735) Journal
    But I will anyway. I chose handheld monoc or binoc . . . but really I use my Camera w/zoom lens and hand made Scotch mount . . . (good to see the heavens, better to share with lasting photos . . .)

    And . . . shouldn't the last one be . . . I run the "Observatory"??? . . . I'd think the guy that ran the Planetarium . . . was limited to the presentations someone sent them.
  • by billstewart (78916) on Monday January 20, 2014 @06:42PM (#46018805) Journal

    Personally I've got two eyes, some eyeglasses, and varying qualities of binoculars, which have been useful for watching comets or lunar eclipses, and I might still be able to find the dark-film eclipse-watching glasses. I've also got a hand-held collapsible telescope, but the optical quality is somewhere between "looks cool sitting on the fireplace mantel" and "goes with the parrot on my shoulder, yarrr!"

    I do have friends who are more serious about astronomy, though. One of them built a fairly large reflector scope which folds up into the trunk of his Miata (this was some years ago; don't know if he still has the car.) Another has a backyard observatory shed, 8-foot sliding roof, computer-controlled motors for the scope. ("Engineer with lots of time on his hands after he retired?" Yup. He can do some really cool stuff with it.)

    The most interesting astronomy gear I've seen the results of recently are from a Pentax digital SLR camera that does image stabilization by moving the sensor, and has a GPS in it. Apparently there's a mode you can use to tell it to track the sky for a really long exposure, so my friend who had it was able to take some good galaxy pictures.

    • I was going to say missing option, Camera with telephoto lens.. but your post covered it. Long exposure and a good camera results in light sensitivity better than my eyes.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      I use the Hubble Space Telescope via google searches.

      I have found google to be a much better telescope than any meat space version I care to purchase.

      Sad i know...

      • by g01d4 (888748)

        I have found google to be a much better telescope than any meat space version I care to purchase. Sad i know...

        It's not sad at all. There's a large publicly available database of existing quality images (e.g. from surveys or the HST). Check out APOD [] and you'll see some of these images that have been stylistically enhanced. It wasn't till much (um, much) later that I enjoyed going to the observatory. In graduate school I preferred programming simulations on the computer and matching the results to someone e

    • by Tynin (634655)

      The most interesting astronomy gear I've seen the results of recently are from a Pentax digital SLR camera that does image stabilization by moving the sensor, and has a GPS in it. Apparently there's a mode you can use to tell it to track the sky for a really long exposure, so my friend who had it was able to take some good galaxy pictures.

      Does your friend post any of these pictures? I'd love to see some.

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      I'd be interested in your friends setup. That sounds fantastic (my cheap Canon mini can expose the night sky very well, my 3/4ths system Panasonic DSLR cannot accurately focus to infinity in star light - and the lenses don't have indicators and can be turned in either direction forever, never resulting in a focus on infinity).

      • by rgbscan (321794)

        Here's a review of what he was talking about:

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Actually, I wish it were multiple choice, because I'd choose "friends have better gear" and "access to institutional scope"... a friend works at the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, which may not be the best telescope, but is definitely one of the best tours of a 130+ year old telescope (especially at midnight carrying around a 6-pack of beer...)

  • Really it's one or more eyes plus Google Sky.
  • Planetarium? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @08:19PM (#46019677)

    You can't view the sky with a planetarium. You can only pretend.

    • You can't view the sky with a planetarium. You can only pretend

      Maybe it was on purpose, to be snarky ot the pretenders. But I'm not sure, as I haven't heard wooshing sounds yet.

    • by pruss (246395)

      Maybe there is a hole in the roof?

  • by mattie_p (2512046) on Monday January 20, 2014 @08:56PM (#46019957)

    I'm waiting for Neil deGrasse Tyson to show up and be all like:

    "All of the above, you insensitive clods!"

  • Or really, anything from NASA [] or the ESA [] that's sending back pictures.
  • by NixieBunny (859050) on Monday January 20, 2014 @10:55PM (#46020773) Homepage
    I work on the Submillimeter Telescope on Mt Graham in Arizona. It's a 10 meter dish with several receivers in the ridiculously high frequency range of 200-800 GHz. We mostly do molecular spectroscopy, finding interesting molecules in faraway places. The 'images' that come out of my spectrometer are spectrum graphs, not photos.
    • by neurostar (578917)

      I've recently observed with the SMT (remotely). It's a good telescope and you all do a great job running it!

    • by ah.clem (147626)

      @NixieBunny - You truly have a career to envy!

    • by kyrsjo (2420192)


      What is the typical angular resolution you get - how much can you "zoom in" on a single source? Also, does it vary significantly accross the frequency range you're interested in, i.e. that longer wavelengths are collected from a larger slice of the sky than shorter wavelengths - and does it matter for the stuff you're doing?

      Oh, and judging from the control room pics on Wikipedia: It does indeed run Linux :)

      • The beam size (it's a Gaussian beam, so it's fuzzy) is about 20-50 arc seconds, narrower at higher frequency. Basic pointing accuracy is about 5 arc seconds, but we improve that with pointing observations that measure the Gaussian beam dropoff on the sides of a bright object, so we can optimize pointing to within an arc second or two. More black magic.
        • by kyrsjo (2420192)

          Thanks! That's pretty nice - about the size of Jupiter in the sky then [1]. Since there is a x2 difference in beam width, are there ever any problems with the low-frequency bit of a spectrum being aquired from a larger piece of sky than the high frequency bit? /me Is just asking amatourish questions, working with RF design for X-band accelerators myself so quite different field - but Maxwell still applies :)

          [1] []

          • We only use one receiver at a time, so it's not a problem. A poster written by one of our grad students that gives an idea of the telescope's capabilities is here [].

            The temperature scale on the graphs (temperature = signal strength) gives you an idea of the absurdly high sensitivity of the system. Some of those graphs are in milliKelvin!
  • I live near a public observatory, which has a wide variety of educational programs. While you may not get to choose the subject, you do have the opportunity to look through their scope, which is better than anything my friends have. Prices are very reasonable, and Thursdays are a "suggested donation" night if even that is a problem.

    http://www.cincinnatiobservato... []

    While you're at it, you can meet the co-host of Star Gazers.(No relation)


  • by gooman (709147) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @04:25AM (#46022305) Journal

    "I can see Uranus through my window tonight. I don't need a telescope to show me the light..."

    Ah, my misspent youth listening to Dr. Demento.

  • I live in a city and can't see the night sky, you insensitive clods!
    • You just need better filters
    • by fatphil (181876)
      How about a capital city. Right in the centre too. I guess I can see 20 stars on a typical good night. (Totally clear sky tonight, I guess I could tally 100, but at -13C out, I'm not going to put that to the test.)

      I voted monocular/binocular, as I do have a camera and lens which let me capture things like this without even resorting to a tripod: , which I'd say is more than the eye can see (at least my crappy old eyes).
      • Neil DeGrasse Tyson got his interest in astronomy after going to a kid's camp in Pennsylvania, and seeing stars for the first time in his Bronx life. Get out of town now and then!
        • Re:Missing option (Score:4, Interesting)

          by fatphil (181876) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @03:58PM (#46028671) Homepage
          Even though I've always been a city boy, I used to live closer to the countryside. I was just at the edge of the capital conurbation (i.e. same urban area, different city), but had only a 20-30 minute walk across the bay to countryside (across the bridge seen here: ).

          We did that trek for pretty much every lunar eclipse, meteor storm, high aurora activity, and comet religiously for about a decade. Every freaking time there was heavy cloud cover. Clearly an elemental conspiracy.

          So being in the smog (no joke, plenty of wood-fired heating here) really isn't that much worse. However, as you can tell from the fact that I did head out so often, I don't need a spark to be planted, I already have that flame. Fortunately my g/f has star-gazing connections back in the middle of dark-skies USA, so we get star porn e-mailed to us occasionally, which makes up for some of our failures. (And pre-release ISS porn too, they're good connections ;-) )

          But your point is a good one, and not wasted on me.
      • Re:Missing option (Score:4, Interesting)

        by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @08:03PM (#46031003)

        How about a capital city. Right in the centre too. I guess I can see 20 stars on a typical good night. (Totally clear sky tonight, I guess I could tally 100, but at -13C out, I'm not going to put that to the test.)

        I managed to count about 5 last month, and was really pleased. Central London isn't a good place for stargazing. ("From brightly lit Midtown Manhattan, the limiting magnitude is possibly 2.0, meaning that from the heart of New York City only approximately 15 stars will be visible at any given time." -- presumably about the same)

        Stars are something I look at abroad: http://mnras.oxfordjournals.or... [] -- it's probably around 6 hours travel time (by land) to get somewhere that map classes as dark. []

        • by fatphil (181876)
          I'm an ex-suburban Londoner, so I know what London's like too. Thanks for the link.I was initially annoyed that the image didn't go far enough east, but the following page does cover the rest of the baltics, and tells me what I mostly already knew - both Helsinki and Tallinn glow rather. One of issues is that in order to get somewhere dark, I need to take public transport, as neither my partner nor I drive. And the places well connected by public transport are blackspots. So it's a bit catch-22-ey.
  • Define "best" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by coldsalmon (946941) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @10:18AM (#46024155)

    My eye has the largest field of view of any of those options, and is the most portable. However, I went with my binoculars because they are better for viewing the Andromeda galaxy than my naked eye (or a telescope). I live in a large city and have to go on camping trips in order to stargaze, so binoculars are by far the best equipment for my needs. A couple of my friends have telescopes, but they are nearly useless in town, and too large to take camping.

    • by pruss (246395)

      Being in town doesn't significantly affect viewing of the moon and brighter planets, so telescopes aren't useless in town.

  • Best is subjective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrew.thekerrs@ca> on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @10:38AM (#46024399) Homepage

    I live in a small town, and after 10 minutes or so of my eyes adjusting to the dark, I can easily make out the arm of Milky Way. We have a hot tub, and I love sitting out there, with the lights off, floating and just looking up at the sky. We see satellites usually every night and the ISS occasionally. Jupiter and Uranus have been really bright the last week or so as well. There's no telescope or other equipment that could enhance that experience.

    Just so relaxing to be out there, especially in the winter when the air is cold and clear on a moonless night.

    • by toygeek (473120)

      I could not agree more. For the first time in my life, I live out in the real woods in a forest and far away from the city. To go outside and look up, and see... *everything*. Its really fantastic, and it really starts the brain thinking. It wasn't long before I started thinking "bigger". Its a wonderful experience.

    • by Aeonite (263338)

      Uranus gets brighter and shinier the longer you sit in the hot tub.

  • I live in the downtown of a fairly major city. Even on a good night, anything dimmer than magnitude 2 is invisible. And on a bad night? No stars at all, just the moon. And all the jets and helicopters that seem to be constantly flying around.

    I settle for setting Hubble images as my desktop wallpaper. I've got a rather nice one of the Orion Nebula up right now. And of course I follow several astronomy-themed blogs to get my spacewatching fix.

  • I used to get to look with a home made 8 inch telescope. Living down the road from DR. Clyde Tombaugh had it's advantages. Also got to hear the lecture about the discovery of Pluto several times. A very nice man.
  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @01:07PM (#46026559)

    My biggest scope is an 18" dob, made by the now-defunct Starsplitter. It looks a lot like an Obsession 18" [], and uses Obsession accessories.

    While large, with the wheelbarrow handles it's easy to move around and set up. When I bought it I refurbished it, including redoing the teflon bearings in the mount. A local industrial plastics shop sold me an offcut of real virgin GE sheet teflon. The result is pure dobsonian: rock steady, stays where it's pointed. And perfectly balanced: it moves with one finger.

    Jupiter's moons are different colours and are non-stellar. Titan is an interesting colour. M13 has a friend, NGC 6207.


  • I took an astronomy course last semester and haven't given back my keys cause I still may go up there periodically for a comet or maybe to take more exoplanet data. The head of astronomy really encourages participation and made an extra project any volunteers, so if time is willing, I hope to measure the expansion rate of the universe this semester :-)
  • Gotta drive out of the city first. I can barely make out the Big Dipper most nights.

  • I live in Seattle, you insensitive clod!

    • Heh. Clouds aside, I find the star gazing is rather good for a large city. Well, being in West Seattle behind a hill helps too...

  • 1. JVC DV camcorder with night mode. Great for extreme zooming (32 optical, 800 digital) streamed live to a netbook - which means I'm inside and the camera's outside on a remote controlled mount!
    2. Panasonic Lumix London 2012 Edition compact digital camera. Does a great job with wide field down to mag. 5, picks out M42 and M45 with ease.
    3. Samsung PL-22 compact digital camera. Same as the Panasonic though a slightly more manageable noise floor.

  • Digital camera.
    Seriously, even unguided, a DSLR like a D7000 with 50mm 1.8 can catch so much at a dark location.
    For example, simple 50mm shot of the Andromeda galaxy
    10s exposure at ISO 6400 F1.8 (Hence some CA) []

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Get a Vixen Polarie. :)

      I'm just getting back into astro photography, with a newer Canon 6D. A polarie will help for the dimmer objects.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      If I was more motivated (laziness, the death of me), I'd probably grab a basic guided stand and my f/1.8 lens and go hunting. DSLRs have truly revolutionized amateur astronomy, as it's now easier than ever to get a highly detailed picture from even quite dark objects without needing a high strength/high cost telescope.
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:32AM (#46033959)
    ... works just fine. Good enough to see the Galilean moons.

    I did feel a bit like a redneck astronomer, though.

  • With 30 lbs counterweights (oof!), German equatorial mount, tripod (which seems to ring like a bell) and two cases of eye pieces, finders, defogger, red flashlight, etc. Also, a big flashlight, which runs on lead acid batteries to also power the scope (the main beam makes a heck of a Light Sabre on hazy nights!)

    It's a lot to haul. I need a smaller Dob I can take and set up quickly.

  • It's not designed to assist in seeing something in space as much as it is for Finding something in space. There are tons of apps that allow you to overlay a map on the sky as you hold the phone up. Great for finding the planets, constelations, ISS, etc.

    I'm not going to name off any of the apps as there are dozens of them from free to cheap, I switch back and forth between them.

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      I saw the iFamily app Sky Guide in action this weekend, makes me wish I still had an iPhone. I'm going to purchase it for the iPad though, I'm interested in seeing whether the Night Vision (red) mode is effective, prior iApps would kill my night vision while I was trying to find my target in the sky (red headlamp and paper based star maps are my current setup - night vision takes longer to adapt as I've grown older)..

  • My own telescope, currently pointed at neighbor's wife

  • I visit the stars weekly via astral projection you insensitive clods!
  • by steak (145650) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @01:11PM (#46047413) Homepage Journal

    I have a 3-9x power scope on my deer rifle, but I wouldn't want the martians to misinterpret my skygazing.

  • I use a microscope to observe the galaxy held in a trinket dangling from the collar of my cat, Orion.


  • He is an excellent astronomer, but he is totally null when it comes to computers (he says: "Computers smell fear and attack me when I'm around them"), so I usually give him a hand to setup the system to capture images and post-process them. Also, we share some excellent whisky while we observe the skies at his home (which is about 1/4 mile-400m away from mine, so we meet pretty often). This is a (not-so-good) picture of his home site [], built by himself.
    • by Tirs (195467)
      Oh, I forgot to mention. I also use Kerbal Space Program [] for my deep space observations.
      Can you prove that the Universe does not contain some part which exactly matches what you can see on KSP? We only need to find where it is, but I leave this work to people with better telescopes and more time to search.
  • There's the building with the permanent mount refractor. I think it's about 8". There's the building with the 16" reflectors with permanent mounts, computer control and refractor with astrocam riding one of them, there's the little hydrogen sun filter scope and the 24" dob. And the classroom building/clubhouse. That's just the facilities at the _main_ site. Not their biggest dob, not the biggest refractor. Hell, people with enough interest should MOVE here.

  • by rthille (8526)

    I've rooted the control systems for the Hubble Space Telescope...

Dead? No excuse for laying off work.


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