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Enduring Interests in Amateur Astronomy

Main Astronomical Interests

Two of my telescopes, an old Discovery 8-inch Dobsonian reflector and an early model Stellarvue 80 mm f/6 refractor, probably an AT1010, and a carrying case with my various eyepieces.

Having been interested in astronomy since boyhood, my main interests have almost always been :

  • observing deep space objects (the famous "faint fuzzies"),
  • observing comets and meteors,
  • reading about the geography and climate of other planets,
  • observing auroras and other upper atmospheric phenomena on our own planet.

Sad to say, there is not much that can be said about these interests at the present time, due mainly to the light pollution in my neighbourhood.

Light Pollution, the Bane of Astronomers

When I moved to this then-rural area south of Ottawa in 1986 the night skies were brilliant with good seeing on almost any clear night, ideal for astronomy.  This area is now almost suburban and the amount of stray light from just a few poorly-designed (unbaffled) street lights, mis-aimed yard lights, and the totally inappropriate lighting in the parking lot of a racetrack/casino a few kilometres north of me now prevent all but the most superficial of astronomical observations from my back yard.  Most clear nights, I cannot even tell if the Milky Way is in the sky.

Even though there is no street light near my house, I can see almost half a dozen lights from my front yard, not just the poles on which the lights are mounted, or the light fixtures, but the actual lamps themselves.  There is no baffle to direct the light waves to where they are needed most : under the lamps.  Lousy design!  While these lamps are too far away to effectively illuminate my yard for most human activities, the stray light from them is sufficient to illuminate all the dust and other particulate pollution in the air above my property to the extent that it is now impossible to see faint stars and other interesting astronomical objects through this glowing haze.

The New York Times has a nice article here about light pollution. 

Alas, my 8-inch Dobsonian reflecting telescope and my carefully-selected and purchased Televue eyepieces are gathering dust.  Oh, for a dark-sky neighbourhood again.

I support the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) with my membership.