Why do I observe?

I’ve been wondering about this one recently. Observing is a generally solitary, dark, cold and occasionally damp experience in the UK, so why would you do it?

The funny thing is that I look forward to observing sessions because of the fabulous objects I’ve put in my plans – and I have detailed plans. It’s the chance to make progress on those paper-bound ideas that makes me want to do it. To be an experimental scientist checking the data against my own measurements.

Right up to the point where I look outside and see the dark, damp, coldness waiting for me. That’s the reality check, and I have to admit, I need to push myself through that boundary.

The technique isn’t complicated. I wander out onto the patio and take a look around the sky with a critical eye searching for a cloud, haziness or anything to give me a reason not to bother. And that’s usually enough.

Once I’m staring at a clear night sky filled with wonderful objects I’m pretty likely to forget that I was supposed to be finding an excuse, setup my kit, and go back inside to tog up in my observing armour against the cold.

I think that I plan for the love of science, but once outside I observe just for the love of it, and time just flies by. And the cold? Dress properly and you hardly notice until you’re knocking the ice off the telescope at the end of the session.

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