Field of View - August 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar August, 2020.

Field of View

By Don Selle  HAS Guidestar Editor

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It’s pretty clear by now that the Covid-19 is going to be here with us for a while longer.  We have changed our behaviors to adapt (as people for countless generations before us have done) and are still actively pursuing our love of the night sky, even if things are a little different now. While due to cancellations, there is no replacing the star party experience many of us enjoy each year, or the absence of face to face outreach events, we are still finding ways to get out and do astronomy.

For example many of us have been able to use the Columbus dark site while still practicing social distancing. After all we’re outside and all of the observing pads are spaced well apart. Even with the inconveniences posed by closure of the bunkhouses, and the observatory building, when the weather is good, and the moon phase is favorable, there are still plenty of HAS members out there under the stars.

Sales of astronomy equipment are also up, based on discussions I’ve had with several vendors. Retail sales over the past several months has increased considerably over the same period last year. Perhaps its some of the economic stimulus checks being put to good use, or that we amateur astronomers recognize we can still do our thing and are acquiring new equipment better suited to what we can do now. As an example, interest in lunar and planetary imaging and observing seems to be on the rise.

On top of that, HAS continues to attract new members. The past couple of months have seen more new and returning members than normal. Perhaps holding our online meetings and speaker presentations is a factor, as attendance online is better than at our face to face meetings. Or perhaps it is the advent of comet NEOWISE that has increased interest in HAS.

Some of the changes we’ve made (like online meetings) have been necessitated by Covid-19. Others (like increasing our online engagement with members) have been in the works for a while but have been stepped up due to the pandemic.

It will be important for our hobby to recognize the changes that have been made. What has worked and what has not. More importantly what changes should be continued and expanded upon for the betterment of our astronomy experience once the pandemic has passed.

I’d like to know how your astronomy experience has been changed or shaped by the risk of Covid-19. What have you done differently because of it? What do you think has worked for you, and what improvements could you suggest? What new activities would you like to see?

Here are a couple of questions to get your started.

  • Have you taken an online astronomy course, or participated in an online observing session?
  • Have you used a remote telescope for your own observing?
  • Have you adapted your observing to your backyard environment?
  • What new equipment have you acquired and how is that related to Covid-19?
  • What new resources have you found for astronomy?
  • What can HAS be doing to improve your astronomy experience from home?

Please send me your thoughts at [email protected].  I will compile them and report back to Guidestar readers and pass along the suggestions you make to those at HAS and in the broader astronomy community who should here them.

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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