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I am a "late-comer" to astronomy and received my first (and still only) telescope for my 50th birthday in 2006, a 10 inch Orion intelliscope.
I am mainly an "urban observer" and try to make the most of what I can see from my backyard in Riviera in Pretoria. I enjoy the "bright stuff" such as the moon and planets and bright nebulae. Colourful double and multiple stars are also a treat. It is important to challenge myself through regular observing and thorough preparation to see more and fainter objects. I am amazed at what I can see after 4 years, compared to the first year, when I considered myself lucky if I can find the jewel box!
I belong to the Pretoria Centre of the ASSA and find the monthly meetings interesting and stimulating. I enjoy going to the observing evenings, sometimes without my scope to listen and learn.
As resources I use Stellarium, Cartes du Ciel, Wane Mitchell's Stargazer's deep space atlas and Consolmagno and Davis's very helpful book "Turn left at Orion"
I have also recently tried my hand at sketching. I have experienced first-hand how it improved my observational skills. It is very rewarding to have a record of observations. My approach is to keep it simple and record my impression of what I see as accurately as possible. I do use a freeware programme called "PhotoFiltre" to touch up the sketches. This mainly consists of removing smudges and inconsistencies that arise from the sketching and scanning process. Finally the sketch is inverted to give a more accurate feel for what one sees through the eyepiece. Through sketching I have also developed a new appreciation for the moon - and it is no longer a "nuisance" for a part of the month!
On a more personal level, I work for a Non-Profit Organization (HospiVision) that provides Hospital Chaplaincy services to public and private hospitals in the Gauteng area. Working with life and death and all the issues surrounding these is both profoundly challenging and deeply rewarding. Spirituality grounded in a Christian understanding is an integral part of who I am. How does this relate to astronomy? Well, if you have stood with parents while they are confronted with the reality of a still-born baby during the day and look up at the stars in the evening ... you have to grapple with the "the awe and mystery" of the "outer limits" of our existence and the meaning of it all (with apologies to the popular Sci-fi TV programme of a couple of years ago!)
Objects logged: 10
Objects sketched: nine
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