Saturday 21 March 2009 - Filed under Astronomy
(I’m currently on vacation. This is cross-posted from Slacker Astronomy. )
We remodeled our basement and in preparation we boxed up a lot of stuff. The basement is finished now and the boxes are down there ready to be unpacked. One of them has all of my old beginning astronomy books in it and I opened it up last night to see my old friends.
It was almost like looking at old love letters. I felt sad and nostalgic. These were the love letters that started my love affair with astronomy. After my girlfriend got me a telescope, I became an absolutely voracious amateur astronomer. I was part of the “every clear night club” — heading out to observe every clear night, regardless of the temperature, often observing in temperatures -15F (-26C). I eventually built an observatory, spent a fair amount of money on a great telescope, mount and CCD camera and started imaging and eventually doing photometry.
But that’s not all! I joined the Minnesota Astronomical Society, the AAVSO, the AAS (eventually) and the ASP. I started doing research in the department at the University of Minnesota. I started taking calculus and physics classes, eventually getting a BS in Astrophysics.
I got the bug big time.
When all of this started I was single. Eventually I got married and had one kid and then another. I started a new business along the way, which grew from $0 in revenue to $5M and from 4 people to 35. So my life, during my quest to learn as much as I could about astronomy, changed a lot. Suffice to say, I am no longer a member of the “every clear night club”. I’ve also satisfied a lot of my initial curiosity about astronomy. I got a BS in Astrophysics because I wanted to know how math could explain stars. I took classes on stars, galaxies, cosmology, computational physics — it was awesome. I learned (to some minor extent) about things like thermodynamics, quantum mechanics and relativity. I could read entire paragraphs of Chandrasakar and understand it!
I also got gigabytes of data at my observatory. I plotted light curves, made periodograms and Fourier spectra. I wrote code to reduce data, learned IRAF and presented posters at professional meetings. I even got involved with Slacker Astronomy!
I’m not bragging, in case that is what it seems. I still know much less than every PhD student of astronomy in the world. I’m no genius and am probably not particularly gifted at astrophysics. But I love it and I loved learning about it.
But in some small way I burned out. The pressure of going to my observatory (which is 45 minutes away by car) while taking classes and going to meetings, all the while raising a family and building a business, was too much. Eventually my observing had to go — I couldn’t keep up with my classes and be up all night. Then, after I got my degree, I found I still wasn’t observing much, and when I did, I didn’t even bother to reduce the data.
What had happened to me? Did this love affair with astronomy die…?
The answer, I know, is no. There is a time for everything and there is nothing to be gained by trying to cram things in when it doesn’t feel right. I need to take care of my family and my business. In the meantime, I am exploring hobbies that I can enjoy closer to home. Someday…a day I look forward to very much…I will live in a place where my observatory can be in my backyard. Someday my kids will grow up, my business will be sold and I will be back in my mistress’s arms again, through the long, beautiful night.
2009-03-21 » lolife