"When I go out observing, the rest of the world pretty much recedes to
the distant background of my mind. I get so deeply into what I'm doing that
all my mundane troubles melt away and I live completely in the moment. When
I look into the night sky, I'm face-to-face with beauty and wonder and
scientific significance. I love to learn about what I'm seeing and then
look at it and appreciate it. I find that sort of thing incredibly fun!
It's so far removed from the daily grind that I feel like a completely
different person, or like the hero of a fairy tale who lives happily ever
after. For the few hours I'm out under the stars, I'm living happily ever
after. So to answer your question, it's a deeply personal kind of fun,
definitely the joy of discovery mixed with the joy of appreciation and the
joy of being part of a beautiful universe. If I may edge into the mystical
for a moment, I take great pleasure in knowing that the universe is self
aware, and I'm the part of it that gets to appreciate the rest of it.
Then there's the playing-with-the-gear kind of fun. When I can do all of the above with a scope that I made myself, that boosts the enjoyment even more. I love the idea that we can see so much with such simple tools. A couple of mirrors and some lenses and we can see stars being born! And like anyone who builds things, there's a deep satisfaction in watching that thing work the way you intended it to."
"I also have a set of Uranometria charts that I'll use to help pin point
difficult objects while under the stars.
I'll write down interesting objects that come up in the online forums on a small sticky note and put them in my notebook. I'll often print out a MegaStar chart for hard to find/see objects.
Under the stars I'll prioritize objects I'm making long term sketches of - I think of them as composite drawings - and the objects I've mentioned above. I move my scope manually even though with the addition of a laptop/tablet/phone it's capable of very precise goto. I like the finding part almost as much as the observing part.
I've gradually slowed down my observing as I've learned to concentrate more on each object I'm observing and sketching. Actually, the more I sketch, the slower I go, but also the more I see. I've never enjoyed observing so much as I do now.
Along with my sketches I note the overall sky conditions (transparency, seeing, temperature, limiting magnitude) and specifics for each observation (magnification, any filters used, time and SQM reading). I also write a description of the object to compliment my sketch, and I've been surprised that the more I've sketched the more I generally write too. As I mentioned, the more I sketch, the more I see and that leads to writing more.
I use the adjustable StarLite red flashlight made by Rigel Systems and used to try keeping the illumination as low as possible so I can barely tell its red, but that's hard to do - it doesn't dim smoothly at the lowest illuminations. So I've taught myself to observe faint stuff with my left eye and sketch/write with my right eye, keeping the opposite eye closed. This works great, for me, but there was a bit of a learning curve. I also use my right eye for planetary observation, again to preserve the dark adaptation of my left eye.
The only "rule" I have is to observe at least one new object each night. I read this suggestion long ago in a book or magazine and took it to heart, and probably follow it about 90% of the time.
I clean up my sketches the following day, or as soon as possible, and write a summary of the entire evening.
Soon after that's done, I scan my new sketch book pages and add them to my folder. Someday, I plan to post them to my website. Someday..."
"I love evening twilight: the Earth and its creatures momentarily poised
on a fulcrum as evening ends and night begins; daylight creatures retire
and nocturnal creatures awake. Soon the silent beauty of the stars - jewels
embedded in the black sky - emerge. I leave Earth, floating in our Solar
System and roaming the spiral arms of the Milky Way. All is created from
ancient star stuff.
Soon I am looking through my telescope - a portrait window zooming me in close to the planets and the stars, the formations of gas, both bright and dark. I like to spend the night on maybe three objects, viewing through different eyepieces and filters. Ultimately I'll make a sketch to record my observations and notes. I'll end the night by scanning through several famous showcase objects, for a quick jolt of amazement.
I build images of objects in my mind. Initially some broader impressions here, some detail there. Then more detail over there, then yet more over here. When I return to the object I start with this built-up image, adding more to it.
I've observed for decades; the more I see the more I realize that I haven't seen. With my new F3 and faster reflectors and 100 degree eyepieces with coma correctors, I'm revisiting objects and seeing wider angle detail. Apparently we've fallen into object myopia, where we narrowly concentrate on the object itself or some aspect of the image and neglect broader detail.
In every view I sense the vastness of space, the great distances known astronomy; the beauty, complexity, power and lethality of the Universe; the poetry of existence and our Universe."