Astronomy as a Hobby- at 93-years-old

When is a good time to begin with astronomy? When you are a toddler and can hold an empty paper roll to your eye like a telescope (without the magnification)? When you can ride a bike and scream down the streets to the science museum and then some sundae? After you get your first car and you go parking with your date, looking at the Moon, trying to figure out how to lasso it? In high school, when the science teacher tells you about the Sun, planets, the Solar System, and our Milky Way galaxy, that rises straight like a tower in the Northern Hemisphere during the hot and unbearable summer nights? Or, like my Uncle Winand, who discovered the Southern Sky in Equador at the age of 62 in the year 1989, and who started in earnest as a hobby astronomer 11 years later when he retired at the age of 73? Today, he is 93, and he observes and photographs from his (and my) hometown in Singen, Germany.

My Uncle on his balcony; Credit: Winand Mayr

A little less mobile but sharp in mind, he can see only in a South/Southwesterly direction from his balcony on the second floor of an apartment building. He uses a Celestron NexStar 90SLT with a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracking mount. He likes to observe and photograph with his Canon EOS 2000D, and a ZWO ASI120MM Mini, which he yet has to put into action. His favorite objects are planets and some deep-sky objects, with his favorite object being the Orion Nebula when he gets the damn tracking to work properly. Like every hobby astronomer, he curses, and some of the typical curses sound just as good in German as in English. His biggest issue? Light pollution.

His process, as he explained to me, is to process his RAW images with various applications, including Photoscape X, RAWTherapree, and DeepSkyStacker.

What fascinates him about astronomy and observing? “The vastness of space.”

He gave my mother his other telescope for observations so that she can try her luck at becoming a hobby astronomer: a Sky-Watcher EQM-35 Pro Synscan. My mother is 79 — her first endeavor is to observe Comet NEOWISE.

My Mother Rita Schmitt and her brother Winand Mayr; Credit: Winand Mayr

My uncle also wrote me that in life there is always something new to discover and you are never too old to learn something new.

When is a good time to become a hobby astronomer? There is no time like today.

Wishing you clear skies.