CCD vis Visual Observers.
Two distinct observing cultures are striking delineated in the recent monitoring of U Gem.
October 2012 to date, the camps are strictly segregated. 33 in the CCD group, and 34 visual contributors. No name features on both lists.
It's interesting to speculate why variable star observing is so striking polarised in this regard. Is this down to a simple difference of sophistication and/or finance; or is there an aesthetic at large somewhere? Personally, as a visual observer, I like to say,” I'm interested in what I can see”.But this would imply being not all for every technique that adds to the sum of knowledge: patently untrue, for one who devours all the popular literature, during wet evenings.
In this new outburst, the visuals got in first with PYG giving the alert early on the 9th and KMA trailing by just 90 minutes. MGW's CCD estimate followed at 09.3875. Mostly, this was an accident of time zones, it must be said. Following morning, I dragged myself out of bed with the 16x80's to catch U Gem nearing maximum.
The LC is a nice example of collaboration between visual and CCD observers.
I'm very new at variable star observing, so take any of my comments with that in mind.
Several years ago, I tried my hand at asteroid astrometry and photometry. After the initial novelty wore off, I lost interest. It wasn't that I lost interest in contributing to science or in the zeal of discovery, but that I found that sitting behind a computer screen doing the analysis wasn't all that fun for me.
For me, much (if not all) of the fun comes from the experience of collecting the data: being outside (especially on these pleasent Fall evenings) and doing the mesurements myself. I like the purpose it gives me (to my utter astonishment, finding the upteenth faint galaxy has been losing its appeal more and more for me), helps me learn the sky better and I feel more connected with the universe, and I like being a part of something greater than myself. So in a sense, as you said, I'm interested in stuff I can see, or at least in the act of measuring and seeing.
I most certainly am not against CCD technology and in areas in which it is the best choice it would be silly not to encourage it. Moreover, I know of observers who enjoy CCD activities with as much joy as I do visual. I just know it is not for me at this time.
I think the collaborative and complementary aspect of visual and CCD techniques is fantastic. Maybe someday when CCD work feel less "like being at the office" (I'm in IT) I'll feel like picking it up.
--Michael in Houston (RMW)