souvenirYesterday I mentioned that a letter I'd written to the editor of Sky At Night magazine had been published in the December edition. I also noted that I didn't have a copy yet (I still don't). Knowing that I wasn't going to get my hands on a copy of the magazine for a few days a friend was kind enough to let me know what the reply to my letter was (the reply is also to two other letters published regarding the same subject).
n 1: something of sentimental value
[syn: keepsake, token, relic]
2: a reminder of past events
A copy of the reply has also been posted to the SPA BB. One bit of the response doesn't make much sense to me:
I think digital imaging will encourage many more people to get into astronomy as it gives you a superb souvenir of your nights observingWhile I don't doubt for a moment that it's true that images you produce are a "superb souvenir", the response is written such that it implies that sketches aren't. I'd have said that sketches are a "superb souvenir". Sure, my sketches might not be that good but they do act as a great reminder and record of the experiences I've had at the eyepiece so far.
Something else that annoyed me slightly about the editor's response was that it didn't deal with (and, arguably, made worse) the central point of my letter: the suggestion that imaging and sketching were somehow mutually exclusive activities. It seemed odd that he didn't deal with the point at all. He also didn't deal with the cost issue either. And then, when I was provided with a copy of how my letter had been published, I found out why. Here's what I originally wrote:
In the November edition of S@N magazine D Fisher asks the direct question "I was wondering if you would accept sketches of planetary, stellar and other objects." Sadly, you don't seem to offer a direct answer to D Fisher's question; "we won't be publishing sketches regularly" suggests that sketches might be accepted for publication but it also suggests a reluctance to publish them too. It would be nice to see a clear and concise statement of the magazine's position.And here's what got published:
More alarming is the suggestion in your response that CCD imaging is "now very affordable". Relatively speaking that might well be the case but it's this kind of attitude that makes astronomy appear to be an inaccessible interest unless you have a startup budget that is heading well into four figures (£300 for the camera, then there's your telescope, etc...). Worse still, it suggests a false dichotomy with sketching on one side and imaging on the other.
I've seen enough letters to astronomy magazines and enough posts to astronomical bulletin boards on the internet to know that a good number of people starting out in this interest are under the impression that you're not really doing anything useful if you're not imaging with webcams or the latest CCD technology -- this is a situation that isn't helped by the sort of answer you gave to the question.
I'm also concerned by the suggestion that sketching is mostly part of "astronomy's past" and, these days, it only serves a useful purpose when recording "transient events". Sketching, if nothing else, is an excellent way of learning to actually observe. It's also a rather good method of recording how an object appears in the eyepiece.
I'm sure captured images make for a more eye-catching magazine and I'd understand a decision not to publish sketches, but could we at least have a clear guideline as to what this magazine will and won't accept? Personally I'd like to see something that encourages people to observe and sketch -- especially given the heritage that this particular magazine draws upon.
In November's BBC Sky at Night magazine, D Fisher asks, "I was wondering if you would accept sketches of planetary, stellar and other objects?" Sadly, you don't seem to offer a direct answer. I'm also concerned by the suggestion that sketching is mostly part of "astronomy's past". Sketching, if nothing more, is an excellent way of learning to actually observe. I'm sure captured images make for a more eye-catching magazine and I'd understand a decision not to publish sketches, but could we at least have a clear guideline as to what this magazine will and won't accept?"Now, sure, I'm well aware of the fact that there's only so much space in a magazine &mdash especially for a letters page — but that's almost a totally different letter they've published there! I really would have liked to have seem them deal with the issues of cost and the false sense of "sketching vs imaging".
It's also interesting to note that this line:
especially given the heritage that this particular magazine draws uponwas left out; the irony here being that the first edition of the magazine came with a lunar map produced by Patrick Moore — a map that was hand-drawn.
I'm disappointed. Not because I want them to publish sketches, but because they seem to be adding to the impression that sketching isn't such a worthy observing technique any more.
File Under: Sky at Night, Sky at Night Magazine, Sketching, Imaging, Sketching vs Imaging.