My initial awareness of things Spatial came courtesy of Dan Dare, in Eagle Magazine. Anyone remember Anastasia? The time was the Fifties, and the Russians were doing all the interesting things. The first satellite, Sputnik. The first photos of the far side of the Moon. The first man in space. It was around that time that I got my first telescope, a 1.5 inch refractor on a spindly tripod, for Christmas. Being as I was in the middle of a rather large city, I decided to focus my attention on the Moon. This was actually a good thing, as things got very interesting after I moved to Canada in 1966. The Apollo program was well under way and provided us with the Apollo 8 Christmas orbit of the Moon and the Apollo 11 landing - which I listened to on the radio in Port au Choix, on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland (I was an archaeology summer worker at the time).
I've always been more interested in the Solar System than in stars or deep space objects, mainly because I always thought stars were just points of light and I'd never seen a DSO apart from DS9. Later, I would be amazed at what could be seen in a good pair of binoculars, but then I was content to read all about it and follow interesting events on television.
In 1974, I finally graduated from Memorial University and moved to New World Island to teach French and eventually Tech Ed. We had originally intended to stay for two years, but we still haven't got around to leaving.
During the 1980s, the hot thing on the go was the Space Shuttle. Also during that time, I came across The Planetary Society, founded by Carl Sagan. It was around this time, too, that I decided that Jupiter was the most interesting planet in the solar system, next to Mother Earth.
During the nineties there was the Galileo mission, along with the spectacular collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter. It was around this time, too, that the internet came to us in the form of STEM~Net, which was set up for Newfoundland teachers in 1994. I was subscribed to sci.space.news and first heard about the comet via this new medium. And then things got really interesting when the world wide web became widely accessible the following year. I'm making a fuss about this because that's my other great interest - computers and networks. One of these days I'd like to hook up a camera to my telescope and get into astrophotography.
Another highlight of the nineties occurred in August of 1999 when my wife and I joined a very early morning group of people on Signal Hill to watch the solar eclipse. The combination of a still, peaceful morning, the setting and the crowd all combined to make this a most memorable event. I really believe that astronomy is best shared.
With the turn of the century and the millennium, I decided that I should get more serious about astronomy and I went and got a telescope. From a department store. Oh, well. It was a standard 60mm refractor and had the standard plastic lenses. However, this was the telescope that gave me my first glimpse of Saturn and its rings. It was around this time I joined the RASC (which I recommend to anyone who's interested in astronomy), but I still was rather isolated. Finally, in 2004 the RASC AGM was held in St John's, and I contacted Jim in Twillingate about going in and since then I have been a regular visitor to the observatory. In 2005, I bought a really good telescope (in the picture). It's a 200 mm Dobsonian, and its strength lies in its optics. Now, if I could get it to track...
Now I'm discovering the fascination of deep space objects. And that's the problem with astronomy. There's always something else to learn. Visit Simon's website here.