(meteorobs) Aging bodies and deteriorating skies

Tony Markham tonymarkham832 at btinternet.com
Mon Aug 29 06:13:34 EDT 2011

Koen, Richard, Wayne, Marco,
Thank you for your responses.
It looks like no-one has carried out any detailed investigation into the effects of ageing on observed meteor rates, so we are dependent on observers commenting on their own experiences and, as already mentioned, changes in light pollution make changes tricky to assess.
I'm currently aged 51 and have seen a loss of about 0.3 mags in limiting magnitude since moving to my current location. I suspect that this is mostly a consequence of reduced pupil dilation. 
So far, I haven't noticed increased problems the next day after a long observing session, although how much you become aware of alertness issues will depend on the nature of your job. 
In terms of staying alert during meteor watches, I've always found that the first meteor watch after a long spell without a meteor watch is rather a challenge, but long watches on later nights are easier (sadly from my current location on the western cloudier side of high ground, runs of several clear nights are rather rare). Inevitably, a loss of 0.3 mag in the limiting mag means that the gaps between meteors are getting longer, increasing the challenge of staying alert. I have read somewhere that overnight the brain has a natural 90 minute cycle which affects both your ability to stay alert during a meteor watch and also your ability to fall asleep on other nights.
So far I haven't noticed increased problems with the cold - although when I first started observing meteors, aged 18, I was living 200 miles further north.
It would be interesting (though probably not feasible) to go back to the village (which still has no streetlights) from which I carried out some of my early meteor watches to see how close the LM now gets to 6.5. Although light pollution has been a big problem for many observers, I suspect that there are others who blame it for the whole reduction in their LM rather than admit that they are getting "old" and their eyes aren't as good as they used to be.
Best Wishes,

--- On Sun, 28/8/11, Koen Miskotte <k.miskotte at upcmail.nl> wrote:

From: Koen Miskotte <k.miskotte at upcmail.nl>
Subject: Re: (meteorobs) Aging bodies and deteriorating skies
To: "Meteor science and meteor observing" <meteorobs at meteorobs.org>
Date: Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 9:44

Hi Richard,
I fully agree with you. What I also want to mention is that the last two years (I am now 48 years old) my maximum limiting magnitudes on my main location (Ermelo, the Netherlands 52.2 n and 5.4 e) used  to be 6.5 (sometimes even 6.6), but in recent years not more than 6.4. While I have the impression that the light pollution does not  increasing, in fact it is through measures of the regional government has become less. I suspect this has something to do with the aging of my eyes.
Maybe I need new glasses 
Regards, Koen


From: Richard Taibi 
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2011 1:42 AM
To: Meteor Observing Mailing List 
Subject: (meteorobs) Aging bodies and deteriorating skies

This is meant as a follow-up and addition to what earlier writer-observers have contributed on the 'aging eyes' topic.  Marco and Koen mentioned greater fatigue and longer recuperation time as one gets older.  That is certainly true for me too.  A three hour observation is a maximum effort for me now and I feel the effects on energy and efficiency for two days afterwards.  If I make two to three hour observations two nights in a row, I'm 'disabled' for most of the remaining week!  When I was 37, and just beginning to watch meteors, I could travel 30 km, observe and return home and still be able to function at work later in the day.  It would be a mistake for me to try it now at age 65.
But it seems to me getting older, with its inherent physical decline, is only one aspect of what deteriorates as one ages.  More specific to watching meteors is the aging of the entire eye/retina/cerebral cortex involved in vision and interpretation of the percept.  As observers we are accustomed to think of eye and sky, but actually meteor watching is more a matter of sky quality and brain physiology.  What Marco said about improvement in perception as a result of experience makes sense, but probably only a long term study of the same individuals over years would  answer the question of the extent to which observational experience compensates for the aging vision system.
There is another issue too for veteran observers like me who observe from the same geographical area over the years: the sky in southern Maryland has become increasingly light-polluted between 1983 and 2011.  This confounding variable of deteriorating skies would also have to be taken into account in a long-term study of individuals' visual perceptiveness. 


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