Something I find myself wondering frequently as I struggle to progress in this difficult and rewarding hobby is how much can I expect to do with the equipment I have? If I was to get a particular telescope/mount/bit of software what could I expect to see/do then? I occasionally see posts from people with similar kit to me and I look to see if my images or viewing experienmce has been similar. Do other people share my feeling that it would be great to be able to visit a gallery or site where the best experiences people have had are shared and catalogued by the kit used? I'd love to share people's sudden leaps in acheivement where perhaps they've just added a filter and been able to resolve a huge amount more detail in a nebula or to see the difference in acheivable image quality between different APOs to see what I might get for my money by changing scopes. One way or another, all that experience is here on astromart but it's hard to use in the way I describe.
One thing that comes to mind for me is using a filter. I use an 8 inch F5 newtonian. I've read about filters and tried quite a number of them. I never got any significant improvement out of any broadband filter I tried (Sirius CE, Orion Skyglow). But then I got a Lumicon UHC narroband filter. Enabled me to see certain nebulous objects MUCH better and one that I'd never seen - The Veil. It was an order of magnitude improvement, I'd say.
Something I find myself wondering frequently as I struggle to progress in this difficult and rewarding hobby is how much can I expect to do with the equipment I have? ==========
In my experience, the leaps are not great, the differences between different telescopes of equal apertures are not great.
Some leaps occurred for me as I understood the importance of thermal equilibrium, getting the scope cool and the importance of seeing. Both these greatly reduced the frustation level when in the beginning it seemed like one night the telescope would be fine and the next something wrong.
And of course jumping from a 5 inch to an 8 inch as a primary scope will result in a great leap in what one sees.
Getting a good star chart can result in leaps.....
And of course find a good dark sky spot will result in a leap. The difference in sky darkness and seeing is probably why trying to catalog differences in equipment is somewhat futile.
But generally, what is significant is the difference between the skill of various observers, or as an individual as I slowly gain experience. What seemed like a faint target in the beginning in an 8 inch scope under dark skies is often a doable target in a 5 inch from my back yard.
I look at what various observers are capable of and catalog these things in my mind. There are a couple I use as examples of what can be done:
1. Jay Reynolds Freeman: Completing the Herschel 400 with a "Big Red", a 55mm Vixen refractor.
2. Jeff Medkeff: Observing a magnitude 14.68 star with a 4.25 inch Newtonian. Jeff's observation was well documented and carefully done with an assistant, Jeff had no prior knowledge of the starfield....
With both these as examples of what can be done, I just enjoy observing whatever it is I happen to be looking at.
In my view, the important key to amateur astronomy is discovering what is that one really enjoys doing. Myself, I enjoy discovering new targets, either by serendipity or by calculated effort with a star chart. I enjoy learning how to return to such objects, fixing them in my mind. I enjoy viewing a great variety of DSOs as well as double stars and planets.
But mostly I just enjoy being out there on a Starry Night with a telescope, fooling around and just having some fun....
Once one knows about oneself, then choosing the ideal equipment and proceeding ahead is a joyful reward.