Astronomy and social distancing

I'm what's known as an introvert. That doesn't mean, as some people think, that I'm a shy, quiet person - anybody who's ever met me will confirm that I'm not. I think it means I prefer quiet situations, without a lot of human interaction. Lots of dealing with people leaves me a bit drained, and I need to have periods of calm and introspection to recharge.

Astronomy, for me at least, is very suitable therapy. It's a chance to physically separate myself from others. Far from the madding crowd, I can sit in darkness while my equipment quietly does its thing. 

Birding does the same for me during the day. The images I capture in both can provide me with their own, more lasting mental escape.

Being the astrophotographer, I sit in front of my computer screen for long periods, watching a thin wiggly line march from left to right. This shows how well my mount is tracking the stars, and I try to help correct every deviation from the target by force of will. Even with the screen turned down to minimum brightness, it's dazzling in the darkness, and this projects a cone of isolation in the quiet around me.

On nights where other photographers are at the dark sky site, we tend not to associate closely. Each person keeps largely to their own telescope, either simply watching, making adjustments, or processing the last frame. It's a pretty quiet place.

Every so often, though, I remind myself to lean back away from the screen, let my eyes adjust, and I look up. 

That's why I'm here. 

Those stars, those clusters and nebulas. They too are a crowd in isolation, stars and clusters light years from others, regarding each other across the void.

Visual astronomers are similar. Telescopes don't do well too close to each other, they need room to breathe. Even if there is a group of people around a scope, it's always been bad form to crowd the poor person at the eyepiece.

Astronomy isn't a hobby that forms crowds. I think that astronomers are the very model of modern "social distancing".