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Stephen Mayo | Eyesight, Binoculars & Telescopes

Eyesight, Binoculars & Telescopes

April 25, 2021

If you go outside on a clear night and look at the giant dome above that is the night sky,  you'll find that you can see 20-40% of the dome at any one time, depending on where you're looking.  The field of vision is wide and broad.  Thousands of stars and other celestial objections are visible, but it's hard to see much detail on any particular star.


Look through a pair of binoculars, and suddenly much more detail is visible.  To the naked eye, the Big Dipper appears like 7-8 stars.  With binoculars, it becomes clear that there are hundreds more stars scattered directly in and around the Big Dipper, most of them too faint and small to detect with the naked eye.  But this detail comes at a cost: through the binoculars your field of vision has shrunk to only 1-3% of the sky.


Pull out your telescope, and the trend continues.  Now you can see extraordinary detail, such as rings around the planet Saturn.  But the field of vision has shrunk even further to much less than 1% of the night sky.


This effect (the more detail we see, the less context we see) that we experience with vision is relevant for our attention too.  The more we focus our attention on one person, activity, thought or fear, the harder it is to be aware of everything else around us.


Part of being "aware" is acknowledging what kind of focus we're using (naked eye, binoculars or telescope) and recognizing the benefits and limitations that come along with it.

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