I have great respect for Botswana’s safari veterans — especially the guides. Their visual awareness and keen knowledge of the bush wilderness is unrivaled. How often I have sat in amazement of their ability to pick out birds and animals in a rugged landscape — while driving a vehicle — usually long before I, or anyone else, notices them. I’m not talking about the broadside of an elephant, but about the white tip of a wild dog’s tail or the flick of a bushbuck’s ear barely visible above a wide expanse of tall grass. The guides are shining examples of how training leads to outstanding visual acuity that reaches far beyond the norm.
So this month, I thought I’d look at some basics of how these expert wilderness observers train, and apply them to visual telescopic observing, particularly of the planets. I’ll use Mars as my example because it’s still magnificent in the evening sky and has a relatively permanent large-scale landscape.
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