As a famous proverb says, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” What does that have to do with amateur astronomy and COVID? Other than the obvious loss of life, supply chain issues, and events put on pause, an interesting answer is imaging in groups of friends!
Astrophotography is one of those things in which it can be expensive to get into and time consuming. The feeling of capturing and processing images is amazing, but as time consuming as it can be, there is downtime. And that is when the gear is doing the imaging for hours.
This is where COVID caused issues because it was really fun to talk with fellow amateur astronomers. Regardless of whether they were imagining or viewing, it was an amazing opportunity to network and connect that is harder if not impossible to replicate other ways.
Of course with remote computer controlled setups, one could image at home before the pandemic. That will still be a thing, but the ability to chat with friends while you’re there is fantastic. The internet has made it easier to communicate, find answers to questions, and share the end results, but exclusively imaging alone still feels empty.
There are those who say imaging alone has meant not having to deal with others messing up shots. Although true, having that social interaction is why people join astronomy clubs and go to star parties. It’s part of the amateur astronomy experience!