The changing face of the moon has long been documented by artists. In the early 1600’s, the introduction of the telescope allowed for detailed sketching of lunar features at the eyepiece. The most celebrated early telescope sketcher was Galileo Galilei. His artistic training allowed him to understand that the jagged appearance of the lunar terminator (day/night line) seen in the eyepiece was due to the topography of craters, mountain, and ridges on the moon. These irregular shadows on the moon had puzzled earlier observers that considered the moon to be a flat disk with markings on it.
By the 1970s amateurs had noticed that all 110 Messier objects could be observed at low northern latitudes over the course of a night in mid-to-late March.
You’ve probably heard of Charles Messier’s catalog of celestial deep-sky objects for 18th century comet hunters. When they stumbled upon an unknown faint fuzzy object, they’d consult this list to see if it was a known object. It was first published in 1774 and expanded with help from fellow observers in that century. Astronomers and amateurs in the early 20th Century rediscovered it, added a few new objects, and made corrections. There are now 110 “M” objects in the modern catalog.
Every sky chart labels the location of these objects with the letter “M” and a number. For instance, the brightest Messier is M45 — the famous naked-eye Pleiades open star cluster. A third of the way around the sky you’ll find the dimmest: M95 — a galaxy of magnitude 10 or 11 (depending on the source) in Leo.
We spotted some great Tele Vue-NP127is images on Instagram and AstroBin recently. They are the work of a collaboration between Niels Christensen and other amateurs from Denmark. We contacted Niels to learn more.
For most people an overhead pass of the International Space Station (ISS) looks somewhat like a bright airliner crossing the sky. Not for Szabolcs Nagy: with his 1,200mm Dobsonian scope and 2.5x Tele Vue Powermate™ he can get up-close video of this bright streak that resolves into individual solar panels, modules, and even docked capsules!
Most amateur astronomers will ignore the full moon. The best telescopic observations can be had before and after the moon is full. For instance, when the moon is half-illuminated, at first quarter, as it waxes toward full. Along the night and day terminator line bisecting the moon are the boldly cast shadows of mountains, craters, rilles, and basins. This is where your telescopic lunar observations should begin.
About every 26-months, Earth and Mars get a good look at each other as their orbits cause them to line up together on the same side of the Sun. At the instant that Earth is between Mars and the Sun we have “Mars Opposition” — Mars is opposite the Sun in Earth’s sky. Mars is closest to Earth around this time and amateur astronomers make a point of observing it.
I’m looking forward to meeting all the amateur astronomers at European AstroFest this weekend in London, UK. As in prior years, I’ll be a guest of one of our Tele Vue dealer, The Widescreen Centre. Please look for their stand in the Exhibition hall.
First, some bad-news for all those newly confirmed “eclipse chasers” from the Great American Eclipse in 2017: there will be no total solar or annular eclipses this year — just some partials.
Southern hemisphere observers will get a double-dose of partial eclipses starting February 15th. That event will cover an area from the southern part of South America to a large chunk of Antarctica. This will be followed by another partial event July 13th — mostly observable in the waters between Antarctica and Australia — with the shadow making landfall in the southern parts of Victoria and South Australia.
Looking back and ahead with Tele Vue President David Nagler.
2017 was an exciting year for Tele Vue and our hobby: certainly the August 21st, 2017 Great American Eclipse dominated the headlines. In our blog coverage of the grand event, we took a peek inside NASA’s eclipse imaging SOLAR LAB and recounted our totality adventures in Tellico Plains, TN, Columbia, SC, and Nashville, TN.