The public will likely learn from the media that the Mars Opposition is a “one-night” event, on October 13th, when the planet rises at sunset and is brighter and larger in appearance than usual. However, amateur astronomers know that the 2020 Mars Opposition is more like a “season,” where the planet grows in size each night over months, stays near peak size for a while, and then slowly fades away over the weeks. This gives us an observation window much longer than a single night!
We noticed some great Tele Vue-NP127is images on Instagram tagged with our #RPTVO (repost hashtag). They were all taken by Greg Thompson in Tele Vue’s home region of the Hudson Valley, NY. Due to the weather, one has to be persistent to be an astro-imager in these parts. So, we contacted him and that resulted in this guest blog post in two parts. The first part describes his journey into astrophotography and experience imaging with the Tele Vue-NP127is and the second part is a step-by-step guide for image acquisition and processing.
When I saw the first image of the Orion Nebula on the camera’s LED screen ─ WOW, I was hooked!
As a child, I would always look up at the night sky in hopes of seeing a “shooting star.” I loved the night sky but was never interested in astronomy or cosmology as a young man. I began a photography business in 2011 and had to take early retirement from my day job of 25+ years. My photography led me down many roads, from portraiture and landscapes, birds and wildlife, and many other genres. I had heard of astrophotography but was not interested as I thought it was beyond my reach. Then the television series “How the Universe Works” came to my television in 2016 and could not get enough of it. Soon after, I was browsing a photography forum that I was a member of, and saw some photographs (Deep Sky Objects’s) that a well-known scientist and photometrist had posted using a camera that I already had, and a lens very similar to one of my lenses. That opened my eyes wide and I then began to research everything about astrophotography. Three months later I bought my first camera tracker (Fornax LighTrack II) and accessories to begin my new hobby. That was in the fall of 2016. When I saw the first image of the Orion Nebula on the camera’s LED screen ─ WOW, I was hooked!
The combination of Tele Vue-85 APO refractor and Tele Vue 0.8x Reducer/Flattener (TRF-2008) create a potent, highly portable, flat/wide-field (480mm @ f/5.6) astro-imaging system. The following gallery of Southern Hemisphere nebulae, by Vesselin Petkov, is a great example of the exquisite results possible with the Tele Vue-85.
Imaging was done from his driveway in Queensland Australia in Bortle class 5 (suburban) skies. We’re impressed that the images presented here are composed of color sub-frames without the use of filters or calibration frames.
“Trifid Nebula” (M20 or NGC-6514) was named by John Hershel (1792-1871) who dubbed it the “Trifid” — from Latin for three parts or lobes — based on his telescopic observations of the divisions in the central part of the object. A single giant star in the center of the nebula powers the red glow of hydrogen gas surrounding it. The outer blue zone is starlight reflecting off of dust. The stars around the nebula are an open cluster.
Mars is growing daily in size and brightness as it approaches opposition night on 13 October 2020. On that date, the “Red Planet” will shine at magnitude -2.6 and be 22.4″ in diameter. At 5.5° above the Celestial Equator, it will be well placed for northern observers. Enjoy it while you can as it will not reach 22″ again until the year 2033! See our prior post on the Mars Opposition to learn why this will be the Last “Best” Mars Opposition for Northern Hemisphere!
Rodger W. Gordon has been an amateur astronomer since 1952 and has written over 300 articles for various amateur astronomy publications. Having owned hundreds of eyepieces, he has been known as the “Eyepiece King” of the hobby. In his long career, he has worked for Edmund Scientific, Vernonscope, Optical Techniques, and has consulted for Questar.
At the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in April 2007, we introduced the 13mm Ethos 100° eyepiece. The overwhelmingly positive response to it at ensuing star-parties led me to explain why the view elicited so many enthusiastic “WOW!” comments in an essay on our website “The Majesty Factor – The Nexus of Contrast, Power, Field” (also on our mobile site). As an example of the enthusiasm, I included the following:
Right after NEAF, Rodger Gordon, a well-known “eyepiece junkie,” wrote me: “Definitely the finest wide-angle eyepiece I’ve ever seen. If God is an astronomer, this is the wide-angle eyepiece he’d choose. You can quote me.” Thanks, Rodger.
Knowing Rodger’s long experience with astronomical equipment, and the fact that we both own Questar 3.5″ telescopes, he sent me the following letter, written July 17, 2020, about comparing his Questar 3.5″ to his son’s Tele Vue-85. I like to call the Tele Vue-85 my “Goldilocks” telescope because it’s just the right aperture and size for everything from a quick “no excuse not to go out” observing session to a full night of enjoyment. However, if I judged telescopes by their sheer beauty and elegance, I guess I would rate my Questar as the “Majesty Factor” winner 😉 .
The Mars 2020 opposition will be the “best” this decade for mid- and high-northern hemisphere observers.
Let’s start out by stating that the Mars 2020 opposition will be the “best” one this decade for mid- and high-northern hemisphere observers. (Better even than all the ones in the 2010’s!) On opposition night, 13 October 2020, the “Red Planet” will be brilliant in the sky at magnitude -2.6 and 22.4″ in diameter at a Declination of 5.5° above the Celestial Equator. It will reach 44° in elevation above the horizon in the city of London, UK.
(Due to the non-circular orbits of Earth and Mars, the instant of opposition is not usually the same as the closest approach between the pair: there can be a two-weeks difference in time. So, we’ll talk in round numbers when discussing the size of Mars around the time of opposition.)
With regard to this year’s event: yes, there have been “bigger” oppositions. In 2018 Mars was 24” in diameter (ranking with the super-duper, 2003 opposition that had Mars at 25″). However, while Mars was bigger in 2018, it was at -25.4° Declination and barely cleared your neighbor’s fence in the northern hemisphere. This year it’ll be +30.9 degrees higher in the sky!
Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) has been intriguing northern sky watchers all summer and will continue to do so for a bit longer as it travels through the “paws” of Ursa Major. It became glorious as a morning object for amateur astronomers in June, but, after transitioned to the evening sky in July, it has become better appreciated by the general public.
Andrew Thomas has been posting beautiful wide-field sky images on his Flickr feed. He’s imaging with one of our smaller scopes, the highly portable and capable Tele Vue-76 APO refractor! Here’s an image made by Andrew with this scope during the Great American Eclipse in August 2017.
Andrew gave us permission to re-post these photos on our blog.
I’m glad you enjoy the images I’ve been able to capture with the Tele Vue-76. It’s a wonderful scope for both visual use and imaging. I don’t think I’ll ever give it up!
If you follow the Tele Vue re-post (#RPTVO) hashtag on Instagram you’ll find many stunning images made with Tele Vue gear. That’s how we found Jun Luo (aka: xchaos360) and his Tele Vue-NP127is images. He’s relatively new to astrophotography and has produced some very nice images. We had a conversation with Jun about his use of Tele Vue gear for imaging and what follows is what he told us.
Paul Andrew has been an amateur astronomer since the age of 11. He is the founder and Honorable President of the South East Kent Astronomical Society in the UK. He’s had a number of his astrophotographs published — in particular, his solar images — in national newspapers and on websites as far afield as Russia. He’s been short-listed for the prestigious Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition four times now. We’ve noted his high-quality solar images and discovered that many were made with our Tele Vue 2.5x Powermate in the imaging train. So, we present a selection of his work in this week’s blog.