Shelter in Space

Christmas Tree Nebula at Amboy Crater by flickr user William Allen. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Astronomy in the time of Covid-19: Getting out in the desert for astrophotography is definitely sheltering in space. Taken at Amboy Crater on March 16, 2020.

Imaging details: Tele Vue-85 APO refractor with Tele Vue TRF-2008 0.8x Reducer/Flattener (converts TV-85 to 480mm f/5.6) imaging into ZWO ASI071 MC Pro Camera. Accessories: Tele Vue Starbeam Finder with Apertura illuminator, ZWO 30F4 Guides Scope with Starlight XPress Lodestar X2 Guide Camera. Mount: Celestron CGX EQ. Software: Celestron PWI, PHD2 Guiding, Astro Photography Tool 3.82.

Getting out in the desert for astrophotography is definitely sheltering in space.
We encountered the above phrase, this week, in the caption of an image of the Christmas Tree Nebula, made with our Tele Vue-85 APO refractor. We felt it apropos for our hobby as it succinctly conjures the connection between amateur astronomy and our current moment in world history. 
 
The image was posted to Flickr by Los Angeles based amateur Bill Allen. So we decided to ask Bill about his journey into astronomy and astrophotography and showcase some of his images in this week’s blog.  

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2020 Messier Marathon!

Lovely Messier objects clockwise from top left:
•M45 (Pleiades Star Cluster) with TeleVue-NP127fli + FLI ProLine 16803 CCD camera © Gordon Haynes. • M31 (Andromeda galaxy) & M32 (dwarf galaxy is left of center) with Tele Vue TV-NP127is + Apogee U9000 camera © Adam Block and Tim Puckett (more). • M42 (Orion Nebula) & M43 (De Mairan’s Nebula) with Tele Vue-85 + Tele Vue 0.8x Reducer/ Flattener + Canon T3 camera © Mike Broussard (more). • M13 (Hercules Globular) with Tele Vue-NP127fli + FLI MicroLine 694 camera © Wolfgang Promper (more).
The Messier Marathon is a northern latitude event that takes place on a night in March or early-April. This is a time when all 110 Messier objects are visible from the northern hemisphere. (See our 2018 blog post on how this list came about). Singularly and in groups, amateur astronomers stay up all night in a “marathon” session to try to view them all! To be a successful “marathoner,” you need to pick the right evening, have clear weather, good site selection, and a manually driven observing setup capable of wide fields of view. 

2020: Solar & Lunar Phenomena Overview + Space Junk Podcast

Our FoneMate is excellent for capturing lunar and solar (with a filter) phenomena.

Lunar Eclipses
This year we are blessed by not one, not two, not three, but four penumbral lunar eclipses! (At most there can be five lunar eclipses in a year.) However, none will be dramatic: a penumbral eclipse has the Moon passing through the edges of Earth’s shadow and darkening only slightly. Most people won’t even notice the darkening taking place. There will be no dramatic “bite” taken out of the Moon and it won’t turn the color of “blood”.

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Meet Me in London for AstroFest!

Simon Bennett, David Nagler, Richard Day, and Sasha Kostyaev at European AstroFest.
Sandy and I are “chuffed” to again be guests of Tele Vue dealer The Widescreen Centre at the UK’s premier public space and astronomy event: European AstroFest. Frequent attendees of the show know I’ve returned there for many years and it is always a pleasure to get together with Simon, Elena and their staff to answer your questions regarding Tele Vue products. 
 

Tele Vue’s Year End: Behind the Scenes!

As we close-out the year, we’d like to update you on what is going on “behind the scenes” at Tele Vue! From the arrival of the Apollo 11mm eyepieces to the ongoing GoodBuy 2019 Sale, and answering your questions in between, our employees in upstate New York are somewhat like Santa’s “elves” this time of year!

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Al with NASA Solar System Ambassador Mike Greene!

Mike Greene, Solar System Ambassador. Image courtesy of Mike Greene.
In September 2019, I attended a presentation at our local New Jersey library by Mike Greene, a NASA Ambassador. The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 was the featured story as part of a very complete presentation of the entire Apollo program. I had no idea that 1,000 NASA Ambassador volunteers were passionately giving these free history lectures around the country.
 
Of course, I couldn’t resist telling Mike about my connection to the program, and he enthusiastically accepted my request to contribute to his future presentations at libraries in northern New Jersey. After Mike delivers his presentation, he introduces me by explaining my relationship with the Apollo program. Continue reading “Al with NASA Solar System Ambassador Mike Greene!”

November 11th Mercury Transit Countdown!

From Tele Vue’s patio, the Mercury Transit of May 9, 2016 was imaged in white light with our FoneMate™ adapter using a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 attached to an 18.2mm DeLite eyepiece and Tele Vue-76 scope. Mercury is in the lower-right quadrant and forms a diagonal line with sunspot regions 2542 and 2543 as it passed nearest to the center of the solar disk. Mercury was 12-arcseconds in diameter then and will be just 10-arcseconds for the November 2019 transit. Photo by Jon Betancourt.
It was Johannes Kepler (of “Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion” fame) that first predicted transits of Mercury over the face of the Sun. He predicted the May 1607 event and November 1631 event. However, nobody knew how big (or small) Mercury would appear against the Sun, leading Kepler to misidentify a sunspot as the planet when he observed the the first prediction. Kepler was deceased by the time of the second event, but a French astronomer confirmed the transit took place.
 
The next Mercury Transit is set for 4-days from now: November 11, 2019. This blog will tell you all you need to know to view and image this rare sight!
 

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Uranus Opposition 2019

Uranus at Opposition
Uranus and moons. Celestron Edge 11 with 2.5x Tele Vue Powermate and ZWO ASI224MC color camera. Image credit and copyright by Anis Abdul.
Anis Abdul’s composite image of Uranus and moons is from the October 2017 opposition and was posted to his Facebook page. The imaging gear used was a Celestron Edge 11 telescope, riding on on AP900 mount, that was “amplified” with our Tele Vue 2.5x Powermate to achieve 7,000 mm focal length. Imaging was done with a ZWO ASI224MC color camera . The best 50% of frames from 20-minutes of video were processed for the image. Software used was Pixinsight and Registax.
 
“One of the closer moon (Miranda) is actually visible in my stacks but is lost in the planet glow ,” says Anis. 

The “ice  giant” planet Uranus was in opposition on October 28th. That means that the Sun, Earth, and Uranus all lined up together at an instant in time on that date. Uranus is on the same side of the Sun as the Earth, so the planet was closest to Earth and brightest for the year and in the sky all night long. If you missed it: don’t worry. The slow-moving planet will remain at least 3.7″ of arc in diameter and at magnitude 5.7 for the next month. 

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Challenger Center Children’s Space / Astronomy Fair

Apollo 11 astronaut with Apollo 11 eyepiece 😁
Each year, Rockland Astronomy Club member Ed Siemenn (Northeast Astronomy Forum ring-leader), heads the club’s Children’s Fair at the Challenger Center in Rockland County. It’s always a pleasure and honor for me to attend and get kids looking through scopes!
 

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Black Forest 2019 & Observe the Moon Oct 5th!

Image by Jon Betancourt

A late-summer / early-fall tradition, the Central Pennsylvania Observers’ (CPO) Black Forest Star Party was held at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania last weekend. This is a special place for observers in the northeast: designated a Dark Sky Park by both the state and the International Dark Sky Association, it is one of the darkest areas in the state. It has a large designated Astronomy Observing Field 2,300 feet above sea level where the state has installed concrete observing pads, domes, electricity, and WiFi for observers.

M27 (Dumbbell Nebula) Night Vision image from handheld iPhone (1/4″ ,ISO 3200) taken at the eyepiece of John Vogt’s 32″ reflector. Credit and copyright: Carl Lancaster.

Al spent some time showing people the views through a TNVC PVS-14 Night Vision monocular connected to John Vogt’s amazing 32-inch scope. Al estimates that the views of the Helix Nebula through this setup were like those from a 90 inch scope! Carl Lancaster captured M17 and M27 through this setup by putting an iPhone up to the eyepiece and snapping off pictures. 

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