Get Ready NOW for November’s Mercury Transit!

Now is the time to prepare for the premier astronomical event of 2019!

From Tele Vue’s patio, Jon Betancourt and David Nagler view the May 2016 Mercury Transit in Hydrogen Alpha light. They’re using a big-screen Samsung Galaxy Note 4 supported by a FoneMate™ smartphone adapter attached to our 18.2mm DeLite eyepiece and Tele Vue-76 APO scope. Staff photo.

While there are at least 20 solar eclipses in a decade, there will be only 13 transits of Mercury each century!  The next one, on November 11th is less than 8 weeks away. You should  be checking your gear and doing dry runs on the Sun now (hopefully with sunspots) to prepare for this rare event: the one after this will be a long way off in the year 2032. 

The Transit of Mercury in May 2016: the planet here is 12-arcseconds across — while 20% larger than the upcoming November 2019 event — it was still a very small target. Note the size of the planet versus the sunspots in the Active Regions. White light filter on Tele Vue-76 APO scope with 18.2 DeLite eyepiece (26.4x) connected to FoneMate™ smartphone adapter holding Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Image by Jon Betancourt.

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02 July 2019 Total Solar Eclipse Images

Sunset during the end of the eclipse by Instagram user Wijaya Sukwanto. All rights reserved. Imaged through filtered Tele Vue-76 APO scope with Powermate image amplifier.

This past July’s Total Solar Eclipse was a southern hemisphere event with most of the path over the open waters of the Pacific. Starting east of New Zealand, the eclipse path made continental landfall in Chile and crossed over some major astronomical facilities in the Elqui Valley before entering Argentina. With the Sun setting and close to the horizon the shadow path crossed Argentina in just 3-minutes. The centerline just missed the capital city of Buenos Aires.  

Solar Eclipse maps and data courtesy of Fred Espenak and Jean Meeus, “Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000” (NASA/TP-2008-214170). Green lines denote limits of visibility. Key to Solar Eclipse Figures

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“Stargazing” in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Top-Left: Brooklyn Bridge Park (image by David Deutsch). Top-Right: Statue of Liberty as seen through Tele Vue-85 with Apollo 11mm eyepiece (image by Al Nagler). Bottom: Al with TeleVue-85 and twilight skyline (image courtesy of Jupiter Joe’s Sidewalk Astronomy).
Each year, the World Science Festival features amazing talks and experiences in the New York City (NYC) area, such as stargazing in the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park, with stunning views of the lower Manhattan skyline and special sights like the Statue of Liberty.

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Of the Moon and Messier Marathon

Composite image of Messier Marathon Checklist over Messier Object images. Messier objects by Michael A. PhillipsCC BY 4.0, Link

Beginning amateur astronomers soon encounter the term “Messier objects.” They learn that this is a list of objects outside our Solar System that are visible through small telescopes. This list was originally compiled by Charles Messier, in the 18th century, from his observations and those of contributors. The catalog has been updated over time, as recently as the mid-20th century, to 110 objects in total.  

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This Week: London Calling!

European AstroFest 2018 at the Widescreen Centre stand (left-to-right): Dr. Simon Bennett, David Nagler, Richard Day, Sasha Kostyaev.

This week’s AstroFest 2019 show, at the Kensington Conference and Events Centre in London, inaugurates Tele Vue’s exhibition season. I’ll once again be guest of The Widescreen Centre. Want to talk about Tele Vue eyepieces? Have questions on DIOPTRX? Need advice on imaging with Tele Vue telescopes? Please find me at The Widescreen Centre stand in the Exhibition hall, open 9am to 6pm, on February 8th and 9th.  You can find complete details on the Exhibition Hall on the AstroFest website.

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Sunday’s Lunar Eclipse Recap!

At Tele Vue we were stunned with the clarity and “3D effect” of this ghostly image of the red eclipsed Moon hanging in the sky against a starry background. (This is not a composite: those are actual dim stars near the limb of the full Moon!) Kudos to Bruno Yporti for planning and creating this image. Imaging details: Tele Vue-85 APO refractor with Tele Vue 2x Powermate and Canon 6D DSLR on an Atlas EQ-G mount. This is a 6-second exposure at ISO 1600 with effective focal length of 1,200mm. Taken at 03:20:33 local time (UTC -2). Eclipse Lunar Total by Instagram user Bruno Yporti. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
It’s summer in the southern hemisphere and Bruno Yporti, in Londrina, State of Paraná, Brazil, had great weather for imaging last Sunday’s Total Lunar Eclipse of the “Supermoon” over the Americas. At his private, roll-off roof, “Ophiuchus Observatory”, he readied his Tele Vue-85 APO refractor with Tele Vue 2x Powermate and Canon 6D DSLR on an Atlas EQ-G mount for the event. The sky was clear, with almost no wind, when he took the above single exposure — about 8-minutes after mid-totality. In this phase of the eclipse, the Moon was illuminated by the refracted light skimming along the entire circumference of the Earth. The deep-red light bathing the Moon is what we see at sunrise and sunset on the horizon. 

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Don’t Miss the Lunar Eclipse & Jupiter / Venus Conjunction!

(Left) Blue Moon Eclipse by AstroBin user Joe Beyer. Copyright Joe Beyer. Used by permission. (Right) January 2019 Jupiter and Venus conjunction.
Sky watchers are in for a double-treat with lunar and planetary events on the schedule in the next few days. Brilliant Jupiter and Venus dazzle in the morning as the planets approach conjunction. Sunday night in the Americas will be dominated by the total lunar eclipse. 
 

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Happy Holidays from Comet 46P/Wirtanen

At only 30-lunar distances from Earth, Comet 46P/Wirtanen brightened to magnitude 3.6 as it brushed by our planet on December 16th — just 4-days after perihelion (closest to sun). The anticipation of this close pass-by engaged the attention of many amateurs that observed and imaged this “dirty-snowball” in the weeks leading up to the fly-by.  But the most iconic image of this comet’s apparition was made two-weeks before its closest approach to Earth.

46P/Wirtanen, Moon Size Comparison by flickr user Mike Broussard. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Imaged with Tele Vue-85 APO and Tele Vue TRF-2008 0.8x Reducer/Flattener for f/5.6. Camera used was Canon T3 with IDAS-LPS (Light Pollution) filter. Exposure at ISO 3200 for 40×120 sec. Image taken Dec 2, 2018 at 03:05 UT.

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Uranus Opposition October 23rd

Uranus by Instagram user astrobobo. Copyright astrobobo. Used by permission. Imaged with Tele Vue 2.5x Powermate™ on Celestron EdgeHD 8″ SCT (effective focal length = 5080-mm) and ZWO ASI290MC camera.

On the 23rd, the “ice  giant” Uranus will be visible all night, as it rises when the sun sets (hence it is opposite the sun). It will also be at its largest for the year: a diminutive 3.73″ of arc. Due to its distance and close-to-circular orbit, Uranus doesn’t vary that much in brightness over time.  It will reach magnitude 5.7 from mid-October through early November before slightly fading to magnitude 5.9 in late March 2019. This makes it a naked-eye target in dark skies and easy to locate in a binocular or finderscope.

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This Week: Neptune Opposition 2018 and Comet 21P!

Neptune image by Voyager 2 probe. NASA/JPL

With the moon a waning crescent, it is a good time to pick out some faint objects in the sky.

On Friday, September 7th, Neptune rises opposite the sun and is closest to earth. Being in the sky all-night, and at it’s brightest, presents a good opportunity to sight this rarely-seen telescopic planet. Unlike the naked eye planets, you’ll have to crank-up the power to make sure you’ve really found it. Even at 100x it just looks like a magnitude 7.8 star. So don’t expect to see a Voyager 2 quality image through your eyepiece.

Click on image to enlarge. Neptune (dots showing position from Sept. 5 to 12) is just south of a line between Phi- and Lambda-Aquarii. In early September it will be moving slowly toward the Lambda star. Using your finder, or a wide-field eyepiece, setup your field on the stars labeled by magnitude inside the 5° circle. Over the course of the week, Neptune will be approaching a line drawn between the mag. 7.5 and 7.4 stars shown. Neptune will be slightly dimmer than both at mag. 7.8.  83-Aquarii it is the brightest of the stars labeled by magnitude — shining at  mag. 5.5 — and will help you orient the chart.

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