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: 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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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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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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