This year all eyes will turn to the Moon to mark the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing. The Moon is the natural first target for new amateur astronomers, yet all too often as observers become seasoned, the Moon becomes a nuisance that blots the stars from the sky. This week we explore the Moon through the eyes and talented hands of Michel Deconinck. As you will see, there is much to see in the monthly dance between shadow and light on the lunar surface.
Michel Deconinck is an artist in the South of France with a passion for astronomical watercolors. He is very involved with the international astronomical community and his artistic works have been published in magazines, scientific journals, and displayed at conferences and school events. His artistry is augmented with a background in nuclear physics, engineering and astrophysics.
This guest blog post is written by Phil Ressler, a longtime amateur astronomer who lives in Los Angeles, though his observing life began on the east coast. Phil is a veteran software industry executive, currently CEO of Sixgill, LLC.
I had never seen pinpoint or round stars — apart from observing our round Sun.
I’m old enough to remember when “pinhole” eyepieces with “soda straw” views defined what a telescope offered to the average amateur astronomer. More than anyone, Al Nagler, and more than any company, Tele Vue, changed that by opening up the sky and making it easier to explore through wider field viewing. Mr. Nagler and his company also showed us that a relatively rich field refractor could not only capably serve as an amateur’s sole telescope: it is the best telescope to own if you’re only having one. We can thank Al Nagler and Tele Vue for laying the foundation for the way visual astronomy is pursued today. Yet despite all that, until I tried a DIOPTRX™ on my 22mm Panoptic last year, I had never seen pinpoint or round stars — apart from observing our round Sun. I’ve been observing the sky through scope optics since 1961, my astigmatism never absent. For people like me, DIOPTRX™ is arguably Tele Vue’s most essential product, because it makes all of Al Nagler’s original work in eyepieces and refractors unmistakably worthwhile to the astigmatic viewer.
Tele Vue founder Al Nagler was one of 400,000 people estimated to have worked on the Apollo moon landing program. The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the culmination of all that effort: the first manned Moon landing. Al’s involvement with that mission and derivative work for the Air Force during that period would inspire him to found Tele Vue Optics and influence our eyepiece designs for decades to come.
A customer recently called because his vintage Tele Vue Renaissance telescope needed some tender-loving care. The Renaissance was our second model, put on the market after the 1981 “Multi-Purpose Telescope” (MPT). The customer’s scope was built in 1985 and is from the initial production design with a bolt-on focuser. After discussing the obvious issues that needed addressing and our evaluation process, he decided it would be worth it to him for us to have a look at the scope.
When we received the scope, the most obvious troubling issue was the focuser. It was unusable. The pinion shaft was badly bent and two of the three teflon runners supporting the draw-tube along its travel were missing. The outer surface of the objective showed years of grime, and all of the brass components were heavily oxidized. The optics, however, were only slightly mis-aligned, producing a mildly flaired star shape at high power, but the image was still serviceable for terrestrial and deep sky viewing. Sadly, after a complete optical and mechanical inspection, we concluded that it just wasn’t worth the effort and expense to revive the telescope. That, however, was not our customer’s conclusion.
He gave us the go-ahead and we proceeded to give his 1985, brass Tele Vue Renaissance a new lease on life. A “renaissance” for this Renaissance if you will!
Vic Bradford has owned a brass Renaissance telescope since 2006, about 20 years after he first saw Al Nagler show one at a Riverside Star Party. He regrets not owning one sooner as “the scope uniquely merges the beauty of form and function”. We’ve reprinted some excerpts below from a treatise he sent us on caring for the brass on his Renaissance telescope and brass fittings on his matching Tele Vue Gibraltar mount. He offers a caveat to the reader: “you may find these suggestions overkill and much can be said for simply leaving brass alone so it can develop a nice patina. Like any other fine equipment, though, it benefits from good care and research.”
These instructions are for cleaning and polishing brass lacking a clear-coating. Following these instructions will ruin your coating.
Surfing through the AstroBin site’s collection of user generated astrophotos we were struck at this vivid example of M16 “The Eagle Nebula.” The image has a depth and contrast we’ve never seen before. Created using “Hubble Pallet” filters, the rich blue (Oxygen III) surrounding the “Pillars of Creation” structure is highlighted by the ruddy bland of reds (Sulfur) and greens (Hydrogen-alpha and Nitrogen) in the “folds” of the surrounding dust clouds. The blackness of space at the edge of the dust and gas cloud is preserved against all the colors.
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.
We’ve noticed a proliferation of close-up plane images on Instagram made using Tele Vue Powermate™ image amplifiers. What is amazing about these images? They are taken from the ground with the plane at jet-aircraft cruising altitude. This is the imaging side of the hobby of “plane spotting.” It is sort of like bird watching — but the “bird” is much bigger and potentially much further away: in the stratosphere!
While imaging a bird can be serendipitous, the modern plane spotter has the advantage of free online flight-tracking software, such as FlightRadar 24 and FlightAware, to predict what aircraft are approaching their location. Aircraft identification, route, speed, altitude, and heading are just a click away. This software has also made its way to the ubiquitous smartphone. Thus, unlike birding, plane spotters can anticipate targets to observe in advance. This gives the spotter time to prepare for encounters with common and rare aircraft — like the Antonov An-225.
We noticed some unique images on AstroBin.com employing our Tele Vue-NP127is and Tele Vue-85 scopes to simultaneously image the same target. The images from the two scopes were combined to create the final image — with fantastic results! All the image locations are given as “Tom’s Driveway” in Terre Haute, IN. Intrigued, we contacted the imager (“Astrovetteman”) to learn how he settled on this technique for many of his images. So we turn over our blog this week to astrophotographer Tom Peter and his dual-scope driveway setup.
Tele Vue-60: Compact Travel Scope with Imaging Capability
This week we turn our attention to the capabilities of our smallest telescope: the Tele Vue-60. This 60-mm aperture, f/6, APO refractor offers users a maximum 4.3° visual field and a potential of reaching 150x —all this in a package just 10″ long and a svelte 3-lbs. Due to its diminutive size, it is easy to overlook this instrument when shopping for a quality APO travel-scope. But, many users have been pleasantly surprised at the capabilities of this small refractor.