About Al Nagler About > About Al Nagler > Star People Bio
Al Nagler was profiled in Amateur Astronomy, by Robert Reeves, Summer 1995 issue.
Astronomer since:
Al Nagler
Rockland County, New York
Founder of Tele Vue Optics

There is not an amateur astronomer today who has not marveled at the fantastic view of the heavens as seen through Nagler and Tele Vue eyepieces. The man behind the creation of these coveted optics, Al Nagler, is himself an amateur astronomer little different in his approach to and love for the sky than the rest of us. This is his story…

"When my father took me to the Hayden Planetarium in 1948, I was injected with the astronomy bug. My interest was piqued with a 3-inch Skyscope reflector, a fine $30 instrument with a cardboard tube and pipe fitting legs.

"Since high school in 1952, I've been excited about telescope making, but also visual observing and astrophotography. Telescope making was merely a means to an end in order to accomplish the other activities. I learned about telescope making from the classical ATM books and from friends at the Junior Astronomy Club at the Hayden Planetarium.

"A critical area of help was the Scientific Techniques Lab at Bronx High School of Science, where Mr. Charles Cafarella worked with me on a 350-pound, 8-inch f/6.5 Newtonian built over several years. I bought the 8-inch mirror kit from "Precision Optics" on 163rd Street in the Bronx, an optometrist who sold mirror kits as a sideline. Having little money, I made a wooden hexagonal tube and the mount was made from pipe fittings. In fact, I still have it!

"That scope earned me a micrometer as a shop award at graduation. A few years later, I wrote an article on its construction for Mechanix Illustrated. The $80 fee was the first money I ever made in astronomy. It also started me off on my optical design career at Farrand Optical Company from 1957 to 1973.

"Most exciting and encouraging throughout my life has been my annual pilgrimage to Stellafane, where in 1958 my 8-inch received 3rd prize in mechanical excellence. Years later, I rebuilt the scope into a 12-inch f/5.3 and received 1st prize for Newtonians at the 1972 Stellafane.

"It wasn't until much later that I developed an interest in refractors, conceived originally as test instruments for my eyepieces, and have an 8-inch aperture scope for my own use. The f/10, 4-element folded design with an 8-foot wooden tube was dubbed the "snake coffin" by my friends.

"Like all amateurs, I have had my share of unusual situations. Once a policeman considered arresting me for carrying a coffin illegally in a car when I was on the way to meet my observing buddies with my wooden hex tube 8-inch Newtonian in my first car--a Checker cab. Another time, when coming home from observing with my friends, my Checker cab threw a connecting rod on a country road. I went for help, a frozen hulk in my old brown mohair coat, hunching along the side of the road. A police car screamed to a halt and an officer with a flashlight told me how lucky I was since at first glance he was considering shooting a stray bear. Memories like these are treasured additions to the satisfactions that come from amateur astronomy.

"One of the things that always excited me about astronomy is bringing it to the public, and especially to children. I also love the experience and camaraderie of attending star parties. In addition to local and the major national star parties, I have attended two star parties in Australia and one in Japan. Through these, I have come to correspond with amateurs from all over the world. These people, as well as new product developments, make amateur astronomy a continual adventure.

"I'm constantly surprised and awed by the fabulous views friends show me at star parties. Indeed, I have had a number of "goose-bump" astronomical experiences. One was getting out of the car at Ayers Rock in Australia during a trip to see Halley's Comet in 1986. I looked up and saw, for the first time, a totally new and different astronomical universe. The Milky Way was so brilliant it was beyond my imagination. Another "goosebumper" was at the Texas Star Party where I got my first glimpse of Omega Centauri through an 18-inch telescope using my 13 mm eyepiece. Yet another was once finding a comet next to M-1. I was awfully excited to say the least until I checked Sky and Telescope and noticed the recommendation to see a comet one degree away from M-1 on that very night.

"I am pushing 60 now, and still love telescopes as both hobby and business. I have worked on eyepieces, telescopes and viewing devices with two major goals: to make astronomy as easy and versatile as possible to encourage, rather than discourage, newcomers, and secondly, to provide a visual experience as close to a "spacewalk" as possible by obtaining the widest, sharpest, highest contrast views. I am deeply gratified that my work has enhanced the pleasure and growth of the hobby. I think amateur astronomy is the best hobby in the universe.

"I personally try to observe a few times a month, usually with fellow club members from the Rockland Astronomy Club in New York. My personal way to avoid the cold observing conditions in winter New York is to get away to the Winter Star Party. My current favorite viewing is wide angle Milky Way and open clusters, multiple stars, and Jupiter since the comet crash.

"Although I have no real mentor today, I just love the stories about amateurs turning pro, such as Clyde Tombaugh, Leslie Peltier, William Herschel and telescope makers such as Alvan Clark. Actually, I have been very fortunate to meet so many of today's amateurs in the forefront of astronomy and have made many dear friends.

"In the future, amateur astronomy will be expanding in every direction: software, education, CCD astronomy, and the same old backyard observing of the wonders we love. With increasing sky pollution, I expect dark-sky star parties to become more popular vacation destinations. As for myself, I can hardly wait for my beautiful granddaughter, Allison, born in October of 1994, to grow fast enough for me to share the universe with her."

A Personal Note from Al Nagler
Aside from the fun of being interviewed for the magazine, I must suggest you consider subscribing. This is the magazine that covers what amateurs do, think, and feel, all in their own words. It covers star parties, people, equipment, and ideas in delightful detail. To subscribe or get more information:

Online: subscribe
Phone: 615-332-5555

Amateur Astronomy
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— Reeves, R. "Star People - Real People in Astronomy." Amateur Astronomy #6 (Summer 1995).

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