Brian Paczkowski has been employed by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California since 1983. Some of his work includes the Galileo Mission to Jupiter and the Cassini Mission to Saturn. He is currently the Europa Clipper Science Manager.
Every clear night he images with his Tele Vue-76 installed at a remote observatory located at Dark Sky New Mexico (DSNM). He dedicates his Instagram wall of astroimages, “to my love of astrophotography.”
Located in the northern regions of Ursa Major and 12-million light-years from Earth, the two prominent galaxies in Brian’s image are Bode’s Galaxy (M81) and The Cigar Galaxy (M82). They are joined by NGC 3077 (an elliptical galaxy slightly further away) in the upper-left corner. All three are gravitationally interacting members of the M81 Group of Galaxies. This wide-field image shows foreground dust in our own galaxy covering the starscape.
In the close-up crop below, the intervening dust is not emphasized in processing. The yellowish core of M81 indicates an older population of stars while the red “spots” are from glowing hydrogen gas excited by ultraviolet light from newly formed young giant stars.
For Tele Vue, January 2020 began optimistically: our Apollo 11mm Commemorative eyepiece had started shipping in mid-December and we innocently opined on this blog that the year would be best remembered for “20/20 vision” puns. Our usual round of winter telescope shows and star parties began with David Nagler jetting off for the late-January European Astrofest in London and Al Nagler debuting a 67mm converter for our 55mm Plössl eyepiece at the Winter Star Party in February. David Nagler visited the studio at OPT Telescopes in Carlsbad, CA to discuss The Future of Visual Astronomy for an early-February Space Junk Podcast. In March we were looking forward to the “2020 Messier Marathon” and the arrival of Spring in the latter half of the month. Instead, COVID-19 precautions shut us down from March 20th — the first full day of spring — to May 26th. Thankfully, we all returned to work healthy, but the new concept of “social distancing” put an end to any chance of in-person appearances for the rest of the year.
With the strange year of 2020 behind us, we now choose to look back at the positive. In 2020 we managed to publish 34-postings covering a variety of topics. In this week’s blog we’ll examine our most popular stories for the year based on reader raw page views.
The Jupiter and Saturn “Great Conjunction” was well-publicized and well-imaged. Even though the closest approach between the planets was Monday, they’re still in the vicinity and worth a look tonight! This gallery contains some of the best images of the event we found on-line, acquired with Tele Vue products.
On December 16th, Jupiter and Saturn will be a full-Moon’s width apart at dusk as they sink into the south-western horizon. Watch this pair each evening as they draw ever-closer together until they pass within 1/10 of a degree on December 21st. This is the great Jupiter / Saturn Conjunction of 2020! This is the closest they’ve been together since 1623 and most sources say that conjunction was not observed due to the planet’s vicinity to the Sun. The last time the pair was definitely visible this close together was in 1226 in the morning sky. This is a rare “must-see” event indeed!
Tele Vue Sells Out of Limited Edition Apollo 11 Eyepiece!
Last year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and in recognition of Al Nagler’s contribution to the greater effort that made the mission possible, we “launched” a limited run of 300 commemorative Apollo 11mm eyepieces.
While we have shipped our last Apollo 11mm eyepiece recently, dealers may still have some in stock. Act now if interested!
The following note is from Al Nagler.
Dear Tele Vue Aficionado,
Thank you for your continued enthusiasm for our products. We’re sorry for some product delays due to an unexpected increase in demand during this pandemic time.
Here’s an announcement I’m making today that’s unique in my lifetime, leaving me conflicted between happy and sad:
We’ve sold out of our limited edition special production run of the Apollo 11 eyepiece celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.
Yes, I’m sad they are gone, but happy to have spread more joy among our astronomical community. Little did I know in the 1960s that my design for the LEM Simulator optics, showing a 110° star field to the astronauts would change my life, inspiring me to eventually share wide-field views with fellow amateur astronomers by founding Tele Vue Optics, Inc.
I’d appreciate your taking a few minutes to see my PowerPoint presentation, I Thank My Lucky Stars on the Tele Vue blog to share my life path with you.
Our readers followed the story of the development, arrival, packaging, and distribution of the Apollo 11mm eyepiece on our blog. See the following links:
Images below: (top) Apollo 11mm eyepiece “Magic Moment” at Tele Vue headquarters with the development team (left-right): Paul Dellechiaie, Al Nagler, and David Nagler. (Bottom left) Tele Vue CEO Al Nagler with Apollo 11mm eyepiece and his Alan Bean, (4th Man to Walk on the Moon) autographed print. (Bottom right) 2019 NEAF Show tease.
According to a recent Solar Activity Update by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center, “Solar activity picked up at the end of November into early December, 2020, as several sunspot groups emerged or rotated onto the visible disk”. The update continues: “Solar activity is anticipated to slowly increase over the upcoming years towards the predicted solar maximum peak around July, 2025.” This is great news for observers of our nearest star! At times this year, there had been month-long sunspot “droughts” with no or few sunspots on the solar disk.
The return of Sun as a target of interest has led to a sudden uptick in Solar image postings to social media these past few weeks.
Is it just us or did it seem that 2020 was a longer than usual year? Yet while both the year and big Mars Opposition are waning, we can still look forward to some astronomical sights and surprises in the “20/20” sky. We list them in this week’s blog.
Tele Vue Optics was founded by an amateur astronomer, Al Nagler, and it is no surprise that amateur astronomers have been drawn to fill the ranks of Tele Vue employees. In this week’s blog, as part of an ongoing series, we meet one of the amateur astronomers at Tele Vue.
Our newest employee is a telescope builder and avid astrophotographer who has been busy imaging the night sky with a Tele Vue-85 and Canon DSLR since he started at Tele Vue. “Satesh” as he goes by, graduated with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, from City College of NY. Al Nagler, who also graduated from City College with a Physics degree, but just a “few” years before Satesh, has enjoyed having a fellow alumnus on our team.
In his own words, Mahendra describes his journey into amateur telescope building.
Astronomy was not always a specific interest of mine, it was always space exploration in general. When I learned that there are amateurs that build their own telescopes, that all changed because I felt as if space had become a bit more accessible to me. Being an aspiring engineer at that time, the idea of building something as elegant as a telescope was more appealing than buying one. An extra challenge I had was that I had absolutely no experience with amateur astronomy or telescope making and when I say absolutely, I mean I had never looked through a telescope. Luckily there is a wealth of information online about telescopes and mirror making and I read so much that I became confident that I could do it.
I approached mirror making as smart as I could. To prevent astigmatism, I decided not to grind the mirror by hand. Instead, I made a fixed-post grinder that was driven by a hand crank and this ensured that the mirror’s surface was ground symmetric about its optical axis. I documented the process in a handwritten journal in case I encountered any problems during Ronchi testing. I could refer back to my notes and see what caused the problem. That paid off because I encountered almost every problem I read about; zones, under correction, over correction, turned down edge, etc. I fixed all of them and finally, I had a parabolized 6-inch F/6.5 mirror uncoated. I quickly assembled the mirror into the optical tube. In October 2014, I looked through a telescope for the first time when I finally tested my mirror on the sky by observing the moon and star testing on Sirius. The mirror was still uncoated and I hadn’t made the Dobsonian mount as yet. I pointed the scope by propping it up on a chair. By the end of 2014, the mirror was coated and the mount was complete. The entire process took almost a year, from building the mirror grinder to completing the scope.
Even though we’re past the point of closest approach and opposition, Mars continues to loom large in the sky and is higher each night at the same time. In the northern hemisphere, the nights are coming sooner and lasting longer. Until mid-November, Mars will appear bigger than at any opposition until 2033!
You can use the excellent Mars Mapper 2020-2021 web app (mobile version) on the British Astronomical Association website to identify features on the planet when you observe or image it.
If you’d like to try your hand at imaging the planet, study the next sections carefully as they contain image processing tips from top Martian imagers on the Internet.
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