Astro ImageHistoryRecollection

2021: A Year of Ups and Downs

Welcome to 2022! In this posting, we’ll examine how the pandemic impacted amateur astronomy this past year and review our most popular social media posts from 2021.

Sharpless 2-308 (Bicolor palette) by AstroBin user Diego Cartes. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This is our most-liked Instagram image of 2021 with 277 likes. It was also an AstroBin “Top Pick” nominee. It was made with our Tele Vue-76 APO refractor, Tele Vue TRF-2008 0.8x Reducer/Flattener (converts Tele Vue-76 to 380mm f/5), ZWO ASI 1600MM Cooled Pro monochrome camera, ZWO 7x36mm Filter Wheel (EFW), and iOptron iGuider ─ all riding on an iOptron CEM70G EQ mount. Imaged was binned 1×1 through ZWO OIII -7nm filters 51×900″ (12h 45′) and ZWO H-alpha 66×900″ (16h 30′) for a total integration time of 29h 15′.
COVID-19 Concerns

2021 U.S. COVID-19 New Reported Cases (7-day average). The early-summer dip, centered on June 21st, did not last very long. Adopted from New York Times “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count“.

As 2021 progressed, there were hopes that star parties and astronomy shows would return in full force as COVID-19 showed signs of being contained. Statistical data from early-summer 2021 heralded the good news: new virus cases had dropped dramatically to only 1/20th that of the January peak (graph at right). Mask and social distancing signs came down in anticipation of a return to “normal.” However, like a raging wildfire, the virus mutated and broke containment through the summer and fall and new cases reached and surpassed all prior peaks.

Virtual Star Parties
So, in many ways, 2021 was a “re-run” of 2020: safety concerns led to the cancellation of many star parties and events. Casualties included the likes of the Texas Star Party, Cherry Springs Star Party, Golden State Star Party, Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference, and down the line.

Tele Vue’s 2021 Virtual NEAF Booth with Al (left) and David (right) Nagler answering your questions.

But, some events went virtual, such as the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF). As our video contribution to April’s Virtual NEAF 2021, we asked our social media audience to send us their Tele Vue product questions to be answered by David and Al Nagler. Our early April blog post, Virtual NEAF 2021: Your Questions Answered!, published a few days before the event, ended up as a top-10 post for the year. It contained a 1-minute, “sneak peek” compilation of our video contribution. Our follow-up blog, Our Virtual NEAF 2021 Videos, contains links to all seven videos we produced in our “virtual NEAF booth.”  The videos are a great supplement to the product information on our website (mobile site). We answered questions about quality controls, near IR performance, replacing a Dobsonian with a small scope, and the feasibility of introducing faster Nagler-Petzval refractors, and Ethos eyepieces with wider fields.

Al’s presentation at the Virtual 2021 Winter Star Party.

The yearly Winter Star Party was also a virtual, multi-night, event in February 2021. Al Nagler led off the third night with his I Thank My Lucky Stars presentation.

Sheltering in Space
“Sheltering in space” is a phrase we came across with the first pandemic lock-downs in March 2020. It was in a Flickr caption, under the image of the Christmas Tree Nebula made with our Tele Vue-85 APO refractor by Los Angeles-based amateur Bill Allen. With other types of activities curtailed by the virus, interest in amateur astronomy exploded and two years later, many continue to follow Bill’s lead.

All Ready to View by Twitter user Simon Brown. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Ready to “shelter in space” with Tele Vue: NP101is APO scope with Tele Vue 2x Powermate and 3-6mm Nagler Planetary Zoom attached to Gibraltar HD4 mount. Tilton on the Hill, Leicester, UK.
Amateurs looking to “shelter in space” made our Messier Marathon 2021 tweet number one for the year.

Amateur astronomers need to prepare for celestial events, so it is no surprise that our early January, Your 2021 Sky Event Planner, post easily made our top-10 blog posts (by page views) for the year. Another event-based post, July’s The Giants at Opposition!, detailing the opposition circumstances of the gas (Jupiter and Saturn) and ice (Uranus and Neptune) giant planets in the second half of the year was our most viewed blog post for 2021. Another observational event, the 2021 Messier Marathon, was the subject of our top tweet for the year, with 3,145 impressions. 

Deep-sky images and annotated map by Mauri Rosenthal from February’s Tele Vue-85: Imaging Under New York City Light Dome! blog post – our most viewed imaging post. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Imaging blog posts did well this year. February’s Tele Vue-85: Imaging Under New York City Light Dome! (including discussion of Bortle scale and Sky Quality Meter) was the 4th most popular blog post overall and the top imaging blog post. In the blog rankings, this was followed by January’s Tele Vue-76: Imaging New Mexico Skies! in 5th place and May’s NP101: Imaging the Skies Over Colorado & New Product! as the 6th most viewed blog post.

The Pelican Nebula (IC5070) by Instagram user Brian Paczkowski and published in our January Tele Vue-76: Imaging New Mexico Skies! blog post. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Tele Vue-76 telescope with QSI 683 CCD camera riding on 10Micron GM2000 HPS II mount. Exposure to bring out the details of the nebula were done through Astrodon Hubble palette Sulfur, Hydrogen, and Oxygen filters (where SII = Red, Hydrogen-alpha = Green, & OIII = Blue) while RGB filters were used for star colors. Processed in PixInsight and Photoshop.
Tele Vue Scientific Part 3 with 4x Powermate: when 6-meters of focal length is not enough!

Contributing to Science
Tele Vue’s reputation for product quality attracts the interest of professional astronomers looking for “off-the-shelf” solutions for their experimental needs. This was the inspiration behind our second most popular blog post of 2021: Tele Vue Scientific Part 3+ New Product Announcement! from August. This was the final entry of a multi-part series looking at published science papers that acquired data using Tele Vue gear. In this edition, we discussed the addition of our 4x Powermate to Kitt Peak’s 2.1-meter Ritchey–Chrétien for speckle imaging and learned how a Tele Vue refractor was refining the light curves of eclipsing binary stars. We also announced our M54 Camera Adapter for Tele Vue Imaging System.

Tele Vue Scientific Part 2: Tele Vue Optics has been the “key” to unlocking the limits of magnification.

In Tele Vue Scientific Part 1 we examined the use of a Tele Vue-NP101 for detecting exoplanets from Antarctica (where the seeing resolves all the way down to 1.3-arcseconds!) and discussed our work on the Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) microsatellite mission.  

“Sneaky” teleduplication of house keys, using a telescope equipped with our Powermate amplifier, as well as re-creating the eclipse experiment that made Einstein famous was covered in Tele Vue Scientific Part 2.

In September of 2021, amateur astrophotographer José Luis Pereira (São Paulo, Brazil) got worldwide attention for capturing a rare impact on Jupiter using a Newtonian (275mm f/5.3) with our Tele Vue 5x Powermate (7.2-meter effective focal length). We’ve used his planetary images on our blog in the past, with the same scope setup as the Jupiter impact images.

José Luis Pereira garnered headlines for his Jupiter impact discovery in September. (credit: Google Search).

It was the 10th recorded impact on Jupiter since interest in the topic was kicked off by comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter in 1994. 

NASA’s PUNCH mission is run by the Southwest Research Institute.

In July, a NASA Night Sky Network webinar included Tele Vue’s contribution to the upcoming PUNCH (Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere) multi-satellite mission to study the Sun’s outer atmosphere. Tele Vue is supplying the optical lens assembly for the Wide Field Imager cameras that will image the solar wind as it leaves the corona (outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere). Stay tuned to this blog for updates. The launch date is in 2023.

Tele Vue Products
Our March Tele Vue Product Anniversaries! blog post ranked 9th for the year. With continual improvements, some of our products have been in production for decades. Solid engineering means we don’t have to continually introduce new products to stay competitive. We also discussed the origin story of several products.

A parabolic mirror (right – in gray) with off-axis light rays from infinity (red lines). Reflected light rays (blue lines) do not all meet at the focus point “F”.  Diagram from Paracorr-Newtonian for Visual and Imaging to f/3! Part 1. The adoption of the Dobsonian mount for the Newtonian telescope in the 1970s allowed for larger mirrors on a simple, lightweight mount. Faster focal-ratio (smaller f/#) mirrors — having a shorter focal length for a given mirror diameter — were explored to prevent the telescope tube from becoming too long. This exposed an aberration not seen with slower Newtonian scopes: coma. (For example, 18th Century astronomer William Herschel’s favorite Newtonian operated at a coma concealing f/20!) (Image © Tele Vue Optics, Inc.)

Our two-part “Paracorr-Newtonian for Visual and Imaging” blog exposition took our readers on a trip through the evolution of the Newtonian telescope. From Newton’s 17th century, spherical metal-mirror, table-top curiosity, to the mid-19th century metal-coated glass parabolic mirrors that made reflectors practical, to the 20th-century explosion of Dobsonian scopes, we land in the 21st century’s “new Dobsonian Revolution” world of big and fast scopes. We discussed how Tele Vue’s Paracorr played a role in the evolution of the humble Newtonian scope by explaining how Paracorr enlarges the “sweet spot” of fast reflectors to cover the entire field. We also consider how well the expensive “exotic” scopes on the market perform against a lower-priced, fast Newtonian with Paracorr Type-2 installed. Also, did you know there are three types of Paracorr? We weigh the pros and cons of each. June’s Paracorr-Newtonian for Visual and Imaging to f/3! Part 1 was our 3rd most-read blog post of 2021 and July’s Paracorr-Newtonian for Visual and Imaging to f/3! Part 2 was the 8th most read post.

The Rosette Nebula (NGC 2244): Animals on Parade by AstroBin user Luca Marinelli. All rights reserved. Imaged through Teleskop Service ONTC 10″ f/4 Newtonian with Tele Vue Paracorr Type 2 coma corrector and ZWO ASI1600MM Pro mono camera. Filters used in this Hubble SHO palette image were: Astrodon Narrowband 3nm: Ha (26×300″, 44×360″), OIII (74×360″), SII (4×300″, 54×360″) with Gain: 139, Offset: 50 for a total integration time of: 19.7 hours. Software: Main Sequence Generator Pro, PHD2 Guiding, PixInsight 1.8, & Photoshop CC.

Social Media Milestones
We reached some social media milestones this year: on Instagram we passed 2,000 followers in March, followed by our Twitter feed passing 1,000 followers in May, and our blog mailing list passed 2,000 subscribers in December.

Posted on the occasion of reaching 1,000 Twitter followers.

Throughout these years of the pandemic, we’ve all hoped that next year would be better. But, we just heard that the week-long Winter Star Party (Jan 31st – Feb 6th) in the Florida Keys has been canceled. It, unfortunately, looks like 2022 is starting out as 2021 ended. Other star parties and events are optimistically accepting registrants. So, let’s continue to prepare for the worst hope for the best.

Tele Vue wishes you a happy and healthy New Year!

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