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.
It was March 19th of this year when we published a blog post, Shelter in Space, inspired by an image posted to flickr by Los Angeles based amateur Bill Allen. At the time we wrote:
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.
Toward the end of the blog we opined:
As a strategy to avoid “cabin fever,” one local New York City television station has urged people to get outside and connect with the natural world — while maintaining social distance. Not an easy task during the day, but an easy prescription to take for amateur astronomers doing their night-time viewing and imaging.
During the course of that week, New York State had been putting out proposals for limiting the number of employees working in non-essential businesses. The proposals first called to limiting staff to 75%, and as the week wore on it evolved to 50% and then a draconian sounding (for the time) 25%.
The next day, Friday, March 20th, the first full day of Spring — exactly 7-months ago — we found out that social distancing under the stars was not enough: New York State had ordered 100% closure of non-essential businesses statewide for the foreseeable future. So, we hastily announced on this blog that we would be Closed Due to Covid-19 Until Further Notice. The news headlines at the time and the uncertainty of the duration of the closing was a jarring development for our staff and some wondered how this would impact the hobby when and even if we re-opened our doors.
The year 2020 holds some big product anniversaries for our company. Tele Vue was founded in 1977 by Al Nagler, originally to sell his television projection lenses (hence the name “Tele Vue” to match the abbreviation “TV” — read “Tele Vue: What’s in a Name?” blog post). In 1980 Al introduced Tele Vue to the amateur astronomy market with its inaugural range of four Plössl eyepieces (26mm, 17mm, 10.4mm, and 7.4mm). Additional models followed over the years until the final five focal lengths were released 25-years ago (1995).
Nagler – 40 years
With the positive reception of the Plössl eyepieces (hailed as “the sharpest I’ve ever used” by Astronomy editor Richard Berry) Al Nagler had the confidence to then bring to market his ground-breaking 82° Nagler eyepiece. This eyepiece used principles from Al’s work a decade earlier on an optical probe for an aircraft landing simulator. So began the era of “spacewalk” viewing forty years ago. (See slide show in “I Thank My Lucky Stars!” blog post.)
Over the years, we’ve seen conversational topics in online amateur circles that repeatedly crop up concerning the definition of apochromatic refractor, triplet vs. doublet design, and how glass designation might define performance. We expect these questions to continue to appear as new amateurs discover the hobby. So bookmark this blog post because here you’ll find notes on Tele Vue’s philosophy and build practices concerning our telescope line of 100% APO refractors.
Apollo 11 made a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean 50-years ago today after an 8-day mission. Thus ended the mission that made the historic first manned landing on the Moon with the Lunar Module named Eagle.
Over the past 8-days, we’ve been reminded of the audacious journey, made 50-years ago, to set foot on Earth’s nearest neighbor: the Moon. A constant in our sky, this orb has been gazed upon by countless generations of people who thought it beyond reach. The Apollo moon landings changed all that and left a mark on our human psych. The phrase “Moonshot project,” for a large-scale, ground-breaking endeavor has been in the public lexicon ever since. Images looking back at Earth from the Apollo missions put our planet in a new perspective and prompted American poet Archibald MacLeish to write: “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”
In this guest blog post, Ted Hume describes two telescopes designed and built by Clyde Bone. At first they appear to be “big-Dobs.” However, look close and you’ll note they don’t require “shaky ladders” as the final focus is through Tele Vue telescopes near ground-level. They also serve as their own finders. Read on about these fascinating instruments and how they could be yours!
Clyde M. Bone, Jr. (1928 − 2012) of San Angelo, Texas designed and built two Mersenne telescopes, first a 20-inch and then a 30-inch.
His career included working for the Texas Border Commission in the Big Bend area of Texas, geologist for an oil company ─ who flew a light plane to drilling sites and landed on dirt roads, science teacher at a Texas high school and in the Texas prison system. When he decided to build a Mersenne telescope, he was retired and spent a year studying optics. Then he was ready.
The May 29, 1919 eclipse, that happened 100-years ago this past week, will always be remembered as a key “turning point” in the history of physics. “Lights All Askew in the Heavens” exclaimed a New York Times headline while The Pittsburgh Gazette Times declared that the “Elusive ‘Fourth Dimension’ Finally Proven to Exist == Newton Theory Refuted.” Newspaper editors in 1919 were grasping at straws to explain the result of an experiment that crazily proved that star light was bent by the gravity of the Sun. Their articles on the subject introduced the names of English astronomer, Arthur Eddington, and the German scientist Albert Einstein to the public. It was Eddington that announced to the world the results of an experiment he organized to test a theory put forth by the then obscure German physicist. What made Eddington’s announcement unusual was that he was an English scientist propping up a theory from a German scientist in the acrimonious aftermath of the First World War. This was just a few months after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
A package arrived at Tele Vue’s door on the Monday before the 2019 Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF). It was quickly ushered into the corner office where a small group gathered around the parcel. When opened, three black boxes were withdrawn. For the first time, after many months of development in secret, each black box was opened by a member of the design team. At Tele Vue, we call these internal product reveals a “magic moment” — when fresh prototypes are unboxed in the office for “first light.” This was a “magic moment” unlike any other; one 50-years in the making. The Apollo 11mm commemorative eyepiece had landed!
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!
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