March 1, 2020
It's been a remarkably cloudy month. I even travelled briefly to Arizona, and even there, in the desert: rain. I could scarcely believe it. But at last, tonight the clouds parted over Washington, DC, and although the sky was just a bit hazy and I didn't have much time, I figured I'd take the TV 85 to the rooftop anyway.
I'm so happy I did. When I stepped out, the Moon was high in the sky - just passing the Pleiades, actually - Venus was still well above the horizon, and Orion was glorious overhead. I just picked up an AYO II mount - a much sturdier upgrade over my VAMO Traveller that took about four months to manufacture and ship - and was eager to see how it would perform.
It's odd: seeing for me can vary enormously from one part of the sky to the other. Part of the reason no doubt has to do with how often I observe from a rooftop. Warm air rising from my building naturally obscures anything too near the horizon. But after observing from enough parks, I'm convinced that DC must have some unusually turbulent - or at least complex - skies. In any case, Venus was a bit of a mess for me tonight, though of course I could clearly make out its phase. And I was impressed to see very little false color around its disk - none when the seeing briefly stabilized.
The Moon, by contrast, was just stunning. I know I've sung its praises repeatedly in these pages, but wow: the TV 85 is a miraculous telescope. Maybe I just have a perfect sample? Once again, I saw absolutely no false color on the Moon. Once again, the view was absolutely razor-sharp, with that beautiful cold, white hardness that the Moon can have when it's high in the sky. And the mount clearly made a difference in stabilizing the telescope. It's a hair less smooth than the Traveller, but much sturdier and nearly as compact.
This time, I enjoyed picking out the subtlest shadows I could spot at nearly 200x. It's always striking to me that those shadows can give the impression of towering peaks on the Moon - the impression of the lunar landscape that prevailed until the Space Age - whereas of course the Moon's surface is quite flat compared to Earth's. It's amazing, the optical illusions oblique light and a lot of distance can inspire.
TeleVue, it seems, does not get a lot of love compared to its competitors: Takahashi, for example, or AstroPhysics. Apparently TeleVues show just a bit too much false color, and their cost is just a bit too high. But when it comes to optical quality, my TV 85 is easily a match for my FC-100DC. False color is absent; stars are absolutely pinpoint. The TeleVue also seems to focus just ever so slightly more perfectly than the Takahashi - although that may be a result of its smooth, two-speed focuser - and it cools down more quickly.
The Takahashi, of course, is all but flawless in its own right. And it draws in more light, which does make it better for some purposes. All the same, I've never been disappointed after observing with the TeleVue; I've never felt that I really should have brought out a bigger telescope. It's an incredible little instrument.
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