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A TV-85 Meets Porrima

1AM, April 30th, 2011

The TV85 caught napping in the afternoon sunlight. (Click on this and any of the photos below to enlarge)

It was a dark and clear-ish night when the stubby white tube of the TV-85 peered up from the tripod it was perched on and spied a star being chased across the meridian by Saturn.  Slowly and smoothly it pulled its lens away from Polaris and rotated 180 degrees to the south and slid down the sky in several degrees of declination until it spied its target, Porrima.

It turned to its four-legged assistant, Herr Klaus, and asked for the 10mm Radian.

“Let’s start at 60x just to see what we can see, please.”

Herr Klaus handed the eyepiece over to the operator. “Woof!”

“Hmmm, interesting whitish star, maybe a bit elongated,” the 85 replied.  “Let’s try the 5mm Nagler and it’s 120x, Herr Klaus.”

“Woof, woof, gggggggggrrrrr-woof!” replied Klaus caustically.

“So you think that’s too much magnification?” the 85 asked.  “Well, could be, but let’s try it anyway.”

Klaus plopped the 5mm into the outstretched hands of the operator, who slipped it silently into the diagonal.

“Mmmm, nice,” said 85. “It looks like it really wants to come apart.  Not quite there yet, but it’s clearly close.  How about that Astro-Tech 4mm Plössl you’ve got over there, HK — pass that black barreled beauty up here, please.”

“Gggggggrrrrrr-wwwoooooffff ggggrr woof woof!” HK responded emphatically.

“Yes, yes, I know, 150x may seem a bit much for these sub-average seeing conditions, but please let me have it if you don’t mind.  I appreciate your canine intuition, but trust me, I’ve been at this a bit longer than you have.  And I do believe my Nagler heritage puts me more in touch with the intricacies of atmospheric inconsistency than yours.  Please, just provide the hardware and restrict your comments to those which are merely necessary.”

Herr Klaus lobbed this one into the waiting hands of the operator who made a quick catch and another smooth switch at the diagonal.  Then he sat and locked his classic sheep herder’s stare on the 85 with intentions of intimidation.

“Holy House of Nagler, HK, I think I see a bit of black sky between these two stars!  It’s very close, barely even a hair split, but yes, I see it now — nope, it’s gone — wait, it’s back again — gone, now back …… you know what, where’s that 2x Mead barlow?  Let’s try it on the 5mm Nagler since it has a wider field.”


“Kind of thought you would say that, HK.  Look, I know 240x is insane with this kind of seeing, but I have a reputation for success which I simply must uphold.  Now, if you would, please pass the Barlow and the 5mm up to the operator!”

“RAaaaRF-RARF! WOoooF-WOOF!” HK replied insolently.  But being a savvy Australian Shepherd who knows where the food comes from, he plopped both optical devices into the hand of his outstretched master, currently moonlighting as a TV-85 operator.  “RAAARR-woo-RARWWF!”

By this time, the operator was tempted to add his comments as well, but he knew better than to second guess this chattering nabob of Naglerism, so he just slipped the 5mm into the Barlow and fed it to the TV-85.

“Holy Mother of Mead!” The words rolled through the slim white tube, echoed out of the long black dew shield, and passed into the open air and beyond, where they were heard 38 years later in the vicinity of Porrima.

The operator was stunned into speaking at those words.  “Let me have a look at that!”

He bent over the eyepiece and stared silently for several minutes.  Not a muscle did he move, not a tendon did he twitch, not an eyeball did he blink.  He sat and he stared and he sat some more and he stared some more.

Finally he spoke.  “Well, Mr. 85, I gotta hand it to you.  Remarkable.  Fantastic.  Unbelievable.  Look at this, Herr Klaus.  Two white globes vibrating against the blackness of interstellar space with a very small but definite slice of black sky between them!”

HK knew the image in that scope had to be vibrating up and down so much it would make him as nauseous as the time he tried to eat sushi.  A chattering black and white tube and a star-struck master wound up tighter than a gnat’s posterior stretched across a rain barrel, not to mention being under the 85’s influence  —  he had had enough of this.   He turned and trotted over to the door, pulled it open with his right front paw, stalked back into the house in disgust, plopped down on the floor with an emphatic thud, and thought about how good a dog bone would taste right now.  “Humans and telescopes — about as bad as cats and rats.”  He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Meanwhile, out on the observing deck, the master sat and stared while the 85 kept the photons focused.

Both scope and human quivered with intense delight in the dark of night under the spell of those dual globes of glowing white light.

They were still there an hour later dripping with dew when HK woke up.

Saturn and Porrima in western Virgo at 10PM on May 2nd, 2011. Click on the chart for a larger view. (Stellarium screen image with lables added).


7 Responses

  1. Being a passionate observer of double stars and one who loves poetry I really enjoy your reports keep up the good and needed work!!


  2. Hey John,

    Who’s really in charge there? Herr Klaus or yourself. A man is a dog’s best friend!

    I’ve not had the pleasure of using a TV 85, but I loved its smaller sibling, the TV76. The 80mm F/11 I have now didn’t give me a convincing split on Porrima – it was very nearly there though, I felt. That said, it’s quite low in the sky here – ten degrees lower than you see it – so that might have made the difference. And an extra 5mm aperture is another small plus.



  3. Hello John

    Just read your report of splitting Porrima with a TV85
    and I have to congratulate you on a very enjoyable
    read. A few nights ago I had a shot at splitting Porrima
    with a Zeiss AS80/1200 and although I pushed the power
    to 200x I could not prise the two stars apart, the seeing was
    just about good enough to handle it.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Pat!

      I’m not sure what the current separation of Porrima is at the moment, but it must be about 1.9″, since it was 1.8″ last fall. I was able to get it with an Orion 90mm f/10 at 198x a few weeks ago, so give the Zeiss another try. It should be able to pry it apart rather handily if the seeing will cooperate.

      The Zeiss scopes are beautiful instruments. I’ve got a Telementor 63×840 and a 50mm f/10.8 — the views through both of those scopes are absolutely stunning.

      • Hi John,
        Last night I had another go at Porrima with the Zeiss AS80 and
        would you believe it at 120x I though I could see a figue 8 and
        sure enough when I moved up to 200x the two stars were prized
        apart, just a hair between them. Both stars looked white to me
        one looked slightly brighter, when I checked on Simbad there is
        a few tenths mag. between them. The seeing last night was very
        good Izar was easy in the 80mm what a beautiful double .
        Maybe tonight will be as good.

  4. magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  5. John,

    Finally got a good split on Porrima on 16 May 12 after numerous failures over the years. The street light in my front yard has burned out and the repair crews have not had time to fix it yet. Seeing cooperated with better skies than usual so after viewing Saturn I switched to gamma Virginis with my 78 mm f/8 refractor and the 7mm Nagler I like. No split, so I cranked in my 5mm Nagler and got a nice hint of a split. On went my 2x barlow for 252x and there it was! Black sky between the two headlights. One of the pair seemed to have a little blue tint but the PA was correct when I checked it later.


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