TECfest 2007

So I bought this new eyepiece (TeleVue Nagler 13mm) and told my buddies I want to celebrate first-light by bringing together some premium refractors. This is the result.

Ok...that isn't really why this event took place, but I did bring my new eyepiece for first-light. =)

A gathering of friends on a clear March night took place to look through these 3 spectacular TEC APO fluorite refractors. What's a TEC refractor, you ask? Visit TelescopeEngineering.com to see the nice product lineup offered by Yuri and his crew (TEC stands for Telescope Engineering Company).

Present at this event were two TEC 160FL scopes and a TEC 200FL. Sadly, none of these belong to me. Maybe in a couple of years I'll have a TEC 180FL to bring along.

Hope my wife doesn't read this.

Dueling TEC 160FL refractors, each with a different logo. The scope in the foreground has the newer logo. Both of these scopes performed superbly.

Chuck's mighty TEC 200FL sits handsomely on an AP1200 mount and a PWT Monolith portable pier. The views of Saturn that evening with the Baader binoviewers and AP eyepieces were truly astounding.

TECfest Observing Report by Wes Bolin

That was a night to remember. We were in between storms with one clear Saturday night. We hoped the seeing would provide us with the ability to perform high-magnification viewing. A miracle happened; the seeing was really stable. Our primary target was Saturn since we were in a very bright light dome of Plano/ Dallas. I tried some "brighter" deep sky objects with my 160FL, but they were not the right targets for that location. Early in the evening, all three scopes were trained on Saturn: Chuck's 200FL, my 160FL with Baader Binoviewers, and Tim's 160FL in mono mode. I had TMB Monocentric eyepieces in my scope, Chuck had AP eyepieces, and Tim had a variety in his throughout the night.

I arrived before dark to set up, and assist Chuck in whatever way possible with his set up of the Big Kahuna. The 200FL is a big scope! He lovingly cradled it in both arms as he climbed the short ladder to place it in the rings, with his wife Deborah on one side and me on the other acting as spotters like in the Olympics. In contrast, Tim's setup and mine were a one- person operation. But the 200FL was a big telescope on a big mount on a big pier, all first class.

After dark, we started to view Saturn. I have never seen a finer view of Saturn than what Chuck's scope presented. It was bright, sharp, subtle contrast was evident, and it was "big". Aperture wins for sure. We could see 7 moons, the Enke Minima, color shadings on the poles, Cassini all the way around, and beautiful Saturn with a stark black background. More experienced viewers could see many nuances in its image. I started viewing through the 200FL so I could look through the 160FL's and try to determine what was "missing". So, the 200FL was outstanding.

Next, I went to my scope, also using Binoviewers. I don't recall the magnifications, but I think Chuck was over 300X and I was about 275X. First thing I noticed was that Saturn was smaller and dimmer, but surprisingly not too much. The majority of characteristics observed through the 200FL were visible in the 160FL. I just had to look harder, or catch them as they fleetingly came in and out. A friend of mine said that going from a 140 to a 160 made the planets look brighter and easier to see, and thats exactly what I saw between the 200FL and the 160FL.

Then I went to Tim's 160FL, in the Mono mode, and could see no difference in Saturn com- pared to mine, taking the Binoviewers into account. His scope's image was remarkable. I had used this telescope at the Eldorado Star Party (Eldorado, TX) last October, on Deep Sky, and it performed flawlessly, so I saw it was the same on Saturn. The thought came to me about the consistent quality that Yuri and crew produce.

One overriding impression is that all three telescopes had the same color images; whiter and pure. There is something hard to describe about the purity of Saturn in all three scopes. Perhaps it has to do with the fluorite...

I am very happy with my 160FL; it fits my needs exactly. I just wish I lived closer to Chuck so I could take advantage of his hospitality to let me look through his 200FL. The 160FL is the best telescope I've owned, and its good to know that its in good company. But, I still dream about Saturn in the 200FL.

Feedback from Tim Johnson

Saturn looked great on Saturday thru all 3 scopes--incredibly sharp and excellent contrast. But it was amazing thru Chuck's. This was my first look at his 200mm TEC APO--gorgeous and HUGE.

Chuck thinks that he is not bringing his TEC200 APO to TSP (Texas Star Party), but I have only begun pester him about this, so we will see.

Thanks to John Rudd for trying blind me. He put a low power eyepiece in Chuck's 8 inch, and pointed it at the moon, without any filtering. Prior to looking into the scope, my eyes were pretty well semi-dark adapted. Then I unwittingly (I do that alot) glanced thru that eyepiece. I almost fell into the pool. I guess that I should have noticed the beam coming out of the eyepiece--it was like flying over the Luxor in Vegas. John got a good laugh out of that one.

Thanks to Chuck for putting up with all of our antics, for the drinks, and to Jay's better half (Helen) for the eats. Lots of fun.

This was the third time for me to observe through Tim's 160FL. I continued to be awed by the contrasty and sharp views. The scope did well on this new Takahashi EM400 mount.

Wes traveled from another state to attend this event, and I'm glad he did. His scope matched the views of Tim's, as expected. I enjoyed getting familiar with his DiscMount.

Jay Ballauer contemplates the possibility of creating a TEC 160FL binoscope. Not really. The truth is as a devoted imager, Jay was struggling to get through the night just using eyepieces. He kept bragging about the eyerelief of his laptop monitor.

Another shot of Wes's 160FL.

I felt like maybe we needed to attach life jackets just in case a scope tumbled into Chuck's pool.


It was quite an evening.