I hope that some of you will be taking a few minutes this evening to head outside and glance up at the Moon. Not only is tonight a “Super Moon” but depending where you are, you may find the Moon taking on a red hue due to a lunar eclipse.
For tonight’s event, those around the Pacific rim are best located to see the lunar eclipse. On the east coast of North America you might spot the start of the eclipse as the Moon sets in the early morning.
Even if you are not in a favorable spot, take the time to look at the Moon. There’s this timeless element to it, knowing that it’s been there for millions of years and will continue to be there for many more.
It is also accessible to everyone, no matter how light polluted your sky happens to be.
The best way to see the Moon is with nothing else but your two eyes. Resist the urge to attempt a photo with your phone. That will only end in frustrations. All photographs of the Moon are heavily processed because it’s very hard for a camera to handle both the brightness of a full Moon and the black of the nuit sky, or the glowing halo shining through the thin clouds. And when you do get the brightness under control, all the subtle details of the Moon’s surface is lost. Your eyes are better equipped to handle the large range of brightness and the resolution to really enjoy the sight.
There’s been lots of attention over Mars this past week. I can’t really blame all the media coverage, the Mars 2020 Perseverance EDL to the Martian surface was really cool and a great feat for NASA. I enjoyed watching it live on the NASA YouTube feed. But this weekend let’s turn our attention to the Snow Moon; the only full moon in February.
The full moon will occur at 3:17am Saturday, so tomorrow evening will be the best time to catch it. There’s nothing particularly special about this full moon, not a Blue Moon (second Full Moon in the month) or “Super Moon”. The name Snow Moon comes from the Farmer’s Almanac as February is normally the month that receives the most snow in North America.
The great thing about full moons is that you don’t need to stay up all night and wait outside in the frigid cold to see it. At this time of year, in the Northern hemisphere, the Moon is visible for more that 12 hours a day.
If you’re tempted to photograph the Snow Moon, leave the mobile phone behind, it’ll just give poor results and you’ll end up frustrated with frozen fingers. Instead just enjoy the view, paying close attention to the various dark “seas” spanning the lunar surface.
If you do try taking a picture, grab a DSLR or compact camera with manual mode. Set the ISO around 200 and the focus to manual. Your shutter speed should be high, around 1/800s; a full moon is surprisingly bright. You’re get better results by slightly under-exposing your shot. If you have a tripod, use it, else try to steady yourself on something (railing, chair, car roof, etc..) Subtle movement can easily ruin the details in you photos.
Stitched together the 330 photos of the September 27th Lunar Eclipse into a video.
A few things to note. The Moon “jumps” a few times in the video, and I now realize that it’s due to my presence on the wooden deck is sufficient to cause the telescope to shift ever slightly. Also I didn’t really take time for proper polar alignment, I was a good 5deg off and had to re-align during the total eclipse because the tracking was not perfect. And last, some cloud cover rolled in so I wasn’t able to capture the tail end of the eclipse.
Nevertheless, still much better than the few frames I captured back in 2008.
For the curious of the camera setting. The start with the full moon is taken at ISO 200 1/320sec and then increased up to 3.2sec exposures at ISO 400 during the eclipse.
Transferring over 300 photos (2.5GB) from the old astro-laptop via USB key to my main PC will take some time (30 minutes just to transfer 1.0GB on the key). Therefore the work towards making a time lapse video will be tomorrow.
In the meantime here is one quick pick from the lot of photos taken with the Canon mounted on the telescope. Did a quick stretch and level adjustment, just so I’d have something to show before going to bed.
Welcome to a journey into our Universe with Dr Dave, amateur astronomer and astrophotographer for over 40 years. Astro-imaging, image processing, space science, solar astronomy and public outreach are some of the stops in this journey!