Ever since Photoshop (and other editing software) allowed user to manually manipulate pixels there has been edited pictures. And with the computing power available at our fingertips and some built-in tools it’s surprisingly simple to “stich” together two photos. So full disclosure, the image below is “Photoshopped”.
I decided as an exercise to see how to insert into a nighttime skyline a photo of the Moon photo taken with my telescope.
The New York city skyline was taken by me a visiti of the Empire State Building in October last year (pre-pandemic) with a Canon 80D, 17mm F4.0 lens at 1/50s ISO 6400. The Moon is with the same camera body, but paired to a Skywatcher 80ED and I had the settings at ISO 200 and 1/20s. There is no software scaling of either photos, they are stitched “as is”.
This image was done with GIMP, I also inserted 2 “blurred” layers to create a small amount of haze around the moon to make it look a little more natural. The Moon was purposely placed “behind” a skyscraper to give it an element of depth and lowered the color temperature.
So dig through some of your old photos and start experimenting…
10 Days old Moon (April 04, 2020) – Benoit Guertin
The photo above is of a 10-day old Moon taken a few days ago. After the darker “seas” of old lava flow, one particularly bright crater in the southern hemisphere stands out, especially with the rays that appear to emanate from it. That is Tycho, a 85km wide and 5km deep crater and one of the more “recent” ones if you consider 109 million years the not-to-distant past. The Moon is 4.5 billion years old after all… having formed just 60 million years after the solar system. On the Moon, “fresh” material have a higher albedo and hence appear brighter, whiter.
The bright rays surrounding Tycho are made of material ejected (up to 1500km away) from the impact of a 8-10km wide body. In time these rays will disappear as the Moon continues to be bombarded by micro meteorites, which stirs the material on the surface. The rays are more present on the eastern side, as would be expected from a oblique impact.
Tycho is names after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.
The Surveyor 7 space craft landed about 25km north of the crater on January 10, 1968.
Ever wondered how mosaic space photos were done before the invention of powerful software algorithm to stitch them together? Take a look at the series of Surveyor 7 mosaic photos. Someone had to painfully print each photo and lay them on a grid in a specific pattern matching optical field and geometry.
Most people don’t plan to take photos of the Moon, they just happen. You are outside doing something else and then you spot it over the horizon or high in the sky: “Hey that’s a pretty Moon tonight Maybe I should take a photo!”
I find that normal camera lens, even telephoto don’t do it justice. The setting and focus can be very tricky. The multi-lens setup of telephoto can also cause internal reflections or chromatic aberrations making the resulting photo less appealing.
So just grab the telescope tube and leave the tripod behind. If you have a small APO refractor you can simply hold the tube, but for anything heavier you’ll need to prop yourself up on something like a railing or a car roof.
The photo below is a single shot at 1/250sec and ISO400 with Canon 80D and William Optics Gran Turismo 71 held on the end of my arms.
80% Illuminated Moon on August 31, 2018 [Benoit Guertin]
The setup takes only a few minutes and the results are always worth it.
Last Saturday evening, if you happened to look outside and had a clear view there is no way you could miss the Venus-Moon close encounter in the dark blue sky. But just in case it was cloudy, or you weren’t paying attention here it is.
Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018
For those curious on the camera setting, the above is cropped from a single frame at 33mm f/4.5 1/30sec and ISO800 with Canon 80D.
Moving up to 85mm gives you the image below, also at 1/30sec and ISO800. Both images were hand-held from a bedroom window. Could a tripod have helped? Sure, but I figured I could do just fine , especially with image stabilization enabled on the lens.
Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018
To put a bit of perspective on the distance of these two heavenly bodies and their apparent size in the sky I’ve added a bit of information on the above image. While Venus may be nearly 4 times larger in diameter, it looks quite small next to the Moon in the sky.
After yesterday’s photo with the smart phone, I decided to go for a more professional shot and grabbed the Canon 80D and capture once again the Moon and Jupiter through the clouds. However this time around took two exposures, and stitched the together.
Moon and Jupiter Through the Cloud – May 27, 2018
The wide-angle was 24mm F4.0 1/10s ISO-1600. This was to pick up the clouds against a night sky as well as Jupiter. Then a close-up of the Moon, with a shorter exposure and lowered ISO to pick up details of the lunar surface (85mm F5.6 1/250s ISO-200).
Opened them both in GIMP and played with layers, masks and curves to get the desired image. The close-up Moon photo was scaled down to match the 24mm wide-angle photo to avoid having gigantic moon.
Sometimes all it takes is a little cloud layer to hide the background stars to really reveal how bright Jupiter is right now. The photo below was taken with my smartphone on May 26th, with Jupiter clearly visible next to the Moon.
Jupiter and the Moon shining through the cloud – May 26, 2018
Jupiter and Earth were at their closest (opposition) on May 8th, but the entire month of May is a good time to spot Jupiter as it’s up high in the sky most of the night. Once Venus sets in the early evening, Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the sky, a good 20 times brighter than the next brightest stars.
Up until May 28th, Jupiter and the Moon will be near each other in the night sky, making for good photo opportunity.
Came home from my piano lesson (yes you can still learn a new instrument past 40) and the sight of a 2-day old Moon and Venus in the dusk sky was stunning. Unfortunately by the time I got home to grab the camera, the sky had darken quite a bit, so I lost my opportunity for some color in the photo.
Venus 6 degrees from the Moon (May 17, 2018) – Benoit Guertin
While I did take more close-up photos, I find adding the rooftop in the foreground helps establish scale.
Notice the Earthshine, it was easily picked up to naked eye.
The Moon should be the first thing you look at the day you get to peer through a telescope. It should also be the first thing you photograph. However don’t wait for a Full Moon. Sure a large round moon over the horizon can be breathtaking, but most of the subtle details of the lunar surface disappear under a Full Moon. The lack of shadows blends away the peaks and valleys, crevasses and ridges. It is really this dance of light and shadows that makes the craters stand out.
Click on the image below for full resolution.
Lights and shadows….
The photo above is a single shot with Skywatcher 80ED telescope and Canon 80D (ISO 200, 1/125s)
Wavelet analysis with Registax.
The second Full Moon in a month is generally called a Blue Moon. And yes the old saying “once in a Blue Moon” is in reference to this rare event. Well… if you consider every 2 to 3 years rare. However this one will be extra special because it won’t be blue at all! It’ll be blood-red because we’ll have a lunar eclipse on our hands!
September 27th 2015 Lunar Eclipse
The lunar eclipse will be visible from most of North America, but people out West will be better placed to see it. In the East, the we’ll only get a partial eclipse as the moon sets in the early morning on Wednesday the January 31st around 6:48am EST.
If you do plan to photograph a lunar eclipse, a tripod is strongly advised, and if you are using a telescope, an equatorial mount is required. The above photo is a single frame at 2.5 second exposure and ISO400 with a Skywatcher 80ED. Yes those are a few stars popping into view during the eclipse.
The Moon is white right? OK, OK… it only looks white because of the high contrast with the dark sky, it’s more grey. What? No? You mean it has color?
From samples returned by the Apollo missions we know that two of the main minerals making up the lunar regolith is titanium oxide (TiO2) and iron oxide (FeO) based basalts. While TiO2 is quite white and used in many household products from white toothpaste to white kitchen tiles, FeO is rust and closer to orange-brown (think Mars). On the Moon the result is a slightly blue-ish color in the areas with high TiO2, and more of a brown-red for the higher FeO and low TiO2 zones.
A normal image of the moon taken with DSRL, the different in hues is subtle as seen below.
Moon Natural Color (November 7, 2017) – Benoit Guertin
But it can be exaggerated by playing with the color saturation, and you get the image below, where various hues of blue-grey, orange and brown become apparent. The sharp boundaries between colors are caused by the different mineral make-up of the lava flows during the early formation of the Moon. Common interpretation of the age of the lunar surface is that the blue-grey areas are “younger” than the orange-brown.
Moon with exaggerated colors
Who says you can’t pull scientific information with simple backyard astronomy gear? The same technique, but with narrow-band filters is used by NASA and other space and research agencies to catalog the make-up of the lunar surface.
So if you are planning lunar prospecting for future mining rights, all you need is a telescope and a DSLR.
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!