Moon and Venus on May 17th

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

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.

Canon 80D
85mm F/8
ISO3200 (1/15sec)

Never Wait for a Full Moon

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.

April 21, 2018 Moon. Benoit Guertin

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.

Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse

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!

LunarEclipse_27sep2015

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.

 

 

 

Color of the Moon

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

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

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.

Jupiter Below a Crescent Moon

I have to say with the wet and cloudy weather in the past two to three months I haven’t taken the telescope out for quite some time. The high humidity often produces clouds in the evening and into the night as the air cools. And with the wet spring and early summer, the mosquitoes are rather annoying.

Therefore I haven’t been actively taking part in my backyard astronomy hobby.  However a few days ago, I noticed a  crescent Moon through thin clouds, and what I thought to be Venus just below.  Grabbed the camera and took a few photos at ISO 800 66mm F5.6 1/4sec to see what type of result I could get with that.  I have to say it was hard to find the right setting, and my car’s roof was a poor tripod.

The photo below really doesn’t capture the range and subtle gradients in direct and diffused light around the Moon and the clouds, contrasting with the pin-point bright planet.

Jupiter Below a Crescent Moon (July 28, 2017) - Benoit Guertin

Jupiter Below a Crescent Moon (July 28, 2017) – Benoit Guertin

It was only a few days later when I downloaded the images on the computer and checked to confirm the planet that I was surprised that the it was Jupiter shinning so brightly.

Tomorrow Evening: Moon, Mars and Venus

Great photo opportunity tomorrow evening, January 31st, with a thin crescent Moon in a close formation with Mars and Venus.  As the sky darkens simply look between South-West and West and you won’t miss them.  However don’t wait too late, by 9pm they will have disappeared below the horizon.

Early Evening Sky (7pm) - Look WSW for this close formation

Early Evening Sky (7pm) – Look WSW for this close formation

The Moon will be a thin crescent.  Here it is as photographed of the Moon tonight at 5:40pm just a little less than 3 days old.

Crescent Moon - 30-JAN-2017 (5:40pm)

Crescent Moon – 30-JAN-2017 (5:40pm)

No high-resolution photo for this one.  Took it quickly through an open window simply by hand-holding the telescope, and using Venus to quickly find focus through the camera view-finder.

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon XTi (1/50s at ISO400)
Registax6 to align, stack and wavelet on the best 3 frames (out of a dozen)

The Moon, Mars and Venus

It’s not often that the Moon finds itself between two planets nicely lined up and within a 12 degree field of view.  Just yesterday at around the same time, the Moon was located below Venus.  The image below is a two second exposure at ISO 800 with 53mm lens at f/5.6 on a tripod. I cropped the image to remove a street lamp and light pillars from other light sources further in the distance.

02-Jan-2017: The crescent Moon between Mars and Venus

02-Jan-2017: The crescent Moon between Mars and Venus

The toughest part was actually finding a spot around my block where there was less glare from street lights or annoying power and utility lines in view.  Luckily I found a spot with two extinguished street lamps and setup in between.

A little earlier I quickly snapped the image below from the bedroom window on the 2nd floor.  The sky wasn’t dark yet, and as the camera was hand-held, 1/4sec was the lowest I could go.  Nevertheless with the rooftops in the foreground, it provides for a sense of scale and location in the sky.  The orange-red horizon from the setting sun is a nice touch.

Moon with Venus and Mars in the evening sky

Moon with Venus and Mars in the evening sky