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.
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
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.
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
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)
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.
Canon XTi (1/50s at ISO400)
Registax6 to align, stack and wavelet on the best 3 frames (out of a dozen)
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
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
After three days of cloud cover and a good 20cm of snow, it was nice to see a clear and crisp sky throughout the day and into the evening. With the sun set and the sky still dark blue a crescent Moon and Venus made for a fine pair in the south-west sky for the first evening of 2017.
New Years 2017 Moon and Venus
The Moon will continue to travel towards Mars, located higher up and to the left (East) with a good photo opportunity on the 2nd (tomorrow) with the Moon between both planets. For the rest of January, Venus will gently move closer to Mars to within 6 degrees at the end of the month.
Canon XTi (450D)
17mm F4 (1/10sec ISO400)
inset: 85mm F5.6 (1/10sec ISO800)
Lots of talk in the last week about the upcoming SuperMoon on November 14th. While it will be the closest and largest Full Moon since 1948, the differences won’t be that significant. It’ll look just like any other Full Moon, one that happens every month. Nothing special will happen to the solar system or the Earth.
However it’s a good opportunity to experiment with your camera and composition as the Moon is rising over the Horizon. Play around with different settings and different lens. You can even spend the day before scouting a good spot with view to the East.
Don’t need dark skies. Don’t need a special mount or stand. This is astro-photography accessible to all.
Missed the photo opportunity with the October Hunter Moon? No worries, while some are claiming it to be a Supermoon, they are mistaken. November’s full moon will be just 3hrs after perigee (closest to Earth), while the difference was 20hrs for October. So the November full moon will be larger than the Hunter Moon that just gone by.
So mark November 14th at 13:52 UTC on your calendar! For North-America, morning of November 14th prior to sunrise will be your best bet. In Asia it will be in the evening. Unfortunately for Europe it’ll take place in the afternoon.