Rising Moon and the Void

October 12th, 2019, 6:36 p.m. local time

This picture was taken before my prior post, but I forgot to upload it earlier.  It was a quick snapshot with NightCap as the Moon started to rise on Friday.

As you may get the hint, this venue was flooded with article light, making the entirety of the sky a blank void.  Rather depressing, but at least there was the Moon, still able to shine through, for now.


Full Moon, October 2019 (composite)

Click to see full-sized image.

October 13th, 2019, 11:12 p.m. local time

With pending cloud cover but still otherwise clear, I decided to take a wider picture of last night’s Full Moon.  Today’s image is actually a composite of two images, in order to get in at least some detail of the Moon, and present a closer approximation to how it looked for real with the surrounding clouds reflecting moonlight.

Taken with my DSLR camera on tripod, the image settings for the foreground were:

  • f/2.8
  • 1/8 sec exposure
  • ISO 400

And for the Moon itself:

  • f/5.6
  • 1/250 sec exposure
  • ISO 100

I like this look, though I wish I had done a better job with the foreground, to accentuate the nearer images while de-emphasizing the Moon.  This was practice for next time.

Chicago Panoramic

Click for full-sized image.

October 9th, 2019, 04:20 p.m. local time

I took this picture before leaving work today.  It’s a partial “pano” of Chicago, from the heart of the city, looking South.

How many buildings or landmark-type areas can you identify?  One hint: two stadiums of Chicago’s professional sports teams are shown here.

Waxing Gibbous Moon, October 2019 via iPhone

Taken with NightCap on iPhone. f/1.8, 1/3000s exp, ISO 24, via 254mm Dobsonian, Q70 32mm eyepiece.

October 7th, 2019, 09:15 p.m. local time

I didn’t realize until tonight that I had yet to try afocal astrophotography with my iPhone, which I got late last year.  This was a clear, cool-bordering-on-cold night, with the Waning Moon at a good evening location, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out.

My prior afocal attempts were with my previous Android Samsung phones.  Those were a little easier to place in the telescope smartphone mount because their cameras were centered on the phone, whereas the iPhone’s camera are off to the side.

I used my homemade Dobsonian with a 2″ eyepiece, my best one.  Once I focused the telescope and aligned the smartphone mount properly on all fronts, it was very easy to attach the mount onto the eyepiece.  I noticed immediately that there was no vignetting, which seemed, if my memory recalls, to have been much more of a nuisance with 1.25″ eyepieces.

I made a few minor touchups in PaintShop Pro and AfterShot Pro.

Solar Reflections

Click for full-sized image.

October 1st, 2019, 06:55 a.m. local time

Welcome to October.  This morning showcased interesting cloud formations highlighted by reflections from the rising Sun.  Taken with NightCap on my iPhone, post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Goose Moon II – More Goose, Less Moon, Cameos, All Sequel!

Click for full-sized image.

September 26th, 2019, 06:57 a.m. local time

A post so awesome, it deserves a sequel!

Last year we brought you Goose Moon, a powerful albeit random image of migratory geese flying past the daytime Moon.  One year later, the geese are back, and probably in greater numbers than ever before!

Some sequels are worth the effort.  A few are even better than the original.  Many sequels just keep going and going as owners continue their trek to squeeze ever more money out of them (reference Star Wars).  But before we reach Goose Moon IX, let’s check out today’s image, which occurred much along the same lines as last year’s original production.

With a clear sky to the East, I wanted to take a few quick snaps, to later try to find the late Waning Moon just past Sunrise within the images.  As I was taking pictures, something most unexpected happened, as a flock of geese flew by.  I kept “filming,” taking more pictures, realizing that a sequel was about to be born.

Unlike last year’s Goose Moon, this is a smartphone image, whereas the original was via a DSLR camera on tripod, as a planned shot (though there was no planning for the geese).  The Moon was in a very different phase as well.

Here we see far more geese as they flew into the East.  I wonder where they were going?

If you’re having trouble finding the Moon, look towards the top of the image.  Still cannot find it?  Here is a closeup hint:

Yes, this is about as small of a Waning Crescent that you could find, especially after daybreak.

And no sequel is complete without new characters.  Most prominent is the Sun, which you can see easily at the bottom.  There is also a lurking cameo of Mars, above the Sun, but it cannot be seen.  Likely, if this picture were taken via a digital camera on tripod with a decent lens, Mars could have been extracted from a raw digital image.

If you enjoyed this sequel, be sure to leave a review!  And don’t forget to stop by in 2020 for Goose Moon III: Rise of the Gas Giants.

The Shape of Things to Come – Jupiter and Saturn

Saturn (left) and Jupiter (right). Click to see full-sized image.

September 24th, 2019, 07:50 p.m. local time

This is a very exciting post, at least for me.  It’s the first time on my blog that I have a picture of Jupiter and Saturn together!

I had to do some travelling today, and as I disembarked from a late train, I looked to the South to see a clear (albeit light polluted) sky an hour past Sunset.  I knew immediately what I wanted to find: our Solar System’s fifth and sixth planets!

I haven’t been tracking either for the last few weeks, so I was worried Jupiter was already too far towards the horizon by now.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find it still firmly in the Southwest.  And with Saturn almost due South, I grabbed my phone from its sturdy belt pouch, and began taking pictures of the night sky.

We’re going to be talking about Jupiter and Saturn as they approach each other (as seen from Earth) over the next year.  For now, though, I will only note that Saturn is currently residing by the constellation Sagittarius (again, as seen from Earth).  Scott’s Sky Watch! recently posted a nice drawing showing essentially the above image (minus the Moon, which is now a Waning Crescent rising after midnight).  Plus, it shows the outline of Sagittarius.  Go check it out!

For the sake of the explicit, here is the picture again, with the planets labeled:

Click to see full-sized image.

Morning Moon and Orion, Accentuated Stars

Click to see full-sized image.

September 23rd, 2019, 06:00 a.m. local time

Early mornings on early Fall days.  These are great because they offer pre-dawn viewing of Orion high in the Southern Sky, here in the Northern Hemisphere.  This morning, the Moon was close by, so I quickly took the above picture with NightCap on my iPhone.

Besides the Moon and Orion, you also can see Aldebaran in the top right.  To the bottom left is another star, which I think may be Procyon of Canis Minor.  Sirius hung just below Orion and out of the picture, as it was behind trees.

I performed minor touchups to this image to “push out” the key stars, to make them more visible, so that you can see their position relative to the Moon.  I did this by increasing the Soft Focus in PaintShop Pro to just the selected star areas, several times over.  Generally, I don’t like to touch up images like this, but I felt it at least added a little perspective with the Moon nearby.

Do you believe in the oversized Moon?

We’ve all seen them.  The grand illuminated orb above the New York evening skyline.  Mountains at dusk in front of the mountain-sized Moon.  The lunar disc reflecting its silhouette upon the ocean, horizon to horizon.

With some well-planned exceptions, all of these scenes are phony.

There must be a romantic need to enlarge the Moon far beyond its correct size as perceived from Earth.  Television and movies have a tendency increase the Moon’s size when it fits artistic goals.

This is not to disparage photographers who carefully set up a proportional perspective shot of the Moon, for example, to frame a horizon or even people within the Moon’s disc.  But these true images are difficult to create and involve long distances and almost telescopic lenses.

My guess is that nearly all enlarged Moons are highly edited and possibly false.  Let’s run through a few exercises to show the correct Moon size versus equivalents with embellished interpretations.

To create an enlarged Moon template, I used my Full Moon photo from September 13th.  This picture was taken with my digital camera and 300mm lens. Outside of some post-processing for sharpness, contrast, and brightness, it is unedited.

Our Baseline Full Moon

Let’s take three examples.  We’ll go all the way back in time to 2017.  This was from my Halloween post of that year, where the Moon was masked by an interesting cloud pattern.

Halloween Moon 2017, proportionally correct.

Here is the same picture, but now with my Moon from last Friday inserted. I tinkered with the brightness and gelled the Moon into the clouds:

Phony, edited Moon scene.

Our next example is a smartphone picture from August 2017 of clouds and the daytime Moon.  The Moon was a little past its Quarter Phase.

Clouds and Moon, August 2017.

I had some fun with this one and blew the Moon up far more.  I didn’t correct for the change in blue sky light, but did move the coloring towards grey to try to mimic the daytime Moon a bit:

Phony, edited Moon scene.

If the Moon were truly this close to Earth, we wouldn’t be here.  I am no scientist, but I have a good hunch the lunar gravitational pull would create extraordinary tides and tectonic instability.  I doubt human civilization could have been cultivated in such an environment, with only small land plant life flourishing on the surface.

My final example is an early crescent Moon from November 2017.  The framing from multiple trees shows the relatively small size of the Moon as it dipped towards the horizon that evening.

Moon after Sunset, November 2017.

Unless Jupiter explodes into a star soon, the Moon will never be Full in the West at Sunset!  But again just for fun, I airbrushed out the real Moon and inserted the baseline template.  Like the previous phony pic, if you ever saw the Moon this large in the sky, something would be seriously wrong!

Phony, edited Moon scene.

I promise that my next Moon post will feature all objects at their correct proportions.