No NLC displays visible from Kendal in the past week, but there were compensations…
Prompted by a full moon photo from our ex-chairman Ken Hough, I thought I’d try something different for me.
As a kid, one of my goals was to take a picture of the Moon when it was full. I think prompted by a picture in Patrick Moore’s ‘Observers Book of Astronomy’ which I read cover to cover. I thought it would be hard and I was right. I failed due to lack of equipment and ability. I knew nothing about photography, especially ‘wet’ film photography. A few years later I took slides but never attempted anything astronomical.
Now, many years later, owning an 8″ Meade SCT, I thought it’d be easy. I was wrong… I found that my 8” gave poor shots using the Canon SLR at prime focus. The 8″ scope was fine with a webcam [stacked etc. with Registax] for small fields of view, but the whole Moon was non-starter. However, with my “little” William Optics ZenithStar 66 Petzval ED Semi-APO 66mm f/6 (400mm focal length) aperture scope, I thought an experiment was worthwhile. Its large field of view would easily encompass the Moon on my Canon EOS 400D and stilI allow short exposures to get round seeing issues.
Last week May 13th, at nearly full moon [phase was 98.9%], I mounted the scope on a wobbly cheap photographic tripod and took a series of images from central Kendal with as fast an exposure as I could – 1/4000th ISO 800 – with the Canon camera at prime focus. I aligned 8 of these in Photoshop, overlaid them and then flattened the resultant, applied an unsharp mask and adjusted the levels to bring out some more detail – what is usually called stretching in astro-image processing. All the grainyness of the original images virtually disappered and I’m pleased with the result. Lots more detail than I’ve ever got before as my previous attempts normally looked washed out and bland. Really pleased.
The meeting was well attended (around 40 members) and Stuart Atkinson kicked off with a description of his recent observing sessions, and the resulting beautiful photos. EAS members have been searching all round Kendal and the surrounding areas for good observing sites, and we have tracked down quite a few dark places. As well as finding places suitable for an evening session, some members are interested in sites where we could hold our own Starcamp. Stuart has found a local campsite that would offer very dark skies but is quite close and accessible.
That would be for later on in the year. In the meantime, there has been a prediction of a possible meteor shower on 23/24th May 2014, from a new trail of dust, i.e. not one of the regular showers. Since it is new, no-one knows how bright it might be, but we are always hopeful, and a Meteor Watch is planned up on Scout Scar for the night of the 23rd. This will not be a public event, just for EAS members.
Stuart also reminded everyone to look out for noctilucent clouds, as we are approaching the season for them There were some really good ones last year, and several members got good photos.
After the break, we had a presentation from Simon White, who explained the hard work that goes into his amazing photos (and also the occasional glitch!). He had managed to capture comet PANSTARRS c/2012 K1 and M51 in the same frame, but they put up a fight.
Simon was followed by Ian Bradley showing his holiday snaps of the restored 72″ telescope built at Birr in Ireland by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in the mid-19th Century. It was an astonishing technical achievement in its day, but central Ireland was perhaps not the best place to site it. The cloud cover rivals Kendal’s!
Lastly Carol Grayson showed us how she had managed to capture two unusual optical highlights on the Moon, the Lunar X and the Lunar V. In both cases, these are the result of the way the oblique sunlight hits the mountains and crater ridges as the Moon turns, and they can only be seen quite briefly.
When I wrote that the Night Sky in March would include a “big sky” view of Jupiter’s highest point, I thought at the time that it would be a fun challenge.
The cloudy forecast for the 13th meant that I had to take up the challenge a couple of days early, so Jupiter wasn’t quite as high and the Moon was a bit more central than I would have liked. Anyway, here’s how the evening turned out.
Back in December 2012 I wrote a post on my Cumbrian Sky blog reporting how I had spotted “Mare Orientale” on the Moon. This huge mountain-ringed impact basin on the lunar farside is usually hidden from our view, but occasionally we can see it peeking around the limb of the Moon. This is one of those times, and on March 20th we should have a pretty good chance of seeing it…
Rather than write out the whole blog post again, here’s a link to it…
And here’s what to look for, and where, on March 20th (morning sky)…