A few bits and pieces from me, and some truly spectacular images from people who actually know what they’re doing.
I was tweeting all night long (kept me awake), it looked like this:
As Bill Cosby said, I told you that story to tell you this one.
While the moon was fully eclipsed, the sky was filled with stars, and Jupiter was rising, I had a “what the hell, why not?!” moment and tried to see what my “fast, easy, and portable” gear would show if I tried to image some non-lunar targets. What’s the worse that could go wrong, I end up with a gigabyte of useless files?
Using the 75mm telephoto lens, this is a 6 second exposure of the lower portion of Orion. Longer exposures started to show the stars as lines instead of points, due to the Earth moving. Nonetheless, the “belt” and “sword” stars of Orion are clearly visible (along with a lot of dimmer stars) and the middle “star” of the sword can clearly be seen to actually be a diffuse nebula, not a star.
Using the 18mm wide angle lens, this is a 10 second exposure of Orion. The entire constellation can be seen quite clearly. Just peeking through the branches at the far lower left corner is Procyon. Not half bad for slapping a camera on a tripod and seeing what happens.
Straight overhead, still using the 18mm lens, the Pleiades open cluster and the “V” of Taurus are clearly seen in another ten second exposure. The orange color of Aldebaran in Taurus is obvious.
As Jupiter started rising in the east, I turned the telescope setup that way. It’s blurry, since I had been focused on the moon and Jupiter’s a lot further away (I didn’t want to try to re-focus because it’s a real bitch to focus accurately on dimmer objects, something else I have to find a solution for in the near future.) Nonetheless, this one second exposure through the scope clearly shows Jupiter and three of the Galilean moons.
The proper way to improve these “quick and dirty” pictures is to line the telescope mount up very precisely and then have a motor drive the telescope in the opposite direction at the same rate. My little scope will do that, my big one will do it better, but for the eclipse I didn’t bring out the big scope and didn’t align or power up the drive on the little one. I just wanted to try, on the spur of the moment, to see if even something as simple as this could produce recognizable images. It did, so now I really want to try stepping up my game and getting the big equipment running.
I mentioned this really loud owl that was out. I spent a little bit of time early in the evening walking around the neighborhood and trying to figure out where it was and trying to record the sound on my phone. Like my photos, it’s not really good gear to do a really great job, but it works.
Finally, here are some links to a couple of truly fantastic pictures of the eclipse.
Phil Plait’s article on Slate.com has several amazing pictures of the eclipse, but the huge one by Rogelio Bernal Andreo is just jaw-dropping. It’s a composite picture — as I was noting, it’s hard (i.e., next to impossible because of all of that physics stuff) to get an image that is short enough to show the colors of the moon but long enough to show the stars. Get the moon, and the stars are extremely faint. Get the stars, and the moon is too bright and overexposed. Andreo took two photos, one for the moon, one for the stars, and then combined them. The result is stunning. And as the huge copy of the picture in Plait’s article shows, not only do you see the eclipsed moon, an immense star field, and Uranus, but you can also see two of the moons around Uranus.
But today I found one that’s even better. It shows something that we see all the time around other planets, but I don’t know that it’s ever been seen around ours. It’s a moon going into shadow, into eclipse, seen from afar.
Around all of the outer planets you can see this regularly. In fact, the Galilean moons of Jupiter do it so regularly and it’s so easy to see that Galileo saw them in 1610, over four hundred years ago. Anyone with binoculars can see them today, disappearing as their orbit carries them into Jupiter’s shadow and reappearing as they come back into the sunlight.
Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society wrote an article today with a video from the MESSENGER spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mercury since March 18, 2011. Looking back from 63.4 million miles away, MESSENGER recorded this video of the moon going into eclipse behind the Earth.
The only way that’s not the coolest thing you’ve seen today is if you also saw one of your kids being born!