Partial Lunar Eclipse

I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. before I fell asleep Sunday night. The alarm woke me and I stumbled to the west facing window in my bedroom and couldn’t find the full moon. I assumed, blearily and incorrectly, that the moon must be hidden by clouds. I crossed over to my library and its east facing window and couldn’t see any stars (not unusual though that near to dawn and with the amount of light pollution I suffer from). I went back to bed.

My regular alarm woke me at 5:00 a.m. sharp like it always does. I checked my windows again, but this time my east facing window showed a mostly blue sky.  That gave me a jolt, almost like a hot cup of coffe.  I immediately began rushing around the house, throwing on clothes and grabbing my camera bag. I jumped in the car and drove to my closest vantage poitn with an adequate western horizon view. I could see the moon, already partially eclipsed, but obscured by some thin clouds and lots of haze.

Lunar Eclipse
Clouds obscured the moon (click on image for rest of album)

I wondered to myself why the moon seemed to be setting in the southwest. I stood in the same spot from where I watched and photographed the solar eclipse just two weeks before and at that time, both the moon and the sun set almost due west. I did spend some time today trying to find an explanation or graph or plot to explain to me visually why the moon’s orbit diverged so greatly over a half month. I’m still searching for a satsifactory answer.

Way southwest
Moon (far left) and camera (far right). Two weeks ago, the moon and sun set to the right of my camera (out of frame).

I settled in to a routine, snapping photos every few seconds or minutes, sometimes adjusting the shutter speed, or the aperture. I occassionally switched back to autonatic mode, letting the camera decide for itself what settings to use (usually producing photos I didn’t care for). By 5:30, the moon had almost set behind the hill to the southwest of my location.

Lunar Eclipse
Partial Lunar Eclipse as seen from Lansing, Kansas (click on image for rest of album)

I took a total of sixty photos, not including the one above taken with my call phone, so if you are a true glutton for punishment, click on the photos above to review the entire album.  I didn’t have time this morning before leaving for work to review and filter out the obvious duds. 

If I had realized the moon would set so early, I would have driven to a better site where I didn’t have a tall hill between me and the southwestern horizon.  I mistakenly assumed the moon would set in the west and opted to use a location only a few blocks from my home.

Tomorrow, I will be at the same spot, but at a different time, to observe and photograph the Transit of Venus.  You should be able to see me and my telescope from Main Street in Lansing during rush hour tomorrow afternoon.  Stop by and have a look at a once-in-a-lifetime event.  If you live in the Kansas City metro area, you have multiple locations from which to view the transit (click here for more information thanks to the Astronomincal Society of Kansas City).

Adventures on My First Science Convention: Day Three

John Reed leads a workshop on widefield astrophotography with a DSLR at MSRAL (Sun 03 Jun 2012)

After a handulf of hours sleeping, I drug myself out of bed early Sundy morning.  Rather than eating breakfast, I composed my blog post recapping Saturday at the MSRAL convention.  I published at ten after eight o’clock, leaving me less than an hour to drive to UMKC from Lansing.  The last day of the convention consisted of a morning dedicated to three workshops.  Not knowing what I might need, I packed up my laptop and my DSLR camera and zipped down I-70, arriving with about ten minutes to spare.

I burdened myself with my laptop bag, camera backpack, purse and water bottle and trudged up the stairs to the Student Union.  I opted not to take the additional four flights of stairs on the interior of the building, taking full advantage of the elevator to the top floor.  I planted myself on the first row (as I’ve done each day of the convention) so I wouldn’t have any trouble hearing or seeing (or taking photographs like the one above).

First Workshop: Widefield Astrophotography with a DSLR by John Reed

Very interesting workshop on using consumer camera equipment (a Canon DSLR and a 200 mm telephoto with an AstroTrac mount) and some post-production work with Photoshop for stunning astrophotography.

Second Workshop: Variable Star Research with Modern Amateur Equipment by Jim Roe

The middle workshop presented by Jim Roe dealt with variable stars and doing some hands on scientific observation and research.  I got to know his old friend Z Umi (a variable star in the Little Dipper).

Third Workshop: Successful Web Cam Astronomy by David Kolb

David Kolb answering questions after his Successful Web Cam Astronomy workshop at MSRAL (Sun 03 Jun 2012)

The final workshop of the day got really hands on, for those who wanted to participate in the step-by-step process of massaging web cam videos taken of Saturn to produce a nice crisp stacked image.  The entire presentation will be uploaded to David’s website (Sunflower Astronomy) in the near future.

Final Musings on the Convention

I learned so much and met some great people.  I have many fascinating ideas and concepts revolving through my brain and many new projects I’m inspired to pursue.  I look forward to attending similar conferences when they pass through the area again.