International Observe The Moon Night 2014

Not only was it the Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival on Saturday night, but it was also International Observe the Moon Night 2014. As I couldn’t get along to the festival, I set up my scope in the garden and had my own observing night with several members of my family. It’s always great to hear sharp intakes of breath at the eyepiece, and the right amount of ‘ooh’s when the magnification is ramped up.

My audience was in awe of this lunar delight, with question after question about ‘How did it get there?’, ‘Why do we only see one side?, and ‘Why does it have the same apparent size as the Sun?’. The Moon has to be one of the best targets to observe when introducing astronomy because there’s just so much science to be shared.

After lots of observing, often through a veil of thin cloud, the cameras and smart phones came out. Our beautiful subject put on a wonderful show, with good visibility and very good seeing (tech talk for a stable air stream) – not bad considering our location near the town centre with its seeping light and sodium glow.

After everyone else had had a go, I demonstrated how easy it is to capture a high resolution lunar image using a DSLR camera (in my case, a Canon 70D) fixed to the telescope (SkyWatcher 8-inch reflector) with a Barlow T-adapter which turns the scope into a giant lens. A few snaps later and I had seven decent frames to edit in Photoshop. The final mosaic shows some great detail, especially on the terminator – the edge where day turns to night – and good contrast, showing the darker ‘seas’, or maria to give them their proper name. 

My group of lunar observers went away, posting their images to Facebook and Instagram as they left, with some newfound knowledge which I hope they’ll share with others.

© 2014 Melanie Davies

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