4,017

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“Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, New York City,” Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, ca. 1859

… and counting.

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Sharp

Late waxing crescent moon, ISO 200, 1/30, 90mm Cassegrain
Late waxing crescent moon, ISO 200, 1/30, 90mm Cassegrain

I finally figured out how to focus my Canon while it’s attached to the telescope. Aimed at the moon and using live view, I hit the magnify button, just to see what it would do. Sure enough, the viewscreen showed a 10x image of some zoomed-in craters. (They were really bouncing around, since the table on our back deck is apparently made of Jello). I thought I’d take a photo of the craters once everything stopped moving. But when the shutter tripped, I got a regular ol’ view of the crescent moon. Certainly there had to be a reason for magnification on the live view. I Googled “Canon live view zoom in” on my phone and learned that the zoom feature is only for “ultra-tight focusing.”

Oh.

Of course, then I realized how crappy my moon photos have been up to now: washed out and blurry. Shooting at a lower ISO (100 to 200) took care of the first problem, and now using the telescope’s focusing knob while in zoom mode took care of the second. When I started taking photos again, they were much, much better than they’d ever been.

In fact, let’s do a little side by side action. On the left is a gibbous moon that I shot a few years ago. Not the worst photo ever, and in fact, it’s the best one I’d ever shot out of hundreds up to tonight. On the right is tonight’s version:

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…much sharper, better moon.
Crummy, washed out, blurry moon...
Crummy, washed out, blurry moon…
Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar)—washed out view.
Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar)—washed out view.
Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar)—much better view.
Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar)—much better view.

Not the best comparisons, because they’re in different phases. And I’ll admit that the ones on the right could be a little brighter, but I’m happy to have figured this out.

Alas, even with “this one weird trick,” my tiny scope and limited DSLR camera couldn’t do much with Jupiter:

Jupiter, 90mm Cassegrain, ISO 200, 1/15th.
Jupiter, 90mm Cassegrain, ISO 200, 1/15th.

No cloud bands, no Great Red Spot. And because the exposure times are so different, no Galilean satellites. Thus, my basic equipment and I have managed to reduce Jupiter, king of planets, ruler of 60 moons and slayer of comets… to a ball of snot.

Ghosts

Moose by roadside, Route 16 between Milan and Erroll, NH
Moose by roadside, Route 16 between Milan and Errol, NH

We saw our first moose—mooses? meese?—last night. It could have been five, or two, because I kept driving us back and forth, hoping to see them re-emerge from the woods. Usually one would. But then we’d see others in other places, in places we didn’t think the originals could’ve gotten to in time.

The moose were more ominous and unsettling than majestic. They didn’t care that we were watching them. When they decided to vanish into the trees, that’s what they did. Their spindly, knobby legs disappeared among the spindly knobby trees, followed by their dark, mangy coats. One walked less than a couple of yards into the trees and stopped, almost completely invisible.

The animals didn’t photograph well. I took about a hundred different images, none of them good. Most I had to process to the extreme just to make the animal visible. I know I had my settings right—manual one time, auto the next. The moose were hazy and indistinct even when out in the open.

People hit moose with their cars all the time. Usually the moose are killed and sometimes the people, too. Moose are active in the morning and early evening when the light is tricky. If you’re driving along at 50 mph, it’s probably as though a part of the forest has come to life and appeared in your lane. I’m glad my commute is half a mile long and right through town.

Lenses

Lenticular cloud looking north from North Conway, NH
Lenticular cloud, North Conway, NH
Lenticular cloud over Pinkham Notch, NH
Lenticular cloud over Pinkham Notch, NH

The lenticulars were out today in force, a fleet of them. I’ve read that they’re caused by high winds flowing around mountains. We have an abundance of both, particularly the former the past few days or so.

I’m ready for the former to stop.

Beauty and the King

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Jupiter (left) and Venus, May 6, Gorham, NH

The iPhone 6 camera has its limits. In this case, though, that limit appears to be … the sky.

(Sorry.)

Anyway, the little white dot on the left is the planet Jupiter, 400 million or so miles away. Ten times closer is Venus, on the right. Nine hundred degrees, with an atmospheric pressure of 1200 pounds per square inch.

Thirty million times closer is my house, lower right. Pleasant temperatures, non-lethal pressure, oxygen atmosphere. Also, banana muffins.

Millipede

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Dam spillway north of Durham, NH

The “blurry waterfall” pictures always look better in your head when you’re planning them out. Then you get home, find out how overexposed everything is, and notice all the dead vegetation. I do like the little swirls in the water.