Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"My God, It's Full Of Stars!"

(Click on the image to see a larger version. Do it!)

Go out and look at the sky during the next full moon. What do you think you'll see? It won't look like the image above (maybe it will if you didn't click to bigafy it).

The reason I and three friends traveled to the heart of the Pinelands of New Jersey and braved the sub-freezing temperatures (it hit 28.6 °F = frozen feet) was to see exactly what you see here. The full moon surrounded by stars.

Of course, it required the moon to be eclipsed, to dim the brightness. Otherwise, as you'll see for yourself if you do the exercise noted in the first sentence above, the moonlight washes out all but the brightest of stars. The full moon is the bane of the astronomer's existence. Nature's light pollution.

My friend Laura over at SomewhereInNJ asks, " ... is tonight the longest and the darkest night ever?" Maybe not ever, but it was one of the darkest nights you can have with a full moon. Being on the Winter Solstice (for us northerners) makes the night long, while hiding the moon from the sun makes it dark. It makes for a lovely (if cold!) combination. And a treat to observe.


Astrophotographer extraordinaire and fellow Willingboro Astronomy Club Member and friend Jerry Lodriguss was also out in the Pines, but at a different site form us. His wonderful images can be found here. (Be sure to explore his site for other great images.) We had originally planned to all observe together, but he needed an even darker site to capture those images. Other club members observed from a variety of sites, for most close to or at home. It's been fun reading the reports throughout the day.


My friend and fellow TAREC member Lené at Counting Petals had big plans to snowshoe out to a frozen pond and shoot the spectacle. Alas, she was clouded out (and got to sleep instead). Her story is well worth the read.


Did you brave the cold or look out your bedroom window (like my mom and my friend Barb)? If so leave a comment about your experience.


This image is one of two I took with a wide angle lens. I could not tell if the images were in focus, so I gave up shooting with that lens, and went back to my long lens. I should have stuck with it. 

(More images to come ...)


Ron a.k.a. Danudin said...

As a 26 YO Soldier I was detached to an area in North Central Western Australia, and spent 8 weeks alone 400-500 miles from any inhabited Center. My first night was Moonless and believe it or not, the sky was Milky cream coloured from Horizon to horizon which ever way I looked, full moon spoiled the show somewhat, but seemed friendly with it's closeness.

Ralph said...

Steve - I do enjoy your blog commentary and (of course) the images. I also enjoyed journeying to Counting Petals this morning.

There's a lot of heavy commentary around about the time of year (and I'm as guilty) (especially being a retired Viking) but although I didn't mention it in my post on winter, I have always thought of the solstice as the first day of boating season since, as the days grow longer, we can soon be at sea. Used to drive my late wife nuts because she depended on the "tween" season period to recover.

Be well, and Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Bah! Humbug as you may prefer.

Lené Gary said...

Steve, I absolutely love your moon shot. I think I expected a close up like your other one, but the context is incredible. I feel so lucky to have dark skies in much of Vermont, and I look forward to sharing more outings (some cloudless ones) in the future with you and any other folks who would like to join us.

Your enthusiasm continues to brighten and invigorate my days! Thanks. :)


Ralph, Thanks for stopping by. I'm happy to meet you and I hope you'll join us on our next adventure (yet to be dreamed). :)

Julie McLeod said...

I clicked! Fantastic!

Thanks for the link to your friend's site. Very impressive too...

MevetS said...

@ Ron: very cool. The darkest skies I've been under have been in the deserts of Arizona and then on the small atoll of Tatakoto this past july. So many stars I could barely make out the constellations.

@ Ralph: Thanks. And Counting Petals is well worth visiting. I'm not a boater, but as an astronomer I'm bummed the nights are getting shorter!

@ Lené: Thanks. It makes me happy that I do so.

@ Julie: :-)