Monday, July 30, 2012

Moon Observing

I'm reading Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1865) (although unaccountably titled "The Moon-shot" in the translation that I am reading), and how appropriate that I rolled out my 5" f/9 refractor this evening to take a look at the Moon.

Verne's novel shows his great respect for Americans, while also poking fun at some of our more uncivilized habits.  His description of the Gun Club (and we're talking artillery, not small arms) in Baltimore that decides to fire a projectile to the Moon captures what was apparently even then a European view of us as a little bloody-minded of a bunch for our own good--but still, you can tell that Verne respected the American attitude: any technical problem that might cause Europeans to back down is simply a minor obstacle for American engineering and manufacturing to ram through!

Technically, I didn't roll the telescope out to look at the Moon.  No, no, I was testing a new design for ScopeRoller for one particular class of tripods where the existing design is a bit ugly to make because of the precision required and the manufacturing tolerances of the tripod legs that it has to fit.  So having made a prototype set a couple of weeks ago with my son, I used them to roll the refractor out over the reground asphalt apron that we had Stor-Mor Sheds build the telescope garage.

Everything worked just fine on the reground asphalt apron; when I reached the chip seal surface in front on that, it was a bit slower going.  I have some concerns that Big Bertha, when rolled out, may be more of a problem.  If so, we may have to have this reground asphalt carried a bit farther out, once the fall semester starts and there is more money coming in.

Anyway, the downside of living at 43 degrees is that in summer, it takes forever for the sky to get really dark.  I envy astronomers who live in Hawaii and Florida for this reason.  It goes from sunlight to dark almost like turning a switch!  As a result, the Moon was about the only interesting thing to look out before it was time for bed.

I was wondering if I would be able to see the craterlets in Plato.  Plato is a relatively small crater that you won't be able to see without at least big binoculars.  (This picture is from Enchanted Learning's website; Plato is labeled near the top):

This picture that I took back in 2007 has Plato at the top, a bit right of the terminator:

This guy has a great picture of Plato and the craterlets that he took with a considerably larger telescope (a Celestron C11):

Anyway, the refractor isn't quite large enough to resolve the craterlets -- perhaps I'll try this again with Big Bertha tomorrow night.

There was an astonishingly bright crater closer to the terminator, and on the same edge as Plato that was really spectacular.  I am surprised that I can't find a picture of it online.

I also want to thank whichever one of my readers suggested that I use Levels in GIMP to do some cleanup.  I took this picture back in 2007--a little work in GIMP and voila!  This:

turned into this!

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