New Moon

I have little to say this evening apart from reporting that I came home tonight and caught the new moon before it dipped behind the trees. Thought some of you might want to have a look.

New Moon - Feb 2010
Moon over Kent

And my daughter and I espied the Orion Nebula; unfortunately my photographic equipment is not up to recording that.

But this astronomy lark is the business.

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40 Responses to New Moon

  1. Frank Norman says:

    Wow, that is an amazing image.

  2. Jennifer Rohn says:

    I thought a ‘new’ moon by definition was when you couldn’t see any of it. Maybe that’s an Americanism though.
    It was a lovely crescent, though, which I admired while I walked half a mile through Shepherd’s Bush trying to get around the Central Line suspension.

  3. Stephen Curry says:

    Hello stranger – welcome back!
    A larger image is available on flickr – just click on the photo above.

  4. Stephen Curry says:

    You could be right, Jenny, I’m new to this game! But it was new to me since I’d not seen it for a while and only noticed the silver sliver as I walked through the gate tonight. So it was straight out the back with the telescope—no time for food—because I knew it would drop out of sight within about half-an-hour.

  5. Stephen Curry says:

    Oh, and the ‘stranger’ remark was directed at Frank!

  6. Frank Norman says:


  7. Henry Gee says:

    The same Moon shineth on Cromer. Lovely image, Stephen – how did you take it? And with what?

  8. Alejandro Correa says:

    I really the only one I know is the General Gee of the battalion P-450 of Pteranodons.

  9. Stephen Curry says:

    @Henry – I used my Panasonic DMC-TZ3, a compact digital camera, which I attached to the eye-piece using a Sky-Watcher Universal Digiscoping Adaptor. It’s a tad fiddly and I can only get the camera up to about 2x zoom before the lens bumps into the eyepiece (it’ll do 10x given a free run). Set the ‘film-speed” to ISO800.
    Could probably do a lot better with an SLR…
    @Alejandro – thanks: didn’t realise Henry had been promoted!

  10. Alejandro Correa says:

    Is lamentable. I’ve wrong of blog.

  11. Stephen Curry says:

    One more thing about taking pictures – I set the shutter delay to 10 secs. This allows the telescope plenty of time to stop shaking after I’ve pressed the shutter.
    With this camera I’m completely reliant on autofocusing so my pictures of smaller, fainter objects have been disappointing.

  12. Alejandro Correa says:

    Stephen- In any case the picture is excellent on the moon. Very clear.

  13. Frank Norman says:

    The thing I never quite grasp about crescent moons is why they look different at different latitudes.

  14. Stephen Curry says:

    Is it not just that your viewing angle changes, Frank? But I’ve not really noticed (or changed latitudes as much as you, perhaps).
    Thanks, Alejandro. And, regarding your earlier comment – am glad to see I’m not the only one gets confused at times…

  15. Alejandro Correa says:

    Is ok.

  16. Alyssa Gilbert says:

    You’re right, Jenny, that a new moon is when you cannot see it at all.
    This is a gorgeous shot, Stephen! Although, I had to laugh when I saw the title of the post and thought you had started reading those popular vampire books 🙂 This is much nicer!

  17. Stephen Curry says:

    Ha – heaven forfend, Alyssa. Though my youngest daughter, who joined me to look at the moon and the Orion nebula tonight, is a massive fan of the books.

  18. Henry Gee says:

    That’s a really great shot with such equipment. I’ve never tried astro-photography through a telescope: the main problem is that you can’t magnify much without the Earth’s rotation becoming noticeable, and the thing you’re looking at whizzing across your field of view. To get round this you need an equatorial mount set up just right, and some kind of clockwork motor to counteract the Earth’s rotation, stabilizing the image. Do you have such a rig? I have an up-and-down lightbucket (8-inch reflector on a Dobsonian mount), so I can’t do such a thing.

  19. Stephen Curry says:

    I do have a motorised mount which, if set up properly, enables tracking. But that is only really needed for long exposures. The moon is so bright that my exposure time was less than a second. The main trick for getting a sharp image was using the 10 sec shutter delay to allow vibrations to dissipate before the pic was taken.

  20. Frank Norman says:

    I just spotted that UCL is hosting “a free festival of astronomy for schools, families and the general public” as part of National Science and Engineering Week in March. See their website for details.

  21. Henry Gee says:

    The best (actually, the only) astro photo I took was of a comet, sometime in the mid 1990s. If memory serves it was Comet Wasabe-Pancetta, but I’d have to check. I used a regular SLR (no telescope) and a longish lens and a fastish film, and probably a tripod. I’ll have to look into my ancient photo albums to dig it out. The most interesting part of the whole affair was getting the photo developed. The nice lady in the mom-and-pop photo development place I used back then (this was in Ealing) refused to look at the picture as she developed it, for fear of bringing bad luck.

  22. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks for the link Frank, which has a lovely picture of Saturn. I am hoping to catch that planet one of these nights but it is low in the southern skies and so not visible from my NW-facing back garden.
    Henry – I was thinking last night how much easier it is to take these pictures with a digital camera since you can tell immediately if the shot has worked. I might have been put off if I’d had to traipse back and forth from the chemist to check I was doing it right. You should scan that comet photo if you can find it – I’d like to see it!

  23. Frank Norman says:

    Comet Wasabe-Pancetta
    There’s cross-cultural cuisine for you! I knew the moon was made of green cheese, but now I learn that comets are made of green mustard and bacon bits.

  24. Mike Fowler says:

    The latitude thing could be right – that same moon was grinning like a lunatic manically at me last night, from deepest, darkest Mallorcan skies.
    My Dad pointed out some useful freeware to me recently: Stellarium, for all your stargazing needs. Considerably cheaper and less annoying than Russell Grant

  25. Eva Amsen says:

    We’ve had the latitudes discussion previously on NN. And I found it back by googling Nature Network COD DOC
    Here’s the last relevant comment (mine) with link, and then read back from up there to find how we got to talking about the moon.

  26. Frank Norman says:

    Thanks Eva. I think I will have to sit down and study that a bit. My 3D mental modelling is a bit ropey.

  27. Stephen Curry says:

    Surprised to see that I also commented on that thread, Eva. I had no recollection of it at all. Old age, I guess. But yes, the COD/DOC inversion would be due to the 2-fold rotation of the observer (approx) in moving from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere.
    By the way, my picture should not be taken as representative of the orientation of the crescent you see with your eyes since my telescope is a Newtonian Reflector and inverts the image. Plus there is a rotation due (I think) to the way the eyepiece is mounted on the barrel.
    Thanks for the tip Mike but Cath Ennis had already put me onto Stellarium in the thread on my Jupiter post back in Jan – great (and free) program!

  28. Ed Rybicki says:

    I wondered why, as a child, people in the north saw a man in the moon…and the latitudinal inversion explains why we Southrons have a rabbit, and not a man, in the new-risen moon.
    Much nicer, to my mind.

  29. Alyssa Gilbert says:

    Thanks for the tip Mike but Cath Ennis had already put me onto Stellarium in the thread on my Jupiter post back in Jan – great (and free) program!
    I don’t normally correct this kind of thing, but it was me who suggested it to you 🙂

  30. Henry Gee says:

    You should scan that comet photo if you can find it – I’d like to see it!

    Your wish, my command, etc.
    This is Comet Halle Berry Hale Bopp pictured in the Spring of 1997 from our (then) back garden in Ealing, West London. This comet was one of the most spectacular of its kind for a century, so quite easy to find, even with the naked eye.
    I used my Canon A-1 on a tripod, a 500-mm CAT lens, and exposed it on the ‘bulb’ setting for a minute or two, with a cable release. I didn’t keep a note of the ISO though I expect it was 400. Apologies for the inadvertant image enhancement fingermarks and general filth.

  31. Stephen Curry says:

    Ed – I’d never realised the cultural impact that inversion could have (never having visited the southern hemisphere). The Northern ‘man in the moon’ always looks quite mournful to me. A rabbit would be much cheerier!
    Alyssa, you are quite right to pick me up on this, especially since I was so egregiously wrong. My apologies! And my thanks once again, for pointing out a very nice program. Looking back, Cath hadn’t commented on that post so I don’t know what I was thinking…
    Bravo, Henry – nice shot! I remember seeing that in the sky back in ’97, first time I’d ever seen a comet in my life. But I have no photographic record.

  32. Eva Amsen says:

    “By the way, my picture should not be taken as representative of the orientation of the crescent you see with your eyes since my telescope is a Newtonian Reflector and inverts the image. Plus there is a rotation due (I think) to the way the eyepiece is mounted on the barrel.”
    I figured. I saw the same moon on the way home yesterday, and it was inverted compared to your picture. I know you’re further south, but not THAT far south…

  33. Stephen Curry says:

    Ah, but if you had been using Alyssa’s method, you would easily have been able to measure the distance between Cambridge and Kent…!

  34. Brian Clegg says:

    Brilliant photo, Stephen. Now all you need to do is a series of them for a good Muybridge-style animation…

  35. Stephen Curry says:

    Somehow, I suspect the weather might get in the way. Looking very grey tonight. Could be a long project…

  36. Cath Ennis says:

    Stephen, you may have been thinking of this post I wrote about an astronomy gadget I bought for my Mum.
    Fantastic photo; I’ll see if I can get my Mum to start reading your blog!

  37. ehab aboueladab says:

    very good photo

  38. Richard Wintle says:

    Lovely shot, Stephen. That universal camera adapter thingy looks quite excellent. I’ve attempted tripod shots of the moon with my (wife’s) shiny Sony DSC-R1, which has an excellent but far-too-short (120 mm equivalent, 71.something mm ‘real’) Zeiss lens. They were all very lame – hopelessly small moon in hopelessly large black field. Yours is much, much nicer.
    A plot to retrofit our Pentax 100-300 mm lens with a ‘proper’ DSLR body is hatching, which might help things (that would end up being a 450 mm equivalent at full zoom, which ought to be enough for the moon, if not other things). We’ll see. Income tax season is upon us, which might throw a spanner wrench into the works.

  39. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks Cath – nice try, but I think I was just hopelessly confused. Your Mum would be extremely welcome to peruse the blog, and to make comments.
    And welcome also to Ehab – thanks for commenting!
    Best of luck with that project Richard – I’m sure a creative analysis of your tax situation should allow you to proceed…

  40. Alyssa Gilbert says:

    Henry – fantastic photo! I remember seeing the comet, but was too engulfed in my teenage dramas to care too much, I imagine.
    Stephen – no worries! That seems to happen to me a lot (either people mistaking me for someone else, or the other way around). I tend to have many twins. And thanks for the link to my post!

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