Shooting the moon

This Tuesday we’ll have our first full moon of astronomical summer over Marshall but for all practical purposes the moon will be pretty much full all week long. As much as full moons louse up the skies for real stargazing and astrophotography, two things that are near and dear to me, I just love, love, love full moons! Even though I have to wake up very early for work I’ve be known to stay up way too late relaxing on my deck bathing under the light of rising full moon.. I call it my magic moon time!

As it is with all full moons I love the names given to them by various cultures all over the world. Some of the old time American/Native American names for the July full moon include the full buck moon because this time of year buck deer begin sprouting out new antlers. It’s also called the thunder moon because of more frequent thunderstorms this time year. My favorite name for the July full moon comes from ancient Chinese Buddhist tradition. They called it the Hungry Ghost moon.

Whatever you call the July full moon you can’t but notice that it’s a low rider. They don’t rise very high in the sky. They take the same low arc across the southern sky as the sun does as winter begins. This makes sense because this time of year the sun takes a very high arc across the southern sky during the day, and since the full moon is on the opposite side of the sky from the sun it just makes sense that it would be a low rider in the southern heavens in the good old summertime. That’s one of the reasons I like full moon gazing this time of year. You can enjoying for an extended time without extending your neck as much.

Not only is nice to take in the July moon but you can also have a lot of fun taking pictures of it. You don’t need even need that fancy of a camera. Even your cell phone can do a pretty good job if you do it right. A zoom lens can really help and exposure control so it the image isn’t just a wash out of white.

You can also take some amazing pictures of the moon through even a small to moderate telescope. Just hold your camera or your phone over the eyepiece as steady as you can. That can be bit of a challenge. My suggestion is just keep hitting the shutter button or icon and hopefully you’ll get some decent shots. If possible rig up tripod or something else to help steady your camera or pone over the eyepiece.

Along with keeping the telescope steady another thing that’s important is to start taking your shots through a low magnification eyepiece with your telescope. That’ll have a much wider aperture than a high magnification eyepiece. Once you get some low magnification shots through your telescope see what you do with higher power. See how you do!

To be honest full moons are not my favorite to photograph through a telescope. I actually prefer pictures of the moon at other various phases in its monthly cycle. Crescent moons, half moons and even gibbous (football shaped) moons are all fun to photograph. You can see more detail especially what’s known as the terminator. That’s the line that divides the sunlit part of the moon and the part that’s not bathed in sun light.

Once you get the photos you can work with them a little in Photoshop or some other software to make them look even brighter or sharper although you shouldn’t have do too much. Again I was just amazed with the clarity. You can really see details in the dark maria or plains on the moon as well as the mountains and craters. You don’t need a super fancy camera or telescope to get some amazing lunar photos to hang on your wall!

One more thing that makes gazing at the moon or photographing it in July is what happened there 48 years ago when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first ever human steps on the moon. I hope we go back there someday!

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St Paul and is author of the book, “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications available at bookstores at http://www.adventurepublications.net.


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