Saturday, June 26, 2010

June Full Moon

With the Taste of Chicago starting Friday, June 25th, I decided I was going to skip June’s full Moon session with the Chicago Astronomers to avoid the crazy lakefront traffic and the outrageous fees the parking lot by the Adler charges during the Taste. That Friday I planned to document the Moon rise, stay up all night observing, and see if I could discern any darkening of the northern lunar limb during the penumbral phase of the eclipse. Valparaiso was too far east to see the umbral eclipse, but it would have been my first eclipse at all as an astronomer.

The Post-Tribune gave 8:09 PM CDST for Friday’s Moon rise, but with trees to the southeast, I knew I wouldn’t see it until a little later. The forecast in the paper called for partly cloudy skies overnight, with no mention of rain. I went outside and started setting up about 8:10, keeping an eye out for the Moon coming up behind the trees. I spotted the orange Moon at 8:29 through the trees, but it didn’t clear them until 21 minutes later, at 8:50.


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Where I expected to see the Moon come up. My notes say "not a cloud in the sky."


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First look at the Moon.

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I messed around a little while the Moon was behind the trees, taking pictures of the horizon, and through the Dob and it’s spotting scope.


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Of course I got some shots of the brightly lit lunar surface.


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I also first observed Venus at 8:33, getting some pictures of it as well. Once the Moon was above the trees I turned my attention to Saturn briefly.


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Venus when I first noticed it.

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Double Saturn. I probably moved the camera during the exposure. Cool.


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My only decent Saturn image of the night.

I noticed clouds moving in from the northwest, so I went to get a picture, and when I was heading back to the telescopes, I saw ISS coming up from the southwest! It was the third time in the week that it had snuck up on me, and it was a nice long 4 minute pass, high overhead.

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Venus, with the clouds moving in.


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I'm not sure if you can make it out in this picture, but ISS is passing to east-northeast, to the upper right of the neighbor's house.


After Station disappeared to the northeast the clouds became a problem, covering most of the sky, but they were moving, and weren’t threatening to obliterate the Moon, so I stayed outside, looking through magazines and books for interesting objects to observe if and when the clouds cleared. I had my computer set up too, going online every now and then. I caught Station again at 10:37, just long enough to know it was moving, before it disappeared behind the clouds.

With the clouds leaving me only the full Moon to observe, things got really boring for a few hours. I would get sucker holes through the clouds, but never long enough to track down anything.


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The Moon, not much higher than the trees.

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So I viewed the Moon occasionally, flipped through books and magazines, and surfed the net until about 1:30. The Moon, at very nearly it’s lowest point along the ecliptic for the year, was going to pass behind a tall tree, and I wanted to get pictures.


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Looking through the trees, with the leaves in focus.

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Neither Moon nor trees in focus.

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Moon in focus through the tree.

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View through the finder scope.

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There were clouds to the left of the Moon and tree which looked like the Milky Way. I wish my camera could have captured it better.


At 2 AM, though, the clouds finally engulfed the Moon too. I should have called it a night, and ordinarily, I probably would have. The forecast, as I said, hadn’t called for rain until Saturday afternoon, so I was determined to stay out to try to catch any possible evidence of the mornings partial eclipse. For two hours I messed around online, and never saw the Moon.


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Clouds finally taking the Moon from me.


At 4:05 I heard a strange sound, and quickly determined it was raindrops hitting the roof! I had both scopes out, my computer, observing magazines and books, and my binder of observation notes scattered all about, and it was a mad scramble to get everything protected. The computer immediately went in my book bag, dust caps went on the scopes, and then I started hauling everything to my car, the quickest and easiest safe storage for the moment. Wow, that was a close call. It really started coming down once everything was put away.

In hind sight, I dismissed what could have been a low distant rumble of thunder beforehand as trains, highway traffic, fireworks, anything but thunder. Needless to say, a storm rolled in, and killed all hope of catching any part of the eclipse, so I went to bed. What had started as a promising night of astronomy despite, and in fact because of, the full Moon ended abruptly in disappointment. Next time I’ll pay better attention to what the sky is trying to tell me…

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