About two weeks ago, we finally had the first very clear night with good astronomical seeing in a long while. Photographing the moon in detail can be difficult on most days, as atmospheric disturbance warps and blurs detail. A night with good “seeing” means there is low atmospheric disturbance…low dust, low water vapor. Attaching a 1.4x teleconverter to my 600mm lens makes it an 840mm telescope that is capable of greatly enlarging the moon. This lens has extremely good optics, so it is able to resolve a lot of detail as well. A half moon is also a perfect moon for capturing as much relief as possible across the greatest area of the surface of the moon. In the close up crops above, you can observe the relative scale of many of the features of the moon’s surface. I’ve also added labels to versions of each of the close up crops detailing all of the prominent features of each region. Seas, Lakes, Marshes have all been labeled in brown, Mountain Ranges and Mountains have all been labeled in blue, and other features like Craters, Valleys, and other features have been labeled in white.
Since I’ve been on the subject of astronomy and cosmological objects, November is almost here. If the predictions are correct, November will be a month to remember as Comet ISON, already touted as the Comet of the Century, is supposed to gain a tail and brighten to such a degree as to be visible during the day. From Nov. 1st (when the comet is supposed to first be visible to the naked eye near Mars) through Nov. 28th (Thanksgiving) when the comet is supposed to make it’s closest approach to the sun. ISON has been an active comet, although on a bit of a rocky road. It has flared up and dimmed already on it’s journey, and there is no guarantee that it will put on a show at all. That said, when the comet passed Mars, the planet itself changed…gained a coma and started flaring. There is no explanation for such an event in standard cosmological theories, however the Electric Universe theory actually explains the phenomena quite well (which claims that comets are not dusty balls of ice, but rather are the same thing as asteroids exhibiting exotic behavior because of their elongated orbits. Cometary tails, flaring, and brightening is the result of electromagnetic energy. You can learn more at thunderbolts.info, and read this PDF for the full theory. Personally, I find simple, cohesive theories with immense predictive power to be very appealing, and the electric comet makes a lot more sense when paired with actual observations over the last several decades.)
Anyway, to observe Comet ISON, you will need to be up very early in the morning, a couple hours before the sun rises. Mars will be above the horizon in the east, and the comet should be just below it (starting on Nov. 1st). As the comet progresses on its journey towards the sun, it will get brighter and larger (as it also approaches us), eventually lighting up the whole sky just before sunrise. In the days before Nov. 28th, if you watch the sunrise, you’ll see the comet right on top of the sun as it tops the horizon. For a detailed prediction of the comets progress, I recommend reading this excellent blog. Again, there is no guarantee that ISON will actually do anything…it could still peter out and be the dud of the century. That said, I highly recommend getting up in the morning around the middle of the month sometime, and check out the eastern sky. You might be in for a treat that only comes along once every hundred years or so!