I'm fascinated by the Moon and planets and images that capture the range and scale of light, size, and distance that they display. These strongly influence my choice of tools.
My goal is high dynamic range images that capture the fine detail and astounding range of light visible at the eyepiece of the telescope. Earthlight on the crescent Moon and high dynamic range full disk Moon images are a specialty.
I'm also fascinated by the planets and moons and their interactions: conjunctions, eclipses, transits, and occultations. These interactions between solar system objects make it easy for me to immerse myself in the sceen. Capturing these multiple target subjects with full fidelity requires many exposures to allow stacking over an extremely wide dynamic range. The final results are very close to what the eye can see in the telescope eyepiece under ideal conditions.
We see the action up close in the Solar System: the wandering motions of the planets, and the occasional eclipse of the sun or Moon. Sometimes planets move near one another in conjunctions or alignments. With the telescope we can see eclipses on other worlds as occultations or transits of one behind or in front of another.
It is at these times - eclipses, transits, occultations, and conjunctions - that we are aware that the universe is not some distant painted backdrop. It is in motion and we have a place in it.
Animated transit of Jupiter by Io
A total solar eclipse is the grandest of these immersive experiences. There is a spectacular display in the sky. Next the skinny finger of the Moon's shadow reaches down and touches us. Finally the spectacular solar corona is revealed and the planets and stars in the daylight sky are revealed.
This is a transcendental experience. With knowledge, we move from an observer of the universe, to a profound feeling of our place in it. Without knowledge, it appears to be an apocalyptic event. The animals around us echo our confusion.
The physical effects: temperature, tides, and wind are small, compared to the emotional effects.
I’ve not seen a total eclipse yet. I have seen many partial solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, transits, occultations, and planetary alignments.
My most transcendent experience was a pre-dawn sunrise with the crescent Moon, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter spread across the sky. I saw the solar system spread out around me and understood where I was. I felt at one with the solar system.
A Perseid Meteor shower in the 1980's gave me an incredible feeling of the earth moving through the meteors. Laying on a blanket in an open field at 7000' in northern Arizona, I saw a meteor every few seconds. The experience is vivid after 30 years and I try to re-experience it every chance I get. Here are seven hours of the 2016 Perseids from Texas:
Observing a complete lunar eclipse let me see the full extent of the earth’s shadow in space. I watched as the Moon moved through it. I was aware of my place between the Moon, the earth, and the sun.
Watching earthlight reflected back from the Moon and the changes in the shadows from craters and mountains, I can experience the earth and Moon together dancing around the sun.
Content created: 2016-05-18 and last modified: 2017-08-09
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