Sunday, May 27, 2007

20060526 - A couple of hours out on the Solar System

Session name: 20060526.1835

The weather forecast for the evening of this session was not too positive but at the time I decided to go it was partially clear. At times, I could see the light grow bright and shadows sharpened on the buildings outside of our windows. That was encouraging enough that I intended to scout Vista Rock for the Manhattanhenge sunset. As I left the house with the Bin backpack over my shoulder, I turned to my wife saying I'd return just after sunset.

Knowing that there was some time to kill, I sat on a park bench to leisurely sketch the Moon. A father and his two sons sat to my left. One asked if I was looking at the Moon and, naturally, I invited them to the eyepiece. Small gasps but I wondered if they could really appreciate what they saw. In broad daylight, even with blue skies, the contrast is low and experience has shown that one needs to adapt in the eyepiece for some time. Theirs were quick glances but they did remark of big craters. (The mare I suspect.)

I use the Moleskine pocket plain reporter notebook (wanting to return to the standard portrait binding) to capture what I see. My notebooks are filled with lunar disks smudged with graphite to show the mare. I continue to practice for scale, relative location and obvious features. Hopefully the day will come that I get the courage to sketch specific lunar features. Nothing special but it does help to stir my memory. In fact Clavius, on the left, is not entirely accurate. The interior craters are not properly scaled or positioned, but the shadowing along the northeastern wall and the small, dark shadow south of Clavius emboldened the lines of the wall and impressed a curvature or 3d to the observation. Similarly, Sinus Iridum held fascination with the western wall rising into the sunlight while the foothills below were still in shadow. Without an atmosphere, the stark difference between night and day on the Moon must be stunning.

While on the bench, I thought of others snapping photos with their camera phones. Since the Nikon CP995 was on hand, snapped this at the eyepiece. I am impressed by what others can get using this method. I just don't have a steady hand for this.

I blew off my wristwatch alarm that alerted me to 20 minutes until sunset. Instead, I moved over to the east of TotL where the view on the western horizon is low. The horizon rises and falls between 5° ~ 10° along azimuth 270° ~ 300°. A familiar observer, Ken Taurian, stopped by and shared sights of the Moon and Venus with passersby. We looked for Mercury and spotted it when the sky darkened at civil twilight and the clouds let some sky through. Carol & Dog "E" came by at this time. We saw Mercury through the handhelds as well as the tripod mounted Taks but couldn't see the planet naked eye. Nobody was impressed by any color or shape from the planet.

Kin arrived by skateboard by after dark. Mike, one of the birders, also stopped by. It was too late for them to see Mercury but Venus, Saturn, and Moon were obvious. Clouds shrouded the Moon in a thin veil and then moved off. The Tak bins delivered very pleasing views when the sky conditions allowed. The 1/2° moon frames nicely in the 2.1° field of view. It wasn't much longer that the clouds would win out. I remembered what I told my wife so I packed the bag and left the company of Ken, Kin, Mike and the park passersby to return home for a movie and popcorn with the family.