A valiant effort

Well, okay, you’ll probably have to be the judge of that…

A few days back, in the previous post, I mentioned that the rising moon the next day would be this itsy-bitsy little crescent, a mere 0.6% illuminated, preceding the sunrise by a little over 20 minutes. I also mentioned that the weather here wasn’t amenable to pursuing it.

In the interim (within a day, really,) the moon became ‘New,’ meaning invisible, entirely backlit by the sun. But then, after that, it would be an itsy-bitsy little crescent again, only this time waxing and appearing just after sunset. And that would be happening Wednesday the 13th – yesterday’s sunset. The skies had cleared almost perfectly by then, so I headed down to the lake to try my luck. It would be the slightest bit more illuminated this time, hitting 0.7%, but that’s not a lot. For reference, this one a year ago was taken when it was 1.0% illuminated. I was curious to see just how fine I could capture this.

I arrived early and had a chance to poke around before sunset, though granted, there wasn’t a lot to see. But I shot a version of a semi-frequent setting here on the blog with the sunset light and clear sky.

dead tree at sunset
As sunset drew nigh, I got the tripod out and set up, almost exactly where we’d been a few weeks back for the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction; this is hardly surprising, since I was aiming in very much the same direction (and in fact, Jupiter became visible before I’d finished the session yesterday.) As the sun set, I used it as a rough aiming point, knowing that the moon would hit the horizon just south (left) of the same spot.

clear sunset sky over Jordan Lake, NC
It would be a little over 20 minutes before the moon hit the horizon, and I knew that it wouldn’t be visible until the sky darkened a bit more, but I kept an eye out anyway. A KLM jet on its way from Atlanta to Amsterdam passed way overhead, many kilometers distant, and I used it as a focusing point.

KLM flight to Amsterdam
And as the time counted down to moonset, I scoured the skies looking for that minimal crescent. A smidgen of thin clouds were close to the area it should appear within, but not enough to obscure it, so I diligently tracked back and forth, up and down, with the Tamron 150-600 lens.

And saw… nothing. Not a damn thing. I shot several frames of the most likely areas, just to examine them once back home and see if I captured something anyway without realizing it. But nope.

twilight sky not showing the moon which could be there
Near as I could tell, from the timestamp and the careful comparison of angles with the sunset photo and Stellarium, this frame (with a circling Piper and a very distant contrail) should contain the moon. But even boosting the contrast off the scale in GIMP failed to produce even a hint of a crescent. Nertz anyway.

While there, I glanced out over the lake and spotted a lone floating waterfowl, too silhouetted to identify but looking like a loon to me. It disappeared underwater before I had a chance to refocus, but when it reappeared I shot a few frames as it flapped momentarily, turned surreal by the light angle on the water.

unidentified waterfowl flapping on the surface
I could have saved this or the dead tree for the end of the month abstract, but using them now just puts a little pressure on me to shoot some more this month – I’ve had the camera out twice so far, but finding almost nothing of interest, so the most successful outing this year has been shooting an illustration for a book review. Sheesh.

As I mentioned, I was able to find Jupiter in those same skies, and this told me I was searching in the right location, because Jupiter was above and just slightly right of where the moon was. But even with this help, I got nothing, and my few shots of Jupiter were just a wee bit out of focus, so not worth showing here – all you would have seen would be a pale spot anyway.

The sky went indigo, and I switched back to a wider lens for a quick setting shot, leaving the long lens on the tripod for atmosphere.

post-sunset sky over Jordan Lake, NC
By the way, Jupiter really is in this frame, but with the wide angle lens, even at full resolution it’s a mere speck, which didn’t carry over into resizing to blog dimensions.

Anyway, I tried, and at least shot something, but not what I was after. I’m not sure the skies could have been much clearer, so I’m going to assume that not far below 1% illuminated is the point where atmospheric glow will overwhelm any chance of spotting a bare crescent. Maybe I should try for moonrise about eight hours from now, when it’ll be 2.7% illuminated…