I was out on the road a little too far from home (where my camera, long lens, and tripod sat) when I spotted the moon rising above the trees – blood red, dim, and of course looking huge. First off, if you know what time the moon rose this morning you may be wondering why I was on the road at that time, but bug off. Anyway, I liked the color but knew it would be unlikely to still be that color by the time I got back, which would only be about twenty minutes, but that’s how it goes. I still figured I’d make the attempt anyway.
The real trouble was, there are a few too many trees around Walkabout Estates, so the effective horizon is higher than it was while seeing the moon out on the road, and I still had to wait another ten minutes before it became fully visible. I did a quick check, and Stellarium plots it at about 7°, though I suspect it’s a little higher than that, but I have no accurate way of determining this yet. One day. Anyway, it was certainly brighter orange by this time, though my exposure makes it seem a little darker than it appeared in person.
Focus could have been a wee bit better, but I wasn’t aiming for fine detail as much this time, especially when the shutter speed was 0.4 seconds, so tripod shake, atmospheric ripple, and even rotation might fudge it a little. The big crater on the terminator, almost dropping into shadow over there to the right, is Clavius, by the way, and we’re 23 years late for having a base there…
Is it my imagination, or does the moon look slightly distorted here, squashed a little? I would have thought it was high enough to overcome the atmospheric distortion that can occur on the horizon.
[Actually, it is my imagination – I just went into GIMP with the circle tool and it matches perfectly. It may only be a factor of both the less-than-half terminator line and my particular crop, slightly favoring the unlit portion that I know is there. Or the brighter lunar highlands at the bottom disguise the curve. Or my glasses might need work. Or I’m old. But while I’m on the subject, the idea of the moon looking huge on the horizon has been kicked around countless times, with multiple potential explanations, but to clarify, it’s just an illusion – the moon is the same size at rise or set than it is overhead, and my various photos at the same magnification maintain this. Partially, it’s thought to be that, in relation to the other things we see near it as it rises, it seems to overwhelm them, especially when we can see things getting smaller with distance – it’s kinda psychological. There’s also the concept that we envision the sky not as a sphere, much less an empty space, but as a flattened bowl, much closer to us overhead than it is out at the edges where the horizon is, so we perceive that the moon is much farther away when low and should be even smaller. We’re weird.]
The session wasn’t slated to last long, however – I could see the cloud cover moving in and it soon started overtaking the moon. When I’d first gone out once I got home and started looking, I thought the clouds might already be obscuring it, but then it appeared over the trees. It remained that way for only fifteen minutes or so before vanishing, which wrapped my session, but hey, a little winter content, and it wasn’t all that cold out there anyway. I really should be over chasing the beavers*, but I’m not psyched for a multi-hour session at the pond, so it’ll wait until later. I know, I know, “Big fat professional nature photographer,” yeah yeah, but if I was getting paid for the pursuit it might be a different matter. Everything has a price – we can deal.
* hur hur hur… oh shut up