Shooting the Moon

Back when I was, oh, about ten years old, my parents got me a telescope for Christmas. It was a 60mm Tasco refractor with a zooming eyepiece and a tripod with one of those U-mounts for the telescope itself. This was fine for my astronomical endeavors at the time, checking out the moon, seeing (barely) that Saturn did indeed have rings, and the stars of the Pleiades. I remember evenings where my father and I would be out taking turns having a look at things, and the occasional visit from Lamar Philpot, who had more astronomical lore. And that telescope went with Diane and I around the country, only in the general chaos surrounding this last move did I let go and send it off to Goodwill.

I think I tried to hook up a camera to the Tasco telescope once or twice, and not doing too well concerning getting good images out. The problems of inexpensive refractors came to the fore in those efforts, chromatic aberration especially.

But I haven’t lost a certain fondness for stargazing, so when I was driving to work one day last week, I noticed that someone had a not insubstantial telescope out on the lawn with a “for sale” sign on it. So I dropped by and had a look. It was an older model Meade telescope, an MTS-SN6, or 6″ Schmidt-Newtonian (not exactly certain of the terminology on that; go easy on me). For the telescope with two eyepieces, finder scope, equatorial mount, and tripod, the owner wanted $150. So that’s essentially a 750mm f/5 bit of optical hardware. Given the crop factor on my camera, that would give me a field of view like an 1125mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera.

After discussing it with Diane and checking on the availability of camera adapters, I went back and closed the sale. I sent off an order for the adapter, and that arrived yesterday. So did severe weather, so things were quite overcast and drizzly last night.

However, things cleared tonight, and I was able to make a foray in the backyard with the telescope and my Nikon D2Xs camera. I have here an exposure taken of that first step for many in astronomical observations, the moon.

moon 7682 ws

ISO 100, 1/250th second exposure. For those of you who weren’t expecting a short exposure time, the thing to note is that the moon is a sunlit object, so proper exposure is going to be similar to an exposure that one might make in daylight of terrestrial subjects. I don’t recall exactly what orientation I had the camera, and I haven’t corrected the angle in the image.

I still have some issues. Best focus for the object of interest does not seem to coincide with what looks focused in the viewfinder of the camera. That’s annoying. I ended up taking a series of images shifting focus slightly between each by slide the adapter into and out of the sleeve, then picking an image that was appreciably better than its neighbors. I had tried a test when I was rained out yesterday, aiming the telescope into the kitchen from across the breezeway and garage and taking pictures of some of the stuff on the side of the refrigerator. I know that there is some resolution available from this rig that I’m not quite accessing when shooting the moon. But I think it is a fairly promising start.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

One thought on “Shooting the Moon

  • 2007/08/25 at 10:23 pm
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    First light! There has to be some astronomical ceremony associated with that, no? :)

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