Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lunar Vistas

Monday night was extremely quiet up at the Vis and I'd run out of stuff to do, so I took the opportunity to do a little astrophotography. Monday night was also the day before the Full Moon, however, and it was a bit too late to feasibly bring out the imaging telescope, so I decided to try something I'd never done before: connecting my camera directly to a telescope and taking pictures with it.

Now, I've taken pictures through a telescope with my camera before, but not the same way. Before, I put the camera to the lens of the eyepiece and took a picture, but Monday night I used a special connecting piece to attach my camera directly in place of the eyepiece, which has several advantages. For one thing, it's one fewer set of lenses for the light to pass through and attenuate before reaching the CCD chip, and for another, it allows me to take much longer images because I no longer have to worry about holding the camera steady because it's attached to the telescope.

Anyway, since the Moon was out and nearly full, I decided to turn my new camera-with-extremely-powerful-zoom-lens assembly on it and take some pictures. Once I figured out the correct exposure, the resulting images blew me away with their clarity and detail. I couldn't see the entire Moon due to the narrow field of view of the camera + telescope setup, so I had the idea to do one of the things I do well and put together a panorama of the Moon's surface. I took pictures all over the Moon's disk, then stitched them together by hand to get the picture that you see below.

Our glorious Moon. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

North in this picture is roughly to the upper-right, so this picture represents what you would typically see from the northern hemisphere. The slight bulge at the bottom-right is an unavoidable side-effect of the fact that I only got a few pictures of that region, and they contained subtly different perspectives. I was able to fix such perspective problems on the rest of the disk by using multiple photos, but that section by chance only had one or two photos covering it. Altogether this picture is composed of 10 separate exposures.

You can't see many shadows in this picture due to it being lunar high noon on the side facing us but if you look at the upper-left side you can see just a hint of shading, evidence that the Moon was still a day from being full.

Finally, I'd just like to note that this is the first time I've actually connected my camera (a Nikon DSLR) to a telescope and used it for astrophotography in the six years since I got it. That was one of the original reasons I got a DSLR in the first place, instead of just a point-and-shoot, so I was gratified that I was finally able to fulfill one of the purposes I had in mind for it when I got it.


  1. AWRIGHT! Looking good!

    Maybe the next time I volunteer you can teach me how to hook up a telescope to my camera. I would very much like to take better pictures of the Milky Way Galaxy, if that's possible.

  2. That is an awesome combination of science, technology and art. Very cool. - Jennie E.

  3. Awesome Daniel! I am looking to get a good camera as well, and this is one of the things I am interested in doing with it! You will have to show me the ropes.


Think I said something interesting or insightful? Let me know what you thought! Or even just drop in and say "hi" once in a while - I always enjoy reading comments.