Witt’s End

It's Not About Stories People Tell, It's About …

Well, it’s time for the Strawberry Moon—always something to look forward to. It’s the last full moon of spring or the first full moon of summer. This year it’s the former since June 3 is the day. This full moon (as with others) has any number of names. In this case, because its appearance is close to when wild strawberries ripen, not because of its color. Other names for this moon include the Hot Moon and the Honey Moon, not to be confused with a hot honeymoon.

The moon will be positioned low in the sky, and have a warmer appearance. The reason being, the moon needs to be directly opposite the sun to be full, and at this time of the year, when we’re pointed at the sun, the atmosphere is carrying a lot of moisture and pollutants that enhance the colors. A cool piece of astro trivia is that it will appear at approximately the same point in the sky where the sun will be in six months, or where it was six months ago.

Luna will appear full between Friday, June 3, through Monday, June 6. Get out and enjoy. Through binoculars or a small telescope, it will be quite bright. It won’t hurt your eyes, however, to see more detail, wear sunglasses to cut the glare. Yeah, neighbors will think you’re a bit “loony”, but that’s their loss.

A note about these two images: I’ve been experimenting with some new software and filters for astronomy and made these last night. The first closeup is not a true representation, but the color says strawberry. I left it tat color in post processing. The second image is made from a stack of about 20% of 2000 images registered and stacked in ASI stacking software, with post processing in LightRoom Classic. Both images made with an Explore Scientific 80ED triplet scope, AVX mount, and ASI224 camera.

It was a grey and stormy morning–a neoclassic nor’easter. Wind coming at us straight from Greenland made the high tide even higher, but not tidier. It was the kind of morning when a second, or third, cup of coffee sounds like a good plan. On the other hand, if you have film developer still running through your veins from 50 years ago, the more harsh the conditions the more you feel the need to go out and see what’s what. As one of my heroes, Robert Capa, noted, if your pictures are no good you’re not close enough. Of course, he did die in Viet Nam when he stepped on a landmine.

Such was the case this morning in Annisquam, Massachusetts. I watched the waves for a bit and said, “I gotta get out there.” That was met with a resounding, “Don’t go out there on those slippery rocks!” I figured, better do it now before I’m too old. Others were thinking, “He’s too old to be doing this shit.”

Using my hand-held weather station, I clocked the wind at a steady twenty mpg, making the wind chill factor thirty-four degrees. Perfect. About 150 photos later, here are some results. I’m busy thawing my fingers, now.

We’re currently spending a week + on the east coast, Cape Ann, to be precise. We make this an annual trip to mooch a week of hospitality from our friend Cindy, in return for which we do all the things real tourists do not do–like lots of birding. On our spring visits the hope is that warbler migration will be in full force and we’ll find something special. Okay, they’re all special, however, like ice cream, some flavors are more special than others.

Anyway, this year we visited a new (to us) birding venue, the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. We started with high hopes of seeing the illusive Ipswich Sparrow, a subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow. Spoiler alert: We did not find it–hard to believe. We (Susan and our friend Cindy) had a great time, nonetheless. We covered only a bit more than a mile and a half of the twelve mile hiking trails and saw twenty species (a bad day birding is still better than your best day at work), and they were friendly birds.

While I had a hard time finding them, Susan had them eating out of her hand.

It was a bright and hazy night (I’ve always wanted to use that line). The mission (should I choose to accept) is to image the International Space Station as it plows into the moon. Reliable data from the National Aeronautics Space Administration indicates its path is on prefect trajectory, west northwest to southeast, to intercept the moon, beginning at 8:47 DST (daylight stupid time).

Well, it seems that someone, either the folks driving the ISS or whoever controls the movement of the moon, were a bit off track. With my trusty assistant, Les, and his new camera that is secondarily a cell phone, we watched ISS smoothly move along and miss the moon by several thousand miles. This is good and bad news.

To get this image I stacked 50 images (really only needed about half that many) and used a couple different stacking programs. The lesson here, is, putting the same data into different programs yields different results. Or, garbage in, garbage out. The first image is from the usual stacking program. The fact that ISS presents as a dashed line does not mean “cut here.” The spaces are the fraction of time between exposures. Note how the line stops, for no known reason. The second image I created by putting the same data into the program for imaging comets. Why? Because I could and wanted to see what would happen. Note how the damn contrails are sharper (the moon less so), the image of ISS varies in brightness, and the whole path of ISS is recorded. On the lower right side you can see the constellation of Orion (at least his belt and sword). These images were made with my Nikon D7500 and 10mm ultra wide angle lens. I think the difference of light intensity in the second image is probably accurate. The space station rotates and light is not reflected equally from all sides.

The third image is your bonus for staying with me through all this. It’s a nightscape shot with Orion in the lower center. And, of course, we got photo-bombed by an airplane. The bright star at the lower left is Siris, brightest in the sky.

Here’s a little (actually really big) thing to brighten your day. I have some new gear and new software I’ve been waiting to try, however, the sky at night has been less than cooperative. Yesterday I opted to use our favorite star for practice. I know, the composition sucks and the focusing could use a bit of help, too. Those black specs you’re looking at are all part of a rash of flares and eruptions on the sun, any one of which could swallow several planets the size of Earth. Final image created from a stack of several thousand individual images.

So, in case you’ve forgotten what the sun looks like, here ya go. Let’s hope for clear skies, soon.