Thursday, February 21, 2008
Yesterday was my birthday but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. We had an evening full of the detritus of suburban living lined up but they all got canceled when a few snow flakes showed up and sent school officials scurrying for cover. Instead we ordered pizza, bought an ice cream cake and invited another family over.
After two glasses of wine and five shots of amaretto (it would have been rude not to drink my birthday presents), we were reminded that there was a lunar eclipse. Just after the peak, I went out with my camera and decided to take a few shots with my new camera. Here was the first attempt:
Eschewing any tripod, I decided to instead use a handy lamppost to steady myself. This picture which has a star or planet or something on either side of the moon is much better:
And this one, brightened a little with photoshop magic, is the best of the bunch:
Edwin Hubble is spinning in his grave at my ineptness and the fine folks at NASA have no fear of me working their turf. The only constellation I can identify is Orion’s Belt and other than the three stars that make it up, I have no idea where the rest of Orion is.
Over the years I have been suckered into either getting up very early or staying up too late to see some vague phenomenon that is usually underwhelming. That includes comets, meteor showers, lunar eclipses, and various planetary syzygies.
When I had a dog to walk late at night and in the pre-dawn morning, the planetary alignments were the most interesting because they usually lasted for days or weeks and I could see the minor shifts over time. And the planets are about the only astronomical objects that can be reliably seen through the eastern seaboard light pollution.
The only time I have been genuinely impressed was in the mid-80s when a true solar eclipse hit Atlanta. I was working a co-op job and all my fellow students had built little science fair viewing boxes or borrowed welding helmets from the shop. The sky briefly got late twilight dark and all the birds stopped chirping.
The ancient people were much more in tune with the rhythms of the night. Predicting astronomical events was a ticket to power. But in our modern world star gazing is just another eccentric geeky hobby along the lines of trainspotting or Civil War re-enacting. Anyone that takes it seriously is viewed as just a little out of kilter. Much like my drunken astronomical snapshots.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What have you been impressed by in the sky?