Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Moon Occults Regulus, 3rd November 2007

On the morning of the 3rd November, 2007, there was a challenging event that took place in the skies over the southern United States and part of the Americas; the Moon occulted the star Regulus in the constellation Leo. For many, this was not too much of an issue, since many points in the midwest and further were still in darkness. Here in Jacksonville, though, it would be occurring at sunrise.
Based upon the information I had on hand, this was going to be tough. I was pretty sure that it would be visible with binoculars and even just barely naked eye. But, I wanted to try and catch it on video. Based upon my experience with the VCR, though, I figured I'd see what sort of still images I could grab. For this, I used my Supercircuits CMOS camera fitted to my Meade 60mm (on an alt/az mount) telescope, "Spindrift".

I also opted to use my Samsung SCC-4201 for wide angle shots.

At 7:00am EDT, I had all of my equipment outside; the VMO-1 with my Power Macintosh 5260/100 "Sofia", "Spindrift" carrying the CMOS camera, and my Samsung, "Sammy". I grabbed my first few images between 7:10 and 7:12, switching between the two cameras.

Notice the bottom image on the left, taken with Sammy at 32 frames integration; you can actually see "Earthshine" lighting the Moon's shadowed section.

Even though it doesn't show, the sky was now medium blue. The contrast was making it appear darker in the cameras.

The first thirty minutes of any occultation are fairly uninteresting. I used this time to grab images and fine focus both instruments (for instance, the automatic focus feature on Sammy was turned off and had to be reset). At 7:31, it was time to begin recording the final series of images. Sammy obtained the following image as Spindrift was fine focused.

The sky was now brightening up significantly, but due to the CMOS camera's built in gamma correction (automatically adjusting for brightness and contrast), it still looks almost black. I started taking images with Spindrift and the CMOS camera alone. I collected almost 20, but these three pretty much summed it up, starting at 7:31, then 7:35 and finally 7:40...

Going, going, gone.
I could have waited the almost half hour to record the Moon's finishing its obscuring of Regulus, but instead decided to pack it in. It would probably have been too bright anyway.
Still, it was a wonderful way to test out my equipment and make the best of what I have. And for what I have, I am truly thankful.

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