Thursday, January 31, 2008

Operation Moonpie

The genesis of this idea actually lies in an image I saw sometime back in the pages of Sky & Telescope magazine. Someone had taken two images of the Moon at perigee and apogee and placed them side by side, thus showing the size difference (slight though it may sometimes be). It was pretty interesting and something I have been wanting to do ever since. Thus the beginning of Operation Moonpie.
For this task, I have a number of cameras at my disposal. The most obvious choice was one of my CMOS cameras, but finding a telescope that was capable of capturing the whole disk of the Moon (as opposed to, say, a closeup) proved to be daunting, so I decided to enlist my ancient (relatively speaking) Sensortech B&W CCTV camera with zoom lens. This has been employed before in capturing video of lunar eclipses and constellation shots. The Moon isn't particularly big, covering around half the usable screen size, but it should be large enough at maximum zoom.
To capture the image, my trusty PowerMac 5260 "Sofia" is to be employed. As usual, I'll use my Vagabond Mobile Observatory 1 setup; a large, plastic portable workbench with wheels.
I was supposed to have grabbed my first image (Moon at apogee) this morning at 6:00am. However, nature proved to be unkind, covering the sky with a thick layer of clouds. I will have another chance soon; the Moon will be at perigee on the evening of the 14th February, 2008, Valentine's Day. So, young lovers, harken if you will that big, beautiful Moon, hanging up there in the firmament at a mere 230,041 miles (370,215 km) distance, appearing larger for this special night. Two weeks later, the apogee shot (251,308 miles / 404,441 km) on the 28th. Come on, nature... need clear skies!
Finally, what does the Moonpie stand for anyway?
Nothing. I just like Moonpies.

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