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Archive for November, 2010

Waning gibbous Moon (nearly Last Quarter), 6:33 AM CST 11-28-10 (12:33 UTC)
32.65′ angular diameter, 54% illumination, shining through thin clouds

Got to disappear into my cave once again and complete my Dead Sea Scrolls paper due in one week, so this is my last post for eight days. See you on the other side!

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on November 11, 2010:

Here are three important life lessons I’ve learned, mostly the hard way:

First, a lesson about facing difficulties. Lots of people mistake difficult things for impossible things, because they both feel the same: they both feel difficult! But difficult things are every bit as possible as easy things, they’re just more difficult! What you feel may not be real. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13 NKJV

Second, a lesson about anger. Some anger is justified, because some things that happen to us or others are truly wrong and unjust. But I’ve learned that righteous anger can still be very dangerous, because it’s easier for us to justify carrying a grudge. But a grudge that started when we were in the right is just as much a grudge as one that started when we were in the wrong. Related to that, when some people are in the right about something, they take it as a license to behave like jerks. This happens often on the road, for example. I think many people who have “road rage” had a legitimate grievance to begin with, but in response they let their pent-up anger make them dangerous. “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” Ephesians 4:26 ESV. There’s a place for anger, but it’s a very narrow and shortlived place, to be followed immediately by constructive action and leaving it in God’s hands.

Third, a lesson about patience: If we think we only have to be patient with reasonable delays, we’re not really patient. Truly patient people are patient with the unreasonable delays as well. Impatience is a strange thing: it makes us think that being impatient will speed things up, but it’s generally the opposite. I’ve caused many unnecessary delays for myself by being impatient. Being impatient is like speeding to the gas station because you only have a few drops of gasoline left, and you’re trying to get there before you run out of gas! You’re really just going to make yourself run out of gas sooner! “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience” Galatians 5:22 ESV.

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Lots to catch up on from this week! First, a lunar mini-series beginning with Sunday’s Full “Blue” Moon:

10:21 PM CST 11-21-10 (4:21 UTC 11-22-10)
31.35′ angular diameter, 99.7% illumination

6:21 AM CST 11-23-10 (12:21 UTC)
31.56′ angular diameter, 96.5% illumination

7:32 AM CST 11-25-10 (13:32 UTC)
32.08′ angular diameter, 83.9% illumination

9:47 AM CST 11-27-10 (15:47 UTC)
32.34′ angular diameter, 63.6% illumination
One thing I like about the waning Moon is that it’s still there even when I sleep later!

Next, a brief “Venus Update.” For previous Venus updates, click here.

12:40 PM CDT (17:40 UTC), November 5, 2010
Angular diameter 59.94 arc seconds
2.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 25,866,740 miles (41,628,483 km)
6:35 AM CST November 23, 2010 (12:35 UTC)
Angular diameter 47.81 arc seconds
16.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,427,864 miles (52,187,588 km)
Venus photography generally works better in the daytime, as in the dark its apparent “thickness” gets exaggerated by its intense brightness.
10:02 AM CST November 27, 2010 (16:02 UTC)
Angular diameter 44.72 arc seconds
20.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 34,669,885 miles (55,795,771 km)

Finally, here’s a view of Saturn, in the same format as my “Venus Updates” and on the same apparent scale:

6:43 AM CST November 23, 2010 (12:43 UTC)
Angular diameter 16.20 arc seconds
99.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 949,689,140 miles (1,528,376,520 km)

All with 8″ f8 homebuilt reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, and LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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10:21 PM CST 11-21-10 (4:21 UTC 11-22-10)
Angular diameter 31.35 arc minutes
99.7% illumination, 10 hours and 54 minutes after maximum full phase

I was pleasantly surprised by the chance to see the “Blue Moon” after all, as the clouds thinned for awhile on Sunday evening. Crater detail may be seen along the Moon’s eastern limb, showing that the waning half of the month has begun.

One minute later I took this photo in “Blue Moon” mode just for fun! The clouds were already starting to move in again.

I spent so much time trying for the perfect shot of the Moon that I nearly missed out on photographing Jupiter, which was shining brightly early on, but almost obscured by clouds when I turned my attention toward it.

Here’s Jupiter at 10:33 PM CDT 11-21-10 (4:33 UTC 11-22-10). Clouds had obscured the Galilean Moons at that point, but, look carefully at this photo and you can see a hint of the North Equatorial Belt from about “10 o’clock” to about “3 o’clock” on Jupiter’s disk (I flipped it so North is on top). Rarely have I captured any hints of atmospheric detail on Jupiter, but the cloudy sky subdued Jupiter’s light enough to show a little more contrast. In other words, Earth’s clouds helped reveal Jupiter’s clouds!

Of course, if you really want to see atmospheric detail on Jupiter, I’d recommend that you visit Christopher Go’s website, where he’s posting dazzling pictures of Jupiter all the time, including signs as of late that the South Equatorial Belt is getting ready to reappear. My low-budget cell phone astrophotography is pretty good for things like watching the Galilean Moons orbiting, but not too good for capturing detail on Jupiter, which is too bad, because Jupiter’s largest atmospheric bands can be seen easily visually even with a small telescope.

This early morning I woke up to a surprise – once again the Moon was visible in the west, as well as Saturn and Venus in the east! I thought for sure that I was going to be able to capture two more planets and more of the Moon. But by the time I had my astro-gear set up the clouds had moved in once again! Such is the life of the astronomer.

All photos with 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece, and LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Photos clickable for larger view.

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No, the Moon doesn’t really look blue like this at any time, nor did I take this picture today! I took this picture at 4:36 AM CDT last September 22, 2010 (9:36 UTC), and this is what came out when I was playing with the “aqua” setting on my cell phone camera. The Moon was almost, but not quite full that night. But since today’s Full Moon is called a Blue Moon by an old reckoning, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to bring this picture out! By this reckoning, if there are four Full Moons within one season, the third is called a Blue Moon. If you’re wondering why the upcoming December 21 Full Moon isn’t the first one of Winter, it’s because it squeaks in just hours before the solstice, making it the last one of four in Autumn.

More about the Blue Moon at Journey To the Stars and at Yahoo! News.

Alas, persistent clouds have been hampering astronomy at my point on the terrestrial globe, and show no signs of letting up, so I will miss the “Blue Moon” this time, alas. But I’ll be happy if the weather cooperates for the next Full Moon on December 21, since it features a Total Lunar Eclipse ideally timed for my locale! (UPDATE: I just fixed that link, so it goes to the NASA info about the upcoming eclipse, just as I originally intended.)

UPDATE: The clouds parted after all! Stop back for a new post about this weekend’s observations.

No Blue Moon celebration is complete without Rogers & Harts’ classic song. Here’s my favorite version, the one by The Marcels:

I almost forgot – as usual, my Moon picture was taken with the 8″ f8 homebuilt reflector, 25mm eyepiece, and LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Usually I use the “black and white” or “natural” color settings, but just for fun I might use the “aqua” setting “once in a blue moon” …

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Here is a series of eleven lunar photos taken October 15 – November 4, 2010, with the Moon’s apparent angular diameter given in minutes of arc. Each photo may be clicked for a larger version. Explanatory notes follow.


11:56 PM CDT 10-15-10 (4:56 UTC 10-16-10)
29.82′ angular diameter
60mm refractor, 17mm eyepiece


10:25 PM CDT 10-16-10 (3:25 UTC 10-17-10)
29.80′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece


12:04 AM CDT (5:04 UTC) 10-19-10
29.75′ angular diameter
60mm refractor, 17mm eyepiece


11:44 PM CDT 10-19-10 (4:44 UTC 10-20-10)
29.88′ angular diameter
60mm refractor, 17mm eyepiece


5:39 AM CDT (10:39 UTC) 10-21-10
29.76′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece


6:04 AM CDT (11:04 UTC) 10-22-10
29.99′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece


11:50 PM CDT 10-22-10 (4:50 UTC 10-23-10)
30.44′ angular diameter
60mm refractor, 17mm eyepiece


6:19 AM CDT (11:19 UTC) 10-29-10
32.22′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece


6:46 AM CDT (11:46 UTC) 11-1-10
32.92′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece


8:10 AM CDT (13:10 UTC) 11-3-10
33.07′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece


7:20 AM CDT (12:20 UTC) 11-4-10
32.86′ angular diameter
8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece

The Moon reached apogee close to the time of the 10-19-10 photos, resulting in the smallest angular diameter at that time. The Moon reached perigee close to the time of the 11-3-10 photo, and once again began to recede from the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Perigee is now happening earlier in the lunation than in September and October, when the Moon was approaching perigee while in the thin crescent phase just before New Moon.

Reflector photos were taken with the homebuilt reflector telescope with 8″ mirror and 64″ focal length. Refractor photos were taken with the Meade refractor telescope with 60mm lens and 700mm focal length. As always, they’re all taken with my trusty LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Each photo is to the same scale on this page, but when images are clicked, reflector photos expand to 880×880, refractor photos to 557×557, since the reflector with 25mm eyepiece yields about 65x magnification, but the refractor with 17mm eyepiece yields about 41x magnification.
Observant readers will see that refractor photos are usually around midnight, usually taken “on the fly” after I get home from work, usually while walking the dog! Reflector photos are generally taken either in the early morning or on weekend evenings, much better times for lugging the 95-pound brute around.

I will keep on doing these lunar series posts whenever I can, partly because it’s fun and interesting, and partly to document the fact that, regardless of wild rumors floating around, nothing out of the ordinary is happening to the Moon’s orbit! I lack the sophisticated telescope and photo equipment that some have, but my equipment is plenty powerful enough to document what’s happening up there, and serve as a reality check against sensationalism.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22 ESV

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Here’s an illustration I put together of how large the Moon, Venus, Jupiter (with the four Galilean moons) and Saturn look when viewed through the telescope. I can come up with the dates, times, and exact apparent sizes if you’d like, but this gives you a quick idea of what you would actually see through the telescope, and how large it would appear. Each picture was taken at about 65x magnification with my 8″ f8 homebuilt reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, and LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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