Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Moon

As you can see from the incredibly creative title of this post, today we'll be talking about the moon. Not just any moon, but earth's moon. We love our moon so much, we didn't even bother to give it a real name and just call it "The Moon." It's kind of like naming your dog, "Dog." But whatever, I guess it gets the job done.

If you've read this far, you're now probably expecting some amazing little known science facts about our nearest heavenly neighbor, or maybe some comical old superstitions or moon hoaxes. Nope! Instead, I'm going to make you look at a picture. (Click the images for full size)
The Moon - Taken with Canon T3i + Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f3.5
Notes: 210mm and 2X extender, plus 3X "lossless" center crop, f22, ISO 1600
Shot as 1080p video @ 30fps - image is about 100 stacked frames
I wanted to test out my camera and lens and see how close I could come to duplicating an amazing picture by NASA of the Moon and the International Space Station. Yes, I do realize that my picture happens to be missing the amazing part, which is the ISS. But other than that, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Here is a comparison:
NASA on the left  ----  Mythik on the right
Oooh, darned your budget, NASA! My pic pales in comparison. But... It was my first try, and NASA took their pic when the Moon was in a different phase, which makes better shadows for much better details. My Moon was nearly full, which makes it look a lot more flat. (Is it just me or does that last sentence seem a bit odd?)

Now, the whole point of this isn't to show off the fact that I can aim a camera at a giant celestial body in the sky and snap a pic. Instead, the point is to show you what you can do, if you are interested.

I used a Canon T3i and a 30+ year old lens I bought from Goodwill for about 50 bucks and a $10 adaptor to make the old lens fit the camera. One cool thing about the T3i is a feature that can zoom the image when you are shooting HD 1080p video. Through some kind of magi-tech process, it does this allegedly without any loss of quality at 3X. I also used a 2X extender that came with the lens. So the total focal length ended up being 210mm X 2 X 3 = 1260mm! That's fairly close to the NASA photog's 600mm lens plus a 2X extender. Ha, I'm pretty sure their 600mm lens cost more than 50 bucks, though. Ok, before I get too smirky, here is a frame from the video I shot:
What?? Frame from 1080p video before processing.
What?? Here's the scoop: There were whispy clouds that night, and the seeing wasn't very good. Seeing is when the atmosphere "boils" and causes things in the sky to look blurry. But it changes from moment to moment, so one second it might be clear, then the next second it is more blurry. So I exported the video to a sequence of 150 frames and processed them with a program called Keith's Image Stacker. This program is awesome and free! It allows you to cull out the blurry frames, and it "stacks" the good frames, which equalizes the brightness and lowers the noise and enhances the details and a ton of other cool things. Then you can sharpen the detail and voila:

So if you like photography or astronomy or both, give it a try. All you need is a video capable DSLR, an old lens (or a new one,) a tripod and some free software. Here's my setup:
T3i + Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f3.5 circa 1979
Also check out M Pax at Wistful Nebulae who works at a real observatory in the summers and takes cool astro photos. Thanks for the inspiration M Pax!

So, who here likes looking up at night?


  1. When I was a kid my dad bought a high powered telescope, and we spent many summer nights looking at the moon. Best science class I ever took :)

    Those look great.


    1. Well i guess its all the cleanliness of camera.I think you should be applauded for your efforts in bringing out the picture of moon similar to NASA's.It must have been very stressful for you.

  2. Thanks Donna & roofers!

    Yep, I think if more people had a chance to look at the universe through a telescope (or even eyeballs) the world would be a better place :)

  3. Ooo. Moon photos. Like the camera set up. I got a new camera for Christmas. I'll need to get a camera mount for the telescope and some other stuff. A techno gizmo thingy. And, Eric & I are hoping the new camera at the observatory is working this year. I just wish I could really capture what I see. Probably never will. The camera and the eye do not see the same in the dark.

    Awesome photos.

    Thanks for the shoutout.

  4. Very nice! I'm sure you could use the Latin or Greek name if you'd like something more exotic than moon (of course, it'd still be moon just in a different language... :P).

  5. @M Pax - I can't wait till you mount your camera to your telescope. That should be pretty cool. The last I remember, your observatory scope went "clunk!" and then stopped working. I hope it got fixed! I agree that pics are great but not like seeing it for real.

    @Lindsay - Ha, yep I suppose so. You made me Google it! Here are the results: Latin is Luna (of course) and Greek is Selene, which is kind of cool. So on the next full moon, you can say "Up there is Selene, shining brightly down upon us and turning people everywhere into werewolves."