December Full Moon rising

posted: 2407 days ago, on Wednesday, 2010 Dec 22 at 10:46
tags: astronomy, astrophotography, Moon, atmospheric phenomena.

Yesterday's Full Moon, rising behind the three wind turbines at Klipheuwel (some 27km from Stellenbosch).

Hermann Swart and I, in a quest to produce something vaguely similar to Anthony Ayiomamtis' gorgeous images, decided to attempt a moonrise photo over the three-bladed wind turbines that are a prominent feature along the R304.

First we had to calculate exactly where to set up. The Moon's azimuth at rise would be 61, and with the help of pilot-friend Cillie we figured that my ancient military compass would have to read a bearing of 84.

Next, we wanted the Moon to be about the same size as one of the blades of the turbine. But how long are those blades? From an earlier photo of the turbines, and an assumption of how big a cow is, we worked out that the blade is around 19m long. To get a 19m blade to be half-a-degree in angular size, we would have to be around 2.2km away.

Having both distance and direction, it was a simple matter to fire up Google Earth and identify a spot: about 500m down "Radio Road" (which runs parallel to the R304).

We arrived there early and scouted the area. A series of compass bearings on the turbines allowed us to mark a spot that was roughly "it". The low cloud along the horizon was troubling - we might not see the Moon until it was too high. Undaunted, we waited. The time of Moon rise came and went, and we anxiously scanned the horizon for the first sign of the lunar disc, realizing that it was rapidly gaining altitude and would be out of shot in short time.

A yell from Hermann announced the appearance of the leading crescent of the Moon. Our alignment was close. Grabbing the equipment we dashed some 20 metres down the road and started shooting. Despite the cloud ruining the shot, it was enormous fun and a valuable experience.

Plans for the first Full Moon rise of 2011 are forming. Perhaps we'll catch the giant lunar orb rising over the Taalmonument in Paarl.

The day before, we attempted a time lapse of the Moon rising; the image above is one of the frames from the sequence.

nothing more to see. please move along.