Catch the new moon! (and other celestial objects)


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Jul 30, 2010
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On February 23, the moon will be 1 day new, and will be about 18 degrees above the horizon when the sun sets. It should be about 1% illuminated, so will show a very narrow arc. If you are interested in photographing the moon near the horizon, this may be an interesting opportunity. To know exactly where the moon will set, you can use "The Photographer's Ephemeris" downloadable from here: The Photographer's Ephemeris | Plan your shoot. As the moon approaches the horizon, twilight will deepen, but there should still be enough light to show lots of detail in the foreground while catching the moon.

At the same time, you may want to look for Mercury, below the Moon, located about 8 degrees above the horizon, and difficult to see without visual aid (binoculars or telescope). If you do spot it, you'll join an exclusive club. Less than 1% of humans have ever seen Mercury with their own eyes during their lifetime.

Above the Moon, about ten degrees south, and about 15 degrees closer to the zenith, you'll see the planet Venus, shining extremely brightly. Again about the same distance further along, you'll also see Jupiter.

If you are clouded out on February 23, you can spot the Moon the next day, and by this time it will be about 5% illuminated, and be about 28 degrees above the western horizon at sunset. However, it will be past 8 pm EST by the time it gets close to setting, so the horizon will be in the dark.

Happy skygazing!
For some reason I was expecting this post to be about some new Twilight movie.

When I found out it was actually about a new moon, I became more interested. Thanks for the heads up, Griz.

And kudos for not mentioning Twilight. I'm proud of you, buddy. :thumbup:
Thanks for the heads up. I can't stand the movies but photographing the vamps with high powered flash would be interesting what with the sparkles and all. :lol:
For those not versed in how this works.

When the moon is new it is always very close to the western horizon at sunset. It can't be anywhere else at that time when it's new. If you have good eyes you can see the sliver of the new Moon earlier in the day when it is higher in the sky.

By the same token, a full Moon at sunset is always very close to the eastern horizon, and can't be anywhere else at that time of the day.

As more of the Moon gets less new and more of it is sunlit, it gets higher in the sky above the horizon at sunset until it is full and near the eastern horizon.

The far side of the Moon we never see from Earth, is often called the 'dark' side of the Moon, even though it gets just as much sunlight as the side we can see. In fact, when we see a new Moon, most of the Moon's far side is sunlit.

Consider what a series of photos of the Moon, all taken from the exact same location just before sunset a few days apart and then combined would look like.
The "Sky and Telescope" website is running a page on this. see:Wednesday's Mercury-Moon Challenge - Homepage Observing -

That will be tomorrow (Wednesday Feb.22, 2012), and easier to see on Thursday, Feb.23, 2012. The further west you are, the further is the Moon in its orbit at sunset, and therefore it will be slightly higher relative to the sun. If the sky is clear, I plan to try and catch the Moon tomorrow and Thursday.
How exciting! I'm gonna give it a go even though my lens is probably not good enough! Thanks for the info :)
How do you shoot the moon/sky? Are there any tricks for settings?
Use the forum search feature and search for threads started by astrostu. One of his threads is all about that.

There are no tricks, you use the same old principles of photography.
Stuart's PDF, referenced by Bossy, above, is an excellent guide for shooting the moon. However, when photographing the new moon very close to the horizon, you will probably want to balance your exposure to get some detail in the ground along the horizon, while making sure that the sky is not overexposed. The moon, especially when so new, will barely be visible, and it's the sky/ground exposure that will make the image. Given that, you may want to think about positioning yourself so that the horizon detail is interesting. If you have a choice of places to shoot from, you may want to use the Photographer's Ephemeris (referenced in my OP) to locate youself where the moon will be close to a prominent or interesting landmark on the horizon. This photographic opportunity is less about photographing the moon (since you will get virtually no detail on it given that only a thin cresent will be visible), and more about finding an appropriate spot to juxtapose the thin cresent against something interesting on the horizon.

This post is brought to you by the word "horizon" and the letter "P". ;) :lol:
Missed the moon last night but Mercury sure is bright orange/red this morning.
Missed the moon last night but Mercury sure is bright orange/red this morning.

:lol: Um, we call that the "sun". Had a late night? ;)
pgriz said:
:lol: Um, we call that the "sun". Had a late night? ;)

Lol. Had a coworker make the same comment. :)

No sun at 5:30am in my neck of the woods :)
Dang. Clouded/rained out. Anyone have better results?

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