h1

A Cheshire Cat on the moon

November 21, 2010

It’s been an interesting week.

I got a new scope…

That was sort of by accident. I really wanted the mount for my 5″ reflector, because it’s a bit too heavy for my current mount and tripod. Orion sells that mount as the VersaGo II for $199, but right now OPT has the SkyWatcher-branded version of that mount, the AZ4, and a nice 80mm refractor with finder and eyepieces for the same price. So by going through OPT I essentially got the scope and accessories for free. I originally planned on selling off the scope, but I keep hearing about people falling in love with the crisp views through refractors (which unlike reflectors and catadioptric scopes have no central obstruction), so I decided I’d give this one a fair shake before I got rid of it.

I’m glad I did. It’s a keeper–it has very sharp optics, gives a nice, clean, contrasty image, and is very fun and easy to use. It doesn’t pull down as much light as my bigger scopes, but it’s easier to handle and it cools down in no time, which is a big plus at this time of year. (One  of the biggest sources of image distortion at the eyepiece is heat waves coming off lenses and mirrors that haven’t reached ambient temperature.) Frequent commenter David DeLano has this scope as well, and he warned me that if I wanted to sell it, I shouldn’t look through it, because I’d get hooked. You called that one right, David!

I gave it a name, too. Some people name their scopes and some people don’t. I also talk to myself and to inanimate objects when I’m alone, and I suspect that those traits are highly correlated with naming scopes. Anyway, there’s a bit of back story behind this one. When I was a kid, my cousin Michael had a good friend, also named Michael, who was quite a bit taller than he was. They felt dumb calling each other by their own name, so my cousin Michael dubbed the taller one “Shorty Long”, and tall Michael retaliated by calling my cousin “Stubby Fats”. That’s never ceased to crack me up. And now I’ve got two shiny black SkyWatcher scopes that will be sharing a mount, one a long skinny refractor and the other a short fat reflector, so it made sense to name them Shorty Long and Stubby Fats.

With the moon and Jupiter both high and bright in the evenings this week, it didn’t pay to go after fainter fare, and I hadn’t put in any serious time on the moon in a long time.

Tuesday the moon was waxing gibbous. I got this shot through Shorty Long with my Coolpix 4500:

It doesn’t show everything there was to see. Sinus Iridium, the Bay of Rainbows, is the C-shape, open to the bottom, at the very top of the moon in the above picture; it’s an old impact basin mostly flooded by the later basalt flows that formed the maria or lunar seas. Just past Sinus Iridium I saw a couple of mountain peaks that the sunlight was just reaching, and they glowed like a pair of eyes staring at me from beyond the terminator. Here, I’ll show you:

Kinda spooky lookin’, eh?

It got better. As I stared back, the rising sun (from the perspective of those mountains) lit a couple of lower peaks, below and between the first two, and then a ridge running beneath all of them. It looked for all the world like the face of the Cheshire Cat, with two bright eyes, two nostrils, and a big wide smile. The nostril peaks and the smile ridge were too faint to show up in any of my photos, but a helpful guy on Cloudy Nights produced this image with the Lunar Terminator Visualization Tool (yay, more free astro software!) using my location and the time of the observation:

One of the nostril peaks was too dim to show up even in the LTVT shot, but other than that the face looks pretty much like what I saw Tuesday night. There is even a suggestion of eyebrows.

The peaks turn out to be the aptly named Harbinger Mountains. I asked around on Cloudy Nights and no one has reported seeing the Cheshire Cat “lunarism” before. I’m going to do a little more research on the features involved and report back.

That wasn’t the end of my weird moon adventures for the week. Last night I was back outside for the full moon:

I had basically just gotten set up when I saw a small, perfectly round object float by in front of the moon. I figured it was probably either a weather balloon or a satellite. Turns out that a CN user got video of the thing; the video is now on YouTube, here.

[Almost Immediate Update: the thing in the video is not the same thing I saw, or at least not the same pass, because that video was made about three hours before I made my observation. I just learned that in the CN thread, which is here.]

It’s probably a satellite; another CN user got video of a similar thing flying in front of the sun, and reports seeing them on a regular basis. So don’t get out your tinfoil hats just yet. But do get out and have a look at the moon when you get a chance. As this week has shown, you never know what you might find, even with this closest and most familiar of celestial objects.

Advertisements

15 comments

  1. Sounds like a nice little scope you got there.
    Love the moon photos, never heard or seen of the Cheshire Cat image though, where on the moon did you see this? In my 2 month into astronomy I’ve only briefly glanced at the moon and taken a couple snap shots of it. I need to spend more time with our moon, it really is amazing.
    Great blog, hope you get back into writing more astronomy stuff. Always a great interesting read. In the process of converting my personal blog into one more about astronomy than anything else.


  2. Sorry for the loooong delay in replying. If you look at the first two moon photos, you can see that the second one showing the “eyes” of the Cheshire Cat is a zoom-in to the area just west of Sinus Iridium in Mare Imbrium.

    Thanks for the kind words. I also went through a phase of converting my personal blog into that was more about astronomy than anything else–until eventually I decided I needed a dedicated astronomy blog. Beware, the same fate might overtake you!


  3. […] there would be no place in the vehicle to put a big scope if there was any precipitation. I took Shorty Long and Stubby Fats, my SkyWatcher 80mm refractor and 130mm reflector, and a tripod that fits either one. I set up […]


  4. […] as I need for at least the near future. I found my ultimate no-excuses travel telescope. And I got a couple of nice mid-sized telescopes, both of which turn in good images without breaking either my back or my bank account. I’m […]


  5. […] something I don’t remember ever happening with the 12mm SkyWatcher Plossl that I got with Shorty Long, my 80mm f/11 achromat. That 12mm looks identical to the Orion Sirius line, whereas the eyepieces […]


  6. […] reflector on a homemade mount, a 5″ f/5 reflector (Stubby Fats), and an 80mm f/11 refractor (Shorty Long). These are all fine scopes for showing people stuff in the sky, but not so hot for having to lug […]


  7. […] Matt has shown us through his reports on using “Stubby Fats” in the desert, you can do some serious deep-sky observing with a 130 mm F/5 Newtonian in semi-dark […]


  8. […] 80, just for this project. But lately I’ve been cutting back on scopes–I just sold Shorty Long and Stubby Fats–and I’m loathe to turn around and start piling them up again. The scope is going to […]


  9. […] “Cheshire Cat” on the moon […]


  10. Similarly, I was looking for an EQ1 mount for my Short Tube 80 and I got one new through the Celestron Powerseeker 114EQ package, which contains a 114/900mm Newtonian.OTA. My review of the scope:

    http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=2880

    I also ordered the Skywatcher AZ-4 mount separately for $199. Didn’t know they were still available in the States.


  11. Regarding the Skywatcher AZ-4 mount, Celestron cancelled my order – none were actually available. This offer seemed suspicious from the start, since Skywatcher had a fire sale on all their lower-end products 2-3 years ago, as Matt documented on a couple of his blogs.


  12. […] and that one nostril is showing. Yep, that’s the lunar “Cheshire Cat”, which I first identified back in November, 2010. It was nice to see it […]


  13. […] November 21, 2010 […]


  14. […] small intro reflectors have a short dovetail bar bolted to the side of the tube (like my old scope Shorty Fats), but this one has real tube rings and an EQ-2 mount. The three MA (Modified Achromat) eyepieces it […]


  15. […] couple of months – as well as to my XT10, my SkyScanner 100, London’s XT4.5, and the 5″ f/5 SkyWatcher Newt I had a few years ago. You’ll notice that so far, all of the scopes I’ve done this to […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: