Sunday 9th September 2018, 3.35pm (day 2,572)
“Skkrrzzz-thttt. Lander to Moonbase Theta. Small crater to negotiate. Fzzztt.”
Or perhaps it’s an aphid on a wet table. You decide.
It’s not quite 3pm here but considering this is what I came several thousand miles to see: I think we’re done with photography for the day, don’t you?
It was back in May 2013 that I saw the annular eclipse in north Queensland, and interesting as that was, it does not really approach the awesome nature of totality; the beauty of the corona and the ‘Baily’s beads’, light shining through valleys on the Moon’s edge, which I just about manage to capture here. And as I said about the Australian one — do you realise we might be one of the few planets in the whole universe to be able to see something like this, thanks to the coincidence that the Moon and Sun are the same apparent size in the sky? Lucky us. If you ever get the chance to see one — my advice is, take it.
Watching a game in the sixth tier of English football — the National League North — might seem an unusual way to see in 2017, but Joe, me and 2,509 other people decided it was worth doing today; numbers which help explain the strength of the sport in this country. Halifax Town 2, Darlington 2 was the final score, a good game, quite exciting, though from listening to the home fans around Joe and I you’d think it had been a disaster of Iceland v England proportions. I worry that this shot is a bit messy, but I like the crescent moon visible to top left, so let’s give it a go. I prefer it to most pictures I get at football matches, anyway, even if it is slightly out-of-focus.
Four weeks ago everyone was going on about the ‘Supermoon’, nearest for 70 years or whatever-it-was…. Well, the moon can’t have moved that far back from Earth in the span of the last orbit, so I guess it is still pretty close. Looks it, anyway. Taken from Manchester Victoria station as I awaited the train home this evening.
Well aware that this ain’t gonna win any astrophotography contests — its technical defects epitomised by the fact that the moon is (you can easily check) still nine days from full, but the crescent hasn’t come out here. But having spent the whole day indoors this really was a slow day for material, and with Orion striding over the town tonight in defiance of the usual light pollution I thought I would give it a go at making it the first recognisable constellation to appear on the blog.
Down in London again, and this is just the first of a double visit this week. Four nights to be spent in the acre of hotels to the south of King’s Cross. A tiny hotel room, but a decent view, of tiny little Midhope Street, and the weather is glorious — you will see more of it tomorrow I’m sure.
I swear I took this shot with my ordinary camera, without a tripod, from outside the pub this afternoon. I have beefed up the contrast, admittedly, but blimey. Looking at an astronomical atlas, my best guess is that the small crater just below centre, on the terminator, which shines particularly white is the crater of Wagner, at about 30 degrees South on the lunar surface. I make it less than 50 miles wide. So to be able to pick that up from, what are we, a quarter of a million miles away with an ordinary camera — sometimes you just have to admire the technology. In this case, beyond his ability to keep a steady hand, the photographer had very little to do with it.
I wanted to visit the tropical north of Queensland anyway, and Cooktown, and the experience of driving through the emptiness of the region, made it worth doing: but there was a reason to do it at this specific period of time, and here it is. I did not manage to penetrate the zone of totality due to not having a 4WD vehicle, so this picture is taken from Laura, a one-horse town west of Cooktown, where the tarmac ends — this was the closest I could get, but we are not at full coverage as you can see. However, in some ways, just as well I stopped where I did because I ended up watching it in the company of a group of Russians who happened to have a pair of solar viewing glasses that could then be used as a filter on the camera, as well as for our eyes. Without them it would not have been possible to capture it.
Anyway, despite all that, and the time and effort it took to see what was really just a few minutes of dimness, I’m glad I did. And there probably won’t be many other non-astronomer pictures of this event. I doubt many people in the world saw this. Its path certainly didn’t cross anywhere particularly populated, just the remote north of Australia and some islands in the South Pacific. Even round here there seemed general ignorance that it was happening: I think largely because they had a total eclipse last November, and this was ‘just’ an annular one, where the moon is at its furthest point from Earth so doesn’t cover the sun’s disk entirely. Nevertheless, let’s not be blasé about it: do you realise how rare eclipses might be, I mean, in the universe? The fact that the Sun and Moon are virtually the same apparent size when viewed from the Earth is really a remarkable coincidence. It’s possible we’re the only planet for thousands of light years in any direction that experiences them, so let’s treasure them.