Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar eclipse! The clouds parted just in time for it, and you could see it straight out the window above my foyer, from the stairs. Sorry if you missed it: the next one won't be until December 20, 2010. I'll be forty.

That's the star Regulus, of the constellation Leo, on top, (can't you tell by its bluish hue?) and then Saturn itself in the lower left. Sorry you can't make out the rings. My Cannon PowerShot A85 only has so much power, evidently. I took a number of not-so-powerful shots on a little tripod out on the grass. This one was a 14 second exposure, which is a little too long for a good space photo, as the movement of the heavenly bodies themselves create a blur. A better lens and I might have captured an excellent shot of the Sea of Tranquility bathed in the orangish shadow of the earth, but alas. If I start another hobby right now, say, Astronomical Photography, Mrs. Ditchman will kill me. (She won't settle on the casual eye-roll that I can usually get away with.)

I am sure you're wondering, from whence does he gather such wisdom? Why, from the Starry Night widget on my computer screen, of course! It's a cool little thing. Free for the Mac (and even the iPhone!), but not sure about the PC. (One may have to shell out some cash for it.) Anyway, you just type in your zip code and which way you're facing and voila, all the stars in the sky are named. It's neat! The widget actually figures your time of day and shows you a picture of the exact sky you're currently looking at, only with labels. It's just the kind of thing the Internet was designed for. It even has a scrolling news bar at the bottom of the widget that reads out all current space-related news, which no decent, self-respecting star-worshipper can live without.

And yes, we shot it out of the sky. No, not the moon, the hydrazine-filled school bus that was in a descending orbit. Excellent work, men! I'm glad they did it, if only because we have the technology, but also because I just fertilized my lawn and the last thing I need is hydrazine overspray mucking it up. I had all manner of things to say about it, but as usual I was beat to the punch by Lileks, Overlord of the Blogosphere, who was piquant enough to be linked from here, two days in a row. Well done, Lileks. Serves me right for posting in the morning. Clearly, I'd never make it in the news reporting industries. (But he didn't get a picture of the eclipse!)

If you're interested in the more spectacular Total Solar Eclipse, there's one coming on August 1st this year. Go ahead and book your flight to Mongolia now.