The Cold Moon – Last Full Moon of 2020 (Dec 29)

With the last full moon of 2020 approaching, I had the thought that I would give astrophotography with the Astronomers Without Borders OneSky telescope another go. I re-read the first, I don’t know, 20 pages of the world-famous forum thread for this mighty, little scope at Cloudy Nights. After a year of doing astrophotography, this time through I understood a whole bunch more of what was being said. And it paid off.

On the 28th, I went out to test things out. I removed the Barlow lens from my 2x Barlow, attached it to the T-ring and slapped it on the Nikon. This left me with a great big hole leading directly to the sensor, so I quickly found my 1.25″ UV/IR-Cut filter and that sealed the hole. I then set up the old wooden tripod in the side yard and dragged out the telescope. I popped the Barlow and DSLR into the focuser. Based on what I had read the night before, I started to collapse the struts of the telescope until I had an image start to appear on the DSLR LCD screen. I fiddled with this to get it as sharp as I could, then I started fine adjustments at the focuser, which involved turning the entire camera!

Those shots were staged for affect, but you get the idea. What collapsing the scope a little does is reduce the focal length a bit, which moves the focal point of the light to the sensor of the camera, rather than the back of your eyeball. Yup, these distances are different!

Thanks, NASA!

The Moon wasn’t quite yet up when I started this, as I wanted to get things worked out in day light before trying it in the dark.

Once it was up a bit higher in the sky, I grabbed about 100 stills of the almost-full moon. This was processed in PIPP, AutoStakkert, and GIMP.

Not too terrible!

The next night was the actual full moon. It has a very accurate name, too. Even though it was in the mid-20s F, it felt much colder. I stayed out for as long as I could, but it is tough doing this in gloves, even thin ones like I had on. The result was not too shabby, though! Maybe a bit over-processed, but I don’t do this kind of thing very often.

The next night, I learned how to pull color out of the image, which is super cool.

I did try to grab some of the waning Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction, as well as Mars, which was burning bright in the sky at that time, but they just didn’t have the same impact as the Full Moon. I will be visiting this technique again. It was fun to do, but, man, that was a cold night, even in my coveralls.

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