Shooting the moon – Twin Cities

Shooting the moon – Twin Cities


Over the next two weeks, the moon will be very prominent in our sky, starting as a first quarter (half moon) on Monday and becoming a full moon a week later on July 3. It will be the first full moon of the astronomical summer. Without a doubt, moonlight, especially full moonlight, louse up the skies for good stargazing and astrophotography, which are near and dear to me. Despite that, I love, love, love full moons! I call it my magic moon time.

I love the names given to full moons by various cultures worldwide. One Native American name for the July full moon is the Full Buck Moon because this is when buck deer begin sprouting new antlers. It’s also called the Thunder Moon because of the more frequent thunderstorms this time of year. My favorite name for the July full moon comes from the ancient Chinese Buddhist tradition. They called it the Hungry Ghost Moon. I am still trying to figure out why.

Whatever you call the July full moon, you can’t help but notice that it’s a low rider and doesn’t rise very high in the sky. That’s one of the reasons I love full-moon gazing this time of year. You can moon gaze for an extended time without extending your neck as much!

Full moon
(Mike Lynch)

Not only is it nice to take in the July moon, but you can also have a lot of fun taking pictures of it. You don’t need a fancy camera; even your cell phone can do a pretty good job if you do it right. A zoom lens and exposure control can help so the image doesn’t get washed out.

You can take fantastic moon pictures through a small to moderate telescope. Hold your camera or phone over the eyepiece as steady as possible, which can be challenging. I suggest you keep hitting the shutter button or icon; hopefully, you’ll get some decent shots. If possible, rig up a tripod or something else to help steady your camera or phone over the eyepiece. You can also purchase an adapter that attaches to your telescope and eyepiece. One I recommend is the Orion SteadyPix EZ Smartphone Telescope Photo Adapter

Orion SteadyPix EZ Smartphone Telescope Photo Adapter
Orion SteadyPix EZ Smartphone Telescope Photo Adapter (Mike Lynch)

Along with keeping the telescope steady, another essential thing is to start taking your shots through a low-magnification eyepiece with your telescope. That will have a much wider aperture than a high-magnification eyepiece. Once you get some low-magnification photos, see what you can do with a higher power.

Full moons are not my favorite to photograph through a telescope; I prefer pictures of the moon at other phases in its monthly cycle. Crescent moons, half moons, and even gibbous (football-shaped) moons are all fun to photograph. You can see more detail, especially what’s known as the terminator. That line divides the moon’s sunlit part and the part in shadow.

Once you get the photos, you can work with them a little in Photoshop or some other software, even within many smartphones, to make them look even brighter or sharper, although you shouldn’t have to do too much. You can also do some editing just with your phone. I was just amazed by the clarity. You can see details in the dark maria or plains on the moon and the mountains and craters, suitable enough to frame and hang on a wall in your home!

While you’re moon shooting or just moon gazing in the early evening eastern sky check out the low western sky. The very bright planet Venus and the much fainter Mars are in a close celestial conjunction or what I call a celestial hugging. On Friday, June 30, Mars will be just a little over three and a half degrees to the upper left of Venus. That’s about half the width of your fist at arm’s length. Just to the upper left of Mars is the moderately bright star Regulus.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at [email protected].