Although I don’t have a deep interest in astrophotography I’ve always had a fascination with the photographic technique used to capture star trails. The allure, I suppose, is that they are tricky to record. Rather than turning your camera to Auto and clicking away, there are quite a few things one has to think about before successfully recording one of these shots. The most important things to be considered are the weather and the phase of the moon. The best captures may be had on a clear night of the new moon. I’ve got a useful piece of software, that I highly recommend, called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. While it won’t predict the weather, it will tell me much about the phase of the moon, the time of moon rise and moon set, and the relative positions of each to my location here at the farm. I first thought I’d like to experiment with star trails after seeing a short video posted by Tony Northrup. Since then I’ve watched the weather and the moon, closely. It wasn’t until this past Thursday that our local forecasters made specific mention of the cool temperatures and clear over-night conditions that they were expecting. I checked the Ephemeris and, sure enough, the new moon was two days out and on this particular night the moon would be a waning crescent of 7.9%. There was rain in the forecast for the weekend so I set my alarm for 3 AM. Because I hadn’t attempted to photograph the night sky before, I decided to go with a simple plan to capture a shot of the Milky Way. I had fun and I hope you enjoy the result. Yesterday’s moon was a 3.5% crescent and the new moon will occur tonight. I was pretty darn tired yesterday and am guessing that the predicted weather front will be here this afternoon. I’ll cross my fingers for clear skies on August 25, or September 24, or October 23. Joanna always says, patience and perseverance, and she is right. I’ll get those star trails. Eventually.
On a completely different matter, if one isn’t an astrophysicist or a cosmologist (or I suppose, even if one is) images such as the one I present below are supposed to get us thinking about space, time, the heavens, heaven, and perhaps even about religion and all-things-spiritual. Whether you derive comfort from the concept of heaven or from thinking about infinity, stellar evolution, galaxies, and alternate universes is of no matter. What I want to report is that looking into the sky the other night made me pause, for these last days have been difficult, especially after hearing about the untimely passing of a good friend. There will be a funeral for him tomorrow. Although I am grateful for not having to attend many funerals in the recent past, the reverse of that coin is that I haven’t had a lot of practice at funerals. I’m always uncomfortable and uncertain about what to say and do. It bothers me to think that whatever I say may sound forced and perhaps even trite. In a post from 2012 I talked about the Mind Meld. If this is something with which you are unfamiliar, a Mind Meld is a (fictional) technique for sharing thoughts, and memories with another individual. It is a form of telepathy. My point is this; I wish I could express my thoughts about my friend’s passing without having to speak, for I know I will do that badly. I wish that I could perform a Mind Meld with each member of his family. If I could, they would then know that I admired my friend. I admired his strength (both physical and emotional), his skills and accomplishments, and his strong character. If I could, they would then know that his passing has affected me in perhaps more ways than I am currently aware. And, if I could, they would then know that I am still having difficulty thinking about this world without him.