Sunday, May 28, 2006

Record new moon

Very exciting news tonight. I caught sight of the new moon this evening when it was only 19 hours and 19 minutes old. This is beyond what I had ever expected to see from New York, and it completely shattered my old personal record of 26 hours and 41 minutes, from June 7, 2005. But what I'm particularly happy about is getting a shot of this one, not just in the 9x63 binoculars, but in the telescope (thanks to our friend Kate's roof!)

I watched from Brooklyn as always. The sun set at 8:17 p.m., and after waiting a little while I started sweeping the skies near the point where the sun had gone down. At 8:45 I actually saw Mercury first, and holding my binoculars at that height, I moved just slightly to the right, and saw the moon instantly. Four minutes later I took this shot through the telescope, at a magnification of about 30 (the orientation is adjusted here to a right-side-up view):

SkyView Cafe has Mercury at an altitude of 4 degrees, 25 minutes at 8:45, and the moon slightly higher at 4 degrees, 50 minutes. But I think the crescent was lower, because SkyView seems actually to be measuring the altitude at the center of the moon's body, which was largely invisible tonight. The moon itself takes up nearly half a degree -- its angular diameter tonight was 31.41 minutes -- so if you subtract half of that from SkyView's altitude for the moon, you get the crescent at nearly the same height as Mercury, which is how I remember it (though I did not think to note it at the time).

At 8:51, I put in another lens for a magnification of 90:

Here the moon, again at 30x, is about to set behind a low building at 8:56 p.m., when it was about 3 degrees above the horizon:

I moved over to put some lower buildings between us, and took this one at 9:01 p.m.:

I could no longer see it in binoculars at 9:08, when it had not yet descended behind the lowest buildings on the horizon; the thickening gloom just consumed it.

And no wonder: its face was just 1% illuminated, and its magnitude was just -5.1 (compared to 1.4% and -5.2 on June 7). Like the June 7 moon, and unlike all previous record new moons that I'd spotted, I never saw this moon with my own eyes.

SkyView Cafe has the full body of the moon setting at 9:23, but in the enlarged-moon page you can see that the bottom portion, where the crescent extended in a grin that looked like no more than a third of the moon's circumference, had already disappeared at 9:20. That was really when no more moon would have been visible tonight.

Fantastic stuff.


Blogger Tag said...

Hi Kevin,
It was good to hear from you and read of your experience of the moon sighting. The photos are amazing especially given the size of the crescent and your report is right on.
The naked eye observation was a real challenge to confident seeing and a test of it. I felt I saw it as it was framed nicely in a nook on 3 sides. In your report you watched the Moon for a good period - as low as 3* maybe? The 9:00 timestamp sounds later than we were able to observe.
It wasn't too long ago that Charlie had mentioned that you had stopped by TotL one evening after you guys met for the AOL group (I forgot the name). I visit this blog from time to time really admiring your way of seeing and describing events around NYC. Perhaps we can hook up in the future for another event or just observing.
c'ya peter

June 15, 2006 12:02 AM  

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