Perils of an Eclipse and Mountains of Surprise

I have always found that the hobby of astronomy is filled with unexpected surprises. Some are good and some are bad. Take for example the last full lunar eclipse.

A quick setup is all-important because the moon will be rising in eclipse mode. The evening sky is full of cloud and there are little or no breaks.

At 6:30 p.m., the moon finally rises from the horizon and sneaks into view. The eclipse is in full swing but it is very hard to get a clean shot, let alone anything but a fleeting glimpse at the eclipse.

It is now 7:05 p.m. and the cloud is getting worse and the holes seem to be getting smaller. I have abandoned my eight-inch Clestron telescope in favour for the little apochromatic refractor. With its wide field and high-quality glass the view improved … but only slightly.

Now at 7:50 p.m., the eclipsed moon makes a few more feinting attempts to break through the clouds. Then, as on cue, the entire sky clouds over solid and thick, no holes, no breaks.

Was I disappointed? Yes, but still worth it and you never know what will happen next.

The following weekend I was working at my other job and found myself in Haines Junction for the weekend. There is little doubt that this is one of the most spectacular scenic locations in the Yukon let alone anywhere else.

Having brought my digital camera, lenses and accessories I was more than ready and eager for a night of awe-inspiring night skies. I was not to be disappointed.

By the time we had work done and had a chance to grab a quick bite to eat, the evening was turning quickly into morning.

Quickly I snatched my camera, backpack and tripod. Looking for a dark little hideout brought me to the side of the hotel. After walking down a short embankment, I was awe struck at what lay before me.

Right in front of me, the coastal mountain range, rising up with razor-edged, snow-tipped peaks. Behind me, the mostly full moon lit up the scene with an eerie kind of glow.

What I found surprising was that the mountain peaks were full of detail that was easily seen. Also unusual was that the constellation of Orion was perfectly placed above the mountaintops, with the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, brilliant with its blue white glow, sitting just above the jagged peaks.

Even the Milky Way was easily seen to the unaided eye. With birch and alder trees right in front of me it made an amazing surreal scene.

And for once I was able to get the shot I wanted.

Clear Skies from James “Deep Sky” Cackette.

James “Deep Sky” Cackette can be reached at [email protected]. See his photo adventures on Facebook at Yukon Night Skies.

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