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A while back, I had picked up a "new" (to me) Tamron 24 mm lens. I decided to do some wide-field, night-sky photography to try it out and, eventually, came up with this image. The Moa (in NZ) or the Emu (in Australia), seen in profile, is a series of visually connected dark regions in this portion of the Milky Way. Look for the two bright stars in the middle of the image. These mark the neck and shoulder. Just above and to the right is the head and beak, which, to astronomers, goes by the unlovely name of Caldwell 99 ("The Coal Sack Nebula"). Just above that is the Southern Cross. Moving down and to the left from the two pointer stars, we see the body of the bird; further down are its feet.
The dark areas are not empty regions. Rather, most are dust lanes and dark nebulae that block the light from the background stars. This dust is extremely fine - generally smaller than smoke particles - so it takes large amounts of it to screen out starlight. Astronomers can use specialised telescopes and sensors to peer through this dust to find what it is hiding.
The Moa is easily visible in Canterbury most of the year from a good dark site on a clear night. Note, though, being the clever bird it is, it seems to be doing a head stand around 22:00 during the mid- to late winter evenings. As of the date of this post (05/09/2018), it appears to be just completing a back flip in the southwest. Look for it to right itself in the southeast by the beginning of April, around the same time in the evening.
Date: June 19, 2017
Image centre (HD 131376):
R.A.: 14h 55m 58s
Dec: -60° 54' 21.3"
Photo stuff: Canon 6D with Tamron 24mm at f/8; 11 frames at 120s ea.
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Saturday morning saw us take on the challenge of carrying the 12 inch telescope up the Port Hills to Victoria Park in an attempt to help people understand the lunar eclipse phenomena and what they were seeing. We chose a location that we thought was readily accessible, but forgot to take into account the gates would be shut at that time of day (we'll learn for next time). So we set up on the side access road to the dog exercise area and were very shortly joined by around 100 people and a camera crew from Newshub.
There had been a lot of discussion in the media about the theoretical astronomical event of the selenelion, where both the eclipsed moon and the sun could be visible in either horizon. Whilst the theory might be correct, in practicality, there is no way this event would ever come to light, if you excuse the pun. A darkened, eclipsed moon against a brightening sky would mean the moon would become invisible at least 20 minutes prior to sunrise. However, despite clear skies overhead, ultimately the event was cut short (even before totality occurred) by a Nw'erly cloud bank being held back by the mountain range.
Despite that, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and took in the spirit of a beautiful morning and sunrise. The resulting article was well produced and included footage of people viewing the event through the telescope and concluded with a short interview from one of our Directors, Gary Steel.
Click below to see the report from Newshub
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