There was a full moon on June 20, 2016; it is sometimes called the Strawberry Moon (because it occurs when strawberry season starts). It just also happened to be the Summer Solstice. A full moon on the day of the Solstice is not a very common occurrence. The last one happened in 1967 and the next will take place in 2062. It is rare enough that many will not see more than one in their lifetime.
We wanted to get a few shots of this Strawberry Moon just in case we aren’t around for the next one 🙂 We have taken photos of the moon before so we were familiar with the setup needed. The one thing we learned was, because a full moon is so bright, we could get away with a small scope and set the exposure time to as fast as 1/250 to eliminate vibrations and other blur-inducing factors.
The setup we used for this moon-shoot was:
- Meade 2045 SCT
- Nikon D40 camera body
- Olympus magnifying eyepiece
- Questar Tristand
- Orion EZFinder
The advantage of the Meade 2045/Tristand setup is the portability of the entire assembly. We could carry and move it around easily, important for urban viewing where line of sight is not always as clear as we would like. The smaller scope also reduced the time needed to get everything to thermal equilibrium after going from inside to outside. In general it just means I have more time viewing/photographing and less time fussing with the scope.
The Meade 2045 telescope is acting as a 1000mm manual lens in the setup. To make the moon and other celestial objects easy locate, we added a red-dot EZFinder to the optical tube. The EZFinder was really simple to mount and configure: attached using two-sided tape, look at a distant object during the day, adjust so the red dot in the finder is in the center of what is seen in the scope.
In order to attach a DSLR body to the optical tube assembly (OTA) of the telescope, a connector called the T-Adapter is needed. This is a simple metal tube with the proper fittings on both ends: a collar on one end to attaches to the OTA, another on the other end to mount the specific make of the camera (Nikon, Canon, etc).
Not everything in the rig is necessary for every shoot. The wedge and motor drive were not needed for the moon shoot, but come in handy for planetary astrophotography. What is always necessary, though, is the right-angled eyepiece. With the camera mounted on the telescope, looking through the viewfinder to focus can be very awkward. Also, seeing when things are in focus can also be challenging. The angled eyepiece made solved both problems: 90º angle made it comfortable to look through the camera/scope, built-in magnifier enables a more critical focus to be achieved.
NOTE: We adapted an Olympus right-angle unit to fit the Nikon body because it is high quality and we had one on hand, but the key point is to get one that is optically good. Getting a good focus manually is already hard enough, you don’t want some cheap eyepiece making it harder.
Our portable setup has been field-tested quite a few times and we still learn something on each outing. This outing is the first time we used the Meade on the Tristand. Unlike with the Celestron OTA, the Meade unit has the fork mount which made it easier to get the scope pointed where we want.
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