Monuments at Night, Nov 4

Moon over Monument

It had been a late night with an unexpected adrenaline rush at the end, and so it was predictable that after finally settling down, I would sleep well into the next morning.  After showering and shaving, the next order of business was to upload the photos from my digital camera and assess my success at the guided exposures from last night. 

Unfortunately, my laptop did not recognize any of the raw (.CR2) image files from the camera’s memory card!  This was a setback since I was planning to copy the images to the computer, and then reuse the memory card (I only had two of them and the second was filling rapidly). 

I checked the online forums to see if anyone else has found themselves in this predicament. I spent hours trying to solve the problem.

This was not the only setback in my program.  I had encountered a number of other problems during this trip:

  • My eyeglasses were not strong enough to see fine details on the camera’s display
  • The telescope mount needed a bit more counterweight for proper balance
  • I was missing one of the motor drive cables
  • I did not have a flash card reader that recognized my camera’s flash card
  • I still did not have a stool to sit on while making guided exposures in awkward positions

I considered traveling to the geographic, if not geologic, feature known as Four Corners, where four states whose boundaries follow straight cartographic coordinates, meet at the single point where their east-west and north-south lines cross. 

But I don’t have the time.  I am a victim of the astrophotographer’s pattern of staying up late at night, shooting the stars, then sleeping late, and then scurrying about trying to find fixes for last night’s problems, at which point it is time to set up again!

I have a number of candidate deep sky targets for tonight, but first I must do a very unpleasant task:  I must delete some of the pictures on my camera’s memory card.  As a scientist, I am loathe to lose any data, and I have rarely needed to discard any photographs I have taken, even the duds and accidental pictures of my shoes (literally shooting myself in the foot). 

I have managed this because of the rapid expansion of computer memory chip capacity, which has kept up with the expansion of my picture-taking.  I once read an analysis that observed that if memory were free, there would be no reason to erase anything.  I have taken that to heart as the cost of memory in my lifetime has changed from dollars per byte, to pennies per gigabyte.

But now, in this place remote from the sources of technology on whose limb I have climbed out, I must make some choices.  I locate sets of pictures that I do not expect to need the high resolution files for:  exposure tests, tracking tests, pictures that are obviously out of focus or poorly exposed, and delete them (still keeping their compressed jpeg equivalents, of course).  I hope that the memory space recovered will be enough for my next session.

The forecast is for even higher winds tonight, all night.   I head toward my sunset and twilight sites and manage to take some pictures of the still-young moon, but the wind levels are too high for my equipment to take stable long exposures through a telescope.  I retreat to the hotel to make my next plans.

In deep twilight, a full exposure shows the earthlit portion of the young moon.

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