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A New Moon Surprise
A New Moon Surprise

My wife and I have friends in the country and we've taken my SkyQuest XT8 Classic over before to show them how much fun stargazing can be. The first time I took the ol' light bucket over, I treated them to the rings of Saturn. This has to be my favorite thing to show people because it always elicits gasps of surprise and excitement. I always get the same reaction. They say, "I can't believe I'm seeing this with my own eyes!" Anyway, one Saturday we were invited over for a cookout, and I checked out the sky charts to see if anything cool was happening. I saw that Mercury was going to be at greatest elongation and decided that would be the evening's target. After all, most people who have seen Mercury, probably didn't think it was anything other than another star. I decided against taking the dob because it was mostly cloudy all day, but took along my 9x63 Mini Giant binoculars. As the sun went down, I kept checking the western sky and finally, a slot opened between the clouds and the horizon. I knew the timing would be critical because Mercury doesn't stay visible very long. I scanned the horizon where I thought the small planet would be, and suddenly, I saw it. No, it wasn't Mercury, but the thinnest sliver of a crescent Moon that I've ever seen! Now I regretted my decision to leave the telescope at home. If I'd brought it along with my camera mount, I could have had a sweet picture. Oh well, hindsight and all that. I called my wife and friends out to have a look. Everyone took a turn at the binoculars and each person oohed and aahed in amazement of the sight they beheld. I have always tried spotting the youngest and oldest Moons possible, and many times I'd be driving to or from work alone when I'd see it with no way of sharing it with anyone. This time however, there were five others with me and I was loving it! As you know, one of the biggest joys of stargazing is the sharing. Not only was this the youngest Moon I'd personally seen, but everyone with me agreed, this was one of the coolest things they'd ever seen. By this time, the slot between clouds and earth was big enough that Mercury was now easy to spot. It was satisfying to me that tonight's main target had been found. Everyone took their turn with the 9x63's again and were totally underwhelmed after seeing the thin Moon. After checking the time of the New Moon, I determined that it was only 21 hours old. Not too bad for being only about 15 miles west of Baltimore.


Date Taken: 06/13/2011
Author: Dean W
Category: Orion's Astronomy Essay Contest (2009)

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