Photographer's Note


In order to properly appreciate this photograph, I would recommend opening a second window and listening to the old Dean Martin recording, ”That’s Amore,” simultaneously.


The Dutch lens maker Lipperchet invented the refracting telescope, “spyglass,” in 1609. When the Italian mathematician/scientist Galileo Galilei(1564-1642) heard about Lipperchet’s invention, he immediately set out to make his own instrument. Just a few months after Lipperchet’s history making invention, Galileo was able to construct his own device. Moreover, he trained his instrument, not just on terrestrial bodies, but on heavenly bodies as well. He discovered that the shadows on the moon were created by mountains and valleys; that Venus displayed phases, suggesting that it was orbiting, not the earth, but the sun; that Jupiter had its own moons; and that there existed spots on the otherwise flawless surface of the sun, that slowly moved across its surface. The picture he assembled represented compelling evidence for the heliocentric (sun-centered) universe in distinction to the geocentric (earth-centered) endorsed by the Church. After the publication of his book, 'Dialogue on the Two Chief World Orders,' in 1632 Galileo found himself in deep trouble with the Inquisition. Charged and convicted of heresy, he was condemned to spend the rest of his life under house arrest. He died a broken man in 1642.

Isaac Newton, Galileo's successor, and without a doubt the greatest scientist in history, was born on Christmas day 1642, the year that Galileo died. At 23, Newton enjoyed his "Annus Mirabilis," or "Miracle Year," formulating much of the physics and mathematics he would publish another 23 yeas later in his monumental book, "Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica." In the process he would unify the physics of heaven and earth and provide a consistent framework for the discovery of new laws. Along the way, at the age of 29, he created the first reflecting telescope (1671), smaller, and, for its size, considerably more powerful than the refracting telescope. The Hubble Telescope that orbits the earth is a reflecting telescope with a 3 m (94.5 inch) diameter primary mirror.

The lens I used to shoot the moon was a borrowed Questar-7, a portable reflecting telescope made for professionals. It measures 47 cm (18 ¾ inch) in length, and 180 mm (7 inch) in diameter. With an effective focal length of 2433 mm, it is necessary to mount the telescope on a heavy tripod, and to drive it with an electric motor in order to track a celestial body. Most good cameras are of SLR (See-Through-the Lens) type with interchangeable lenses, and we regard the lens as the appendage on the camera. With the Questar telescope as the lens, the camera becomes the appendage, much lighter than the lens. I used my Nikon D200 camera body. The Questar is expensive, but the quality of its optics is unsurpassed. Once before (2004) a Trekearth member, Ad Chakra, submitted a photo of the moon shot with the Questar-7, as “Dear Moon”.

Three decades ago I had used an 89 mm (3½ inch) diameter Questar-3.5 along with a 135 mm lens to create the double-exposure image of the moon, "The Bubble About to Burst", that I posted in 2006 and has since accumulated 400 points on TE. With a mirror diameter 1/2 the present, that lens would have had 1/4 the light gathering power of the Questar-7; moreover, the former photo was scanned from a slide, resulting in lower resolution and higher noise compared to this one. The smaller and more portable Questar-3.5 is ideal for shooting big game in Africa — lions and rhinos without getting in harm's way. I did not crop the present image. Indeed, it is impossible to get the entire disc of the moon into frame.

Galileo had named the four moons he found orbiting Jupiter "the Medicean Moons" in honor of his patrons, the Medici. Now we call them the "Galilean Moons." Moreover, the total number of moons modern scientists have identified as orbiting Jupiter is 62.

I took this photo last year on Galileo's 445th Birthday, February 15, 2009, a year that was heralded as the "Year of the Telescope."

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6781 W: 471 N: 12170] (41261)
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