Not so long ago in Venice…
AB: I don’t think anyone has ever used this telescope!
Me: Really?
AB: Yup, it has never been adjusted *tinkers with the lens for about 45 minutes* Oh wow, I can see the moon!
Me: Cool! Do you think it would be possible to photograph the moon through the telescope?

And so began an hour of squatting at the low end of a telescope in order to capture the moon using our compact cameras: Me with my Fuji x100 and AB with his Canon PowerShot S95.

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We took turns looking through the telescope. This was the first time I had ever seen a moon through a telescope!

When I was small, I used to stare at the moon while in the backseat of my dad’s car and wonder how was it possible that the moon was able to keep following us.

Happy to know that I wasn’t the only one who thought so! Here is a clear explanation by a Physics professor on Wired.com.

That night, I thought the opposite. It seemed like the moon was escaping from me every few seconds.

“That’s because the moon is moving,” said AB. “Actually, it’s mostly because we’re moving.”

The (earth’s) movement added to the challenge of photographing it through the lens of the telescope. To being with, it took several tries to get right the focus on the moon. Every 20 seconds or so, we had to gently nudge the telescope to see the moon in its dimpled entirety once more.

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While waiting for me to have my fill of moon-spotting, AB was reading on the Internet.

AB: Did you know that the telescope was invented by Galileo in Venice?
Me: Really?
AB: You should write about this on your blog!

So, here’s a short history lesson on Galileo’s telescope invention and how it revolutionised our view of the universe:

Once upon a time… It was 1609.

Galileo heard of an invention by a Flemish spectacle maker, Hans Lipperhey, that enabled one to see distant objects as though they were nearby. Without having seen the gadget, Galileo soon assembled his own version of it by placing two glass lenses at the ends of a leather tube.

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He went to Venice with his “optick tube” and demonstrated its use to the Senate of Venice on 25 August 1609. From atop St. Mark Campanile, he successfully showed how one could spot ships in the distance using the device. The government was impressed by his invention as this would enable the city to spot approaching pirates which were attacking Venetian merchant ships at that time.

After being paid by the Venetian Senate, Galileo continued to explore the heavens and its secrets.

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In 1610, Galileo published Sidereus Nuncius (Sidereal Message / Starry Message) based on his observations. These included the discovery that the surface of the moon was not smooth and instead was dotted with craters and mountains, as well as Jupiter and its four moons.

The latter would lead to his most startling and revolutionary discovery: That the Earth was not at the centre of the universe.

His observations supported the Copernican theory that the sun was at the centre of the solar system. This was contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church which promoted a geocentric view based on how the bible’s account of how the world was created.

Based on his findings, Galileo wrote a book titled “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems“. He was soon accused, in 1614, of heresy and forbidden by the church from teaching and spreading his theories.

In 1633, Galileo was called to appear before the Roman inquisition and was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his heretical ideas. This was reduced to permanent house arrest. Galileo was also forced to revoke his support for the Corpernican theory and denounce heliocentrism, the belief that Earth orbited the Sun.

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The above is a picture of the moon that AB took with the zoom function on his Canon compact camera. Pretty cool eh?

To read more about Galileo and telescope innovation:

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11 replies on “Moon Gazing in Venice

  1. Very, very coll shots of the moon. Can’t believe it it was took just using compact cameras. The both of you must have been very patient. When I was little, I was also thought that the moon followed me all the time. My parents would drive our car with me sitting in the back at night. I would look out and see a full moon and wondered why it never went away. I even thought that the moon could fall from the sky and crush me if I said something bad about it. I also used to think it had eyes. So you’re not weird when you say you thought the moon was following you 🙂

    1. Hi Mabel, indeed, it took us quite some time playing around with the manual focus function on our cameras. To get to the selection that you see here, there were many more ‘duds’!

      When I was a kid, an older cousin warned me to not point at the moon as it is rude to do so and if I do, I’ll end up with pain in my ears or tongue. While I’m not particularly superstitious, I figured I rather play it safe and still refrain from point at the moon!

  2. Venice and moon photography. Very cool indeed. A sort of extreme form of digiscoping. Could 45 minutes be just a teeny weeny exaggeration? Just asking.

    1. “digiscoping” – I like that term! I was engrossed with reading and didn’t pay attention when he was adjusting the lens. The 45 mins came from AB actually – he had to adjust four independent lens on the telescope. All I did was take photos 😉

  3. Your moon photos are pretty amazing Angelina (and AB)! And thank you for the short walk down the history lane, it’s always good to remember who we have to thank for some things we now take for granted!

  4. Ah! Now that’s one optical zoom range which will put all other cameras to shame!! You guys should patent the idea! 🙂 While I remember having read that Galileo was behind the invention of the instrument, I definitely did not know all the stories you have mentioned…what a preposterous idea! Sun the center of the solar system! 🙂

      1. I am reminded of the snippet I read in my high school biology textbook. When Charles Darwin proposed his Origin of Species theory, one lady in England had commented,”Descended from Apes?? Let us hope it is not true, or if it is, let us hush it up.” 🙂

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