Adventures in Astrophotograpy

Yesterday we loaded up the car and drove four hours to try and catch the eclipse against this landmark.

This is Tsé Bit’a’í which means “Rock with wings” in Diné. It is also known as Shiprock and it is the most prominent landmark in northwestern New Mexico.  It the throat of an ancient volcano that originally formed 27 million years ago and, back then, it was approximately 2500 to 3000 feet below ground level. Over time, the surrounding softer sedimentary rocks have eroded away, leaving this and some really cool radial dikes that I think are the “wings”  referred to above.

We hoped to take pictures from the west and even some time lapse video of  the eclipsed moon transiting the peaks like this.

Ship Rock from the west #3

Low Resolution Map copy
Calculations of lunar path and locations done by our good friend, Chris Crawford.

To do this, we needed to get to the location marked by the X, or, for the higher path, a spot 500 feet further north-northeast from the X. Because of several factors ranging from the rugged terrain, our exceptionally wet year resulting in extensive erosion along and across the dirt roads, I was only able to get to the spot on the western radial dike marked with the circle, and this was after going cross country on foot 3/4 of a mile across arroyos, skirting cliffs, and through lots of scratchy, scratchy vegetation from the nearest drivable approach.

While this gave me this wonderful view:

shiprock - 1

it also blocked the rising moon and I couldn’t get pictures until it had cleared the southern edge.

shiprock - 2

This looks bright but the moon is actually approaching totality. Still,  got to see amazing landscape and it was almost worth getting all those frigging stickers in my socks and the two hours of bumping, scary driving through the dark, after, just to reach a paved road again.