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Photos Of Airplanes Flying Across Full Moon  
User currently offlineGeezer From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 1479 posts, RR: 2
Posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 10 hours ago) and read 13207 times:

I have just been looking at a couple of photos, taken by a gentleman in the U.K., of a B 767 and a A 320 ( I believe )
flying in front of a full, or almost full moon. Unfortunately, he does not mention anything about the camera / lens used to make these shots.

I have spent many hours observing the moon with many different types of astronomical telescopes, but my knowledge now is somewhat "rusty". To begin with, a 35mm film camera, ( or a "full-frame" sensor D SLR ) with a 400 mm lens attached, yields a magnification of 8X; a 600 mm lens gives you 10X ; a 10X image of a 1/2 degree of arc object,on a 35mm format will give you a very small image, something on the order of a 1 or 2 mm image on the 24 X 36 mm full frame format. ( something on the order of a pea on a dinner plate )

To the un-aided eye, the disc of the full moon subtends an angle of just under 1/2 degree of arc. With a fairly wide angle eyepiece, the average small telescope will have a magnification of about 60 X, and will just about fill up a 24 X 36 mm film frame, with a 1/2 degree wide object. In both of these photos, the full moon appears to fill the frame, maybe 80%; ( just an estimate ) and appears to be magnified, maybe 50 to 60 X. ( Therefore pretty much leaving out any telephoto lens I've ever heard about. )

So, the question is............how did he do it ? Here's my "best guess"................

OK, we have our scope set up, camera body attached. pointing at the full moon; we engage the scope's drive, and the moon will remain centered in our field of view, ( with maybe just a little "tweek" from time to time ), ( depending on how accurate the drive mechanism is, ) and we wait......and wait.......and wait some more.

Remember, the sky, from the northern horizon to the southern horizon is 180 degrees...........so our tiny little 1/2 degree field of view is..........very tiny, to say the least ! So I'm guessing, our "wait" may well be a long one, waiting for a plane, ( which is maybe flying at, say 35,000 ft, hence is maybe 7 to 10 miles distant, to fly across that ridiculously tiny little 1/2 degree field of view, in front of the full moon, ( which is, on average, around 243,000 miles distant.) I'm not quite sure just how long a B 767 is, ( they look quite large, up close ), and I'm also not quite sure how big of an image this would give, magnified, say 60 X, from, say, 10 miles away............but apparently the answer is in these two fine photos.

To sum it all up, ( and remember, I'm just guessing now ), anyone wishing to take "airplane in front of moon " pictures will probably need about 3 things; a small, maybe 6" to 10" telescope with equatorial mounting and drive, a decent, hopefully full frame D SLR camera body, and one hell of a lot of patience, ( waiting for the hoped-for plane to wander across that tiny little 1/2 degree wide patch of sky in front of old "Luna". )

Does anyone else have any other ideas as to how one might go about this ?


Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein
8 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinewaketurbulence From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1330 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 13193 times:

There are other ways to capture moon shots. Here is a quick example from me, albeit not quite as impressive as the recent F-16 or A320 on the Photog's Choice page.

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Photo © Matthew Wallman - Jetwash Images

This shot was taken with a Canon 40D, 500mm f/4 L IS lens with a 1.4X converter attached. That equals a 1120mm equivalent. I was with a group of guys and we saw the aircraft from a long way out. I pre-focused on the moon, set the focus to manual, and waited for the 777 to cross. I only got off 1 decent shot, the previous frame where the aircraft crossed closer to the moon was blurred.

I have seen a lot of aircraft cross the moon, it isn't all that rare, as you can see by the many fine photos on the site. With a crop camera, large lens and a converter or two, it is not all that hard to do.

User currently offlineckw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 813 posts, RR: 14
Reply 2, posted (5 years 3 months 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 13043 times:

To sum it all up, ( and remember, I'm just guessing now ), anyone wishing to take "airplane in front of moon " pictures will probably need about 3 things; a small, maybe 6" to 10" telescope with equatorial mounting and drive, a decent, hopefully full frame D SLR camera body, and one hell of a lot of patience, ( waiting for the hoped-for plane to wander across that tiny little 1/2 degree wide patch of sky in front of old "Luna". )

One VITAL missing ingredient - good local knowledge and planning. Many good 'cross the moon shots' are taken near airports where the flight paths of the aircraft are pretty predictable. Knowing this, and where the moon will be at a given time greatly increases the chance of success. At my local, there are 2 times in the year when the full moon will be low in the sky behind the flight path - planning ahead, the weather is the only real luck element.

Another thing to consider - many good moon shots are not taken at night, but late afternoon or early morning when the moon is still visible - again something that can be planned in advance - careful exposure/post-processing can make the sky appear much darker than it was in reality - in certain circumstances an aircraft can be brightly lit by the setting /rising sun allowing for handheld shots even with long lenses.

Equatorial drives - don't think this will work, as it can't track both the moon and aircraft. If you are using shutter speeds so slow as to require the drive, then the aircraft will be blurred. You need to track the aircraft and hopefully use a fast enough shutter speed to keep the moon sharp.

Full frame - probably working against you here - high pixel density is what you want, and of course you have a much better chance of filling the frame on a crop camera than you do a full frame.

This is not to say moon shots are easy, they aren't, and those I know who produce the best work hard to get them. But a bit of planning and lateral thinking can help put the odds a bit more in your favour.



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlinepilotealpha From Mauritius, joined Mar 2007, 133 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (5 years 3 months 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 12995 times:

I've tried to make this kind of photo several times and it's really difficult. So far i've not been able to make one. Perfect timing and proper equipment is necessary. Colin made some good points above.


The way I see it, you can either work for a living or you can fly airplanes. Me, I'd rather fly.
User currently offlineFlyingfox27 From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2007, 425 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (5 years 3 months 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 12991 times:

Here is one that i took at Heathrow on 30th October, its nowhere near as good as the ones on here but it impressed the professor at my local Planetarium and he is going to use it for his Moon project.  

Its a chance thing but being around London while the Moon is out in the early morning is a very helpful idea, i just used my Canon 1000D with Sigma 70-300mm Lens and CS3 photoshop.

User currently offlineJohnKrist From Sweden, joined Jan 2005, 1429 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (5 years 3 months 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 12962 times:

I got lucky with this one:

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Photo © Johnny Kristensen

KLM at cruise level shot with a 200mm lens, needless to say it is cropped. getting a full frame moon of an aircraft at cruise passing the moon takes a long lense, but if you settle for the type of shot above all it takes is a high MP camera, a good lens and some cropping. A 70-200 is far cheaper than a 600 Canon L lens  

5D Mark III, 7D, 17-40 F4 L, 70-200 F2.8 L IS, EF 1.4x II, EF 2x III, SPEEDLITE 600EX-RT
User currently offlineGBOAB From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 368 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (5 years 3 months 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 12877 times:

As Colin says above planning is vital

For me the only times to get good photos of the Moon & aircraft run from October to February
I know that the moon will rise late afternoon early evening in the North East and will be high enough in the sky to be in a good position to coincide with arrivals at Heathrow.

I use a Canon 1D MkII with a Canon 100-400L IS lens however even with the lens set at 400mm the moon doesn't fill the frame, so I reluctantly add a 1.4x converter but then the downside is the quality.

I set up my camera up on a tripod and auto focus on the moon, once in focus I switch the lens back to manual mode and use the following settings ISO 400 f/8 1/400sec and the next thing to do is wait and wait and wait ....... and be lucky oh and of course clear skies  


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Photo © Ian Kirby
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Photo © Ian Kirby

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Photo © Ian Kirby
View Large View Medium
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Photo © Ian Kirby

View Large View Medium
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Photo © Ian Kirby

Concorde's gone but not forgotten
User currently offlineavent From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (5 years 3 months 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 12818 times:

There is a free software package called 'the photographers ephemeris' that you can Google. It will give the rise and set times for the moon and sun, and the azimuth and elevations - all for any location you wish. It allows the photographer to known where to be if they want to see the moon align with mountains or buildings or runways in this case. I have tried it and found it useful even though I failed in my first efforts to get airplane in front of moon shots; remember, if you are at the airpoert, planes are approaching at about a 3 deg angle, so if the moon is higher than this, the odds go down.

The moon is about half a degree which is a 1:120 ratio roughly.

Consider a 200ft airplane 10 miles away. It presents a ratio of

200 : 10 x 5000 =
200 : 50000 =
2 : 500 =
1 : 250.

So at 10 miles, the 200ft airplane will be less than half the moon's size. So, regardless of lens used, this airplane will be half the size of the moon at that distance, so take a picture of the moon first to get a sense of what to expect.

User currently offlineilpavone2004 From UK - England, joined Feb 2008, 102 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (5 years 3 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 12789 times:

Well, i'm the one who took this photo http://www.airliners.net/photo/Ethio...d=43fee740730c160a21d6b538ad8571fe and i actually know james, the man you're referring to. His settings, as far as i know because i talked with him only some weeks ago, are these ones:

Skywatcher Dobson 10'' (if i remember good), 1200mm focal lenght (if i remember in the right way)
Canon eos 50d (new add since some months, before he had an eos 350d)
Sometimes he uses a 2x barlow but i don't think he did in the photos uploaded to airliners.
Obviously a T2 ring
No motor driving of the telescope at all. Manual driving with a good shutter speed ( it depends on the focal lenght, usually around 1/600 - 1/800)

Talking about my photo, the settings were:

Canon eos 400d (now i own a canon eos 5d mkII and i actually regret that i didn't take that shot with this camera)
GSO Dobson 12'', 1500mm focal length
Barlow lens 2x
T2 ring
Manual driving
Shutter speed was 1/800 if i remember good, i shoul check the raw file!
Total focal length (that includes the 1,6X factor of the camera) was 4800mm
A lot of Luck!

Hope this Helps!

Whenever you want to start to be a contrail spotter, you can refer to this forum http://www.luchtzak.be/forums/viewforum.php?f=25

For more information, i'd sugget you to check this website:

www.skystef.be (he's a member of the forum with some great contrail images, also of the moon)

Best Regards,

Mattia Vichi

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