Mars at the Picnic

April 15, 2018

Astronomy

In October of 1988 a fellow conspirator (RL.Dietz) and I had the loan of Jewett Observatory at WSU. The Professor Lutz’s (Mr & Mrs) left us a key to the facility where we could pick it up and drop it off while they were off to who knows where.

We shot about 300 exposures that night, using every combination of film type, eyepiece, filter, exposure, etc that we could think of. Jewett has a 12″ f/15 Clark Refractor, the largest refracting telescope in the state of Washington, and we didn’t want to get skunked. We shot the moon, we shot Jupiter, but mostly we shot Mars, which was at opposition on that night.

In those days we were both working at a quick photo developing and custom print lab so we followed up with all sorts of processing tricks to boost the contrast. Ten of the Mars shots turned out better than the rest and one is slightly better than the other nine. It doesn’t compare to shots amateurs are getting these days but it’s okay. It was a fun experiment. This was the age of pre-digital-multi-stacked-computer-guided-auto-enhanced photographics. Each shot costs money and you don’t know what you have until the next day or two.

One of the rolls of film we used to shoot Mars had pretty good exposures except for one problem. The roll had been previously exposed by an unknown customer of the film and print shop. There had been a certain level of chaos preparing for that night’s expedition, and apparently someone’s film had fallen into the mix. It was double exposed.

“Mars on grandma’s nose,” “Mars in the potato salad,” “Mars playing Frisbee,” and so forth. We showed the results on our weekly public access television show (Keystone Astronomers at Large) in an effort to find the proper owner, but we never did find them, and no one ever came to the shop asking about that mysterious roll of film.

Anyway, if you are missing a roll of film shot of a family picnic in the fall of 1988, your prints are ready.

Carpe Noctem

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