The Moon is in the midst of a series of 49 monthly occultations of the star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the Bull to the upper right of Orion the Hunter. The alignment of the axis of the lunar orbit with the location of Aldebaran is giving monthly occultations from January 2015. Most don’t occur many times in any one location for Earthling viewers. About half of them are daytime events. (I’ve seen them…very cool.) The last occultation of this series will occur September 2018. The next series is from 2033 to 2037.
As midnight approached on the evening of the 18th, I was thrilled to see clear skies overhead. With camera on the tripod, I set them on the front porch for this pairing at 11:15 pm CDT. All images can be embiggened for more detail.
11:15 pm CDT | Yellow line traces expected path of Aldebaran
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Mercury has been visible in the early morning twilight recently. Jupiter is on the opposite side of the Sun from our location. But, Earth is coming around in our orbit catching up to Jupiter. As a result, Jupiter is also a morning twilight object in the same vicinity as Mercury. They were to be very close to each other low in the eastern sky on 11 Oct 2016. Guess what. It was cloudy. But, I did go out on 10 Oct at 6:45 am when it was very clear to capture the view.
The first image is how it looked to my unaided eyes. The second image is zoomed into the center part of the first just above the tallest trees in the vicinity of a faint jet trail.
They are in there somewhere in the middle.
The evening on 9 Oct was also clear. An email notice told me about a bright reflection off of a communication satellite that was to pass right over my location. The satellites are part of the Iridium system consisting of 72 satellites in polar orbits that provide worldwide coverage for satellite phones. Their 3 antennae shown in the image below are flat and highly reflective of sunlight. The positions and angles of each antenna are known allowing predictions of those reflections across the surface of the Earth.
The email notice said the location in the sky was toward 148˚ in the southeast and 50˚elevation. It would last about 10 sec due to the 17,000 mph speed of the satellite.
The sky was dark. I set the camera using a protractor for elevation and Google Earth for direction over my neighbor’s house. I started recording a minute before the due time of 7:52 pm. Success. Here is the video trimmed for time to the actual event.
Up at 6 am two days ago, I looked out the front window. The sky barely showed a glow from the Sun at the horizon. I looked up to see the thin crescent of the waning Moon.
Tuesday 27 Sep 2016
I wondered if the next morning would show a thinner crescent. It was not to be. The cut-off low over the Great Lakes dragged low clouds across our area. I hoped for clear skies the day after that.
This morning I went to the same window at 6 am. I could see the sky was very clear. Where was the Moon? Maybe it was behind that tree in the neighbor’s yard. I carried the camera and tripod to the driveway. There it was, very low, close to the horizon, peeking around that tree. And, there was Mercury near it. What a good way to start the day.
Wednesday 29 Sep 2016
A thin 2% illumination with a side of Mercury
What does October have in store for sky viewing? Watch this video to find out.