Moon Visits the Planets

The sky has been graced by four planets in recent weeks shortly after sunset. Farthest west has been Venus. Next toward the east has been Jupiter, then fainter Saturn, and brilliant Mars in the southeast. This view from Starry Nite desktop software shows their arrangement in mid-August soon after sunset.

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The Moon was a new thin crescent on 11 Sep soon after sunset here photographed by Heiko Ulbricht in Germany.

Heiko Ulbricht | September 11, 2018 | @ Mt. Lerchenberg, Saxony, Germany

Each successive night after 11 Sep, the Moon appeared farther east in the evening sky as it orbited Earth. Our weather forecast predicted a series of clear days which gave me hope of capturing an image of the Moon near each of the four planets during the coming week.

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In the Pine Woods

Fourteen years ago I walked to a pine woods not far from our backyard. New construction was taking place. I wanted to get some images of the pine trees before they were cut down. Lots of other trees were removed as new streets and lots were installed. I am glad to say these pines are still there.

For the images of the tall pines, I wanted a different perspective. I chose a spot with a good view upward. Lying on my back, I shot about 10 pictures up into the trees. The images were overlaid so the trunks and branches were in good alignment. The end result was very close to how I saw it.

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Aerosols on 23 Aug 2018

Aerosols are very small particles of matter in the air suspended by winds and air currents. The haze they cause can reduce visibility and redden sunrises and sunsets. The particles are much smaller than grains of sand. Common types are carbon from fires, wind blown dust from deserts, and salt from winds at the ocean surface.

The map below is a snapshot from 23 August 2018 showing where these three types were observed globally by satellite sensors. Color coding makes them easy to identify. A much larger version of this map is available at this link. The download allows you to zoom in on any of the regions shown. A previous aerosol post is here.

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ISS Transits Sun | 20180825

I enjoy trying to capture passes of the Space Station over my location. Sometimes it passes in front of the Sun. That happened today at 2:20:30 local time. Here is how the Sun looked before passage. Notice the two sunspots at the right. It is in a period of quiet sunspot activity now.

There are two videos of the transit of the ISS. This first one is in real time. At about the 4 second mark, it crosses across the lower left part of the Sun. Don’t blink or you will miss it. The second video is slowed to 10% real time. The actual speed of ISS is about 5 mi/sec (8 km/sec).

It will help to adjust the quality to 1090 or 720 using the gear icon down by the YouTube label.

4 Vesta | Minor Planet

The minor planet 4 Vesta is the 2nd largest asteroid. Ceres is the largest. In recent weeks it has made a turn in the sky and has been well-positioned for views in the evening sky. I got my first view of Vesta through 15x tripod-mounted binoculars in late July. Chart from Sky & Telescope.

Our skies in Iowa have been cloudy and hazy since then. On 22 August, they were clear and offered good seeing. I set up the binoculars pointing south to try once more to see Vesta and was rewarded. Here is the desktop planetarium (Starry Night 7) view looking south at about 9 pm. Several familiar objects are labeled. Click to embiggen.

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Astronomy Symbols | Denim Jacket

Melanie showed me an image in an arts and crafts book where Henri Matisse style cutouts were put on the back of a denim jacket. I immediately thought that would look good on my old jacket. Instead of Matisse, I planned to use the traditional astronomical symbols for the Sun, Moon, and planets. Some online research located a set of symbols and a source of iron-on fabric patches in a color set I liked that coordinated with denim. I am very pleased with the final result. I can’t wait to wear it on a cool day and have someone ask “What does that say on your jacket?”

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Moon and Sun