Venus – Mars | Parting Ways

Bright Venus and Mars in center at 6:45 am today. They are joined by Sigma Leo at top and Tau Leo lower right.

Simulation of the passing of Mars by Venus between 2 October and 8 October.


Venus-Mars | At Their Closest

Two days earlier I posted some photos of Venus and Mars in the pre-dawn light. The positions of Venus and Mars were getting closer each morning. October 5th was to be the day they would be closest at 1/4˚ apart. For comparison, the Moon’s diameter is only 1/2˚ wide.

Our weather forecast said it would be raining on the morning of the 5th. I assumed that previous post was going to be all I would get to share about their conjunction. Today I looked outside before 6 am and was thrilled to see a clear sky. I got the camera and tripod to capture the unexpected scene.

First is a screen capture from my planetarium software showing the planets on the 3rd and the 5th of October.

Next is my photograph of Venus and Mars at 6 am on the 3rd of October. It is adjusted to be the same scale as the first image.

Finally, my photograph of the two at 6 am on the 5th of October. It is adjusted to be the same scale as the first image. They were about half the width of a full moon apart. Mars was hard to see without the aid of binoculars. By 6:30 am, the sky was too bright to see Mars. Venus remained bright and easily seen. In fact, in clear skies, Venus is not hard to see in the daytime if you know where to look.

Venus-Mars | Orion & Friends | Pleiades

Venus has been gracing the morning pre-dawn sky for several weeks. It raced past Earth in its orbit around the Sun and is receding from us quickly. It will pass behind the Sun early in 2018 before emerging as an evening apparition.

Mars is positioned farther away from us than Venus and nearly along the same line of sight. On 5 October, early morning risers can see the two nearest to each other. Look at about 6 am low in the eastern sky on a clear morning. Binoculars will help spot dim Mars. It appears we will suffer from cloudy skies here in the midwest.

This morning I was up early and looked for Venus. It was hidden by low clouds to the east. I waited and was able to see both Venus and Mars emerge from the clouds. Notice the faint outline of a tree on the right side of the image. All images have been slightly modified to make them more easily viewed. They look best enlarged on a monitor screen. You might not see anything on a phone or tablet.


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Solar Eclipse | Viewed From Moon

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LRO circles the Moon in a polar orbit. The LRO instruments return data on the lunar surface. Temperature maps, a mapping grid, high-resolution images cover the entire surface. The polar regions of the Moon are of particular interest. Water may exist in the permanently shadowed craters at the pole. These water resources may assist future returns to the Moon by humans and even exploration farther into the solar system. Previous posts about LRO are found here.

NASA | Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

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Star Corpses | Three Distinct Types

MinutePhysics author Henry Reich on YouTube explains the physics of a phenomenon in a minute if possible. Here he explains what is left behind when stars die. The corpse of the star depends on what mass the star had in the beginning. He took more than a minute, but less than three. I think that is quite good.

My previous post about this topic describes how stars change over time. Fair warning: It will take more than a minute to read. Probably more than three minutes.

Solar Eclipse | Totality

Eclipse day finally arrived. Before dawn broke, we awoke to much lightning and thunder here in eastern Iowa. It seemed a bad omen. I checked the radar and forecast for central Missouri where we planned to drive. No rain there in the morning and still pretty good odds for a visible eclipse.

The phone rang about 7:30 when our daughter called. They were to meet us as we drove south so she and our two grandkids could share the experience with us. She said her daughter woke with a fever and aches and pains. It seemed another bad omen. She gave her some meds and still hoped to go. We would meet them in 2 hours and make the final decision. We met and decided to go anyway. She slept most of the 2.5 hr drive from there to Auxvasse, Missouri. Would the two bad omens spoil the day?

The weather improved as we drove farther south. The Sun came out and blue skies were peeking through the clouds. We reached the park in the tiny town of Auxvasse. It was a party! Maybe 100 people were in the park. Music was playing. Kids were on the playground equipment. We opened our picnic food. It noticeably darkened as it neared 1 pm.

Totality Approached

We watched through our eclipse glasses to keep track of the progress of the Moon across the Sun. A minute before totality I began to record this video. Next to me was Melanie and our 6 yr old grandson. I love his commentary. Notice how dark it got.

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