Venus Saturn Mars

Venus has been a prominent early morning sight for several weeks. If you are an early-riser and look low toward east, you can’t miss it. It will be there until late summer or early fall. Less obvious in the same part of the sky are the planets Saturn and Mars. On 28 March 2022, the clear predawn sky even presented a thin crescent Moon below this grouping of those planets.

On successive mornings, Saturn and Mars approached closer to each other. This view on 3 April 2022 was photographed through a living room window. The green thing is a glass ornament. This was the only unobstructed viewpoint due to trees and rooftops.

3 April 2022 at 6:14 am

It was a rainy morning on April 4. But, the sky was mostly clear on the 5th. Saturn and Mars were at their closest approach less than the diameter of a full moon.

5 April 2022 at 6:00 am

Keep watching that part of the sky to the lower left of Venus. Jupiter will begin making an appearance. On 18 April 2022, these four planets will form a straight line like this.

18 April 2022 at 6:00 am
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Final 2021 Astro Photo

Twilight came clear and cold. The waning Moon and Mars were low in the southeast. I had to set the tripod in the middle of the street. No one was driving by at that hour. It will be overcast by noon. A winter storm warning is forecast for tomorrow with >6 inches of snow and lots of wind. Happy New Year.

Mars and the Moon

Another clear evening revealed the close encounter of the Moon with Mars at the bottom center. Time was 9:25 pm.

Exposures set for the sunlit lunar surface and then the earthshine. Click for a bigger view of each.

Ingenuity Flights | Enhanced Views

See flights 2 and 3 at the end of this post.

The first video view of the flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars was short and jerky. It lasted 13 sec. The initial video data omitted many frames in order to quickly confirm for scientists that the flight was successful. Since that time, the rest of the frames have been downloaded and compiled into this version of 57 sec. The camera used was on the Perseverance rover several meters away.

Things to watch for include spin-up of the rotors at 7 sec. Liftoff takes place at 15 sec. It reaches 3 meter altitude at 19 sec. It hovers and does a 90˚ turn at 24 sec. It holds that position for several seconds. During that time, notice how it drifts to the right and then left a little bit. The gentle Martian breeze that day caused the drift. Ingenuity regained its position correctly. It started to descend at 37 sec with touchdown 3 sec later.

Scientists at JPL used special video filtering to capture the faint dust cloud stirred up by the rotors of the helicopter.

“The Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover shot video of the helicopter’s flight. The video is presented here in side-by-side formats that have both been enhanced to show a dust plume swirling during takeoff and again on landing. The view on the left uses motion filtering to show where dust was detected during liftoff and landing and the view on the right is enhanced with the motion filtering. Scientists use this image processing to detect dust devils as they pass by Mars rovers.”

While Ingenuity hovered, the camera on the bottom aimed straight down captured this image of its shadow. Imagine looking straight down from the height of a basketball hoop. The fast shutter speed froze the positions of the two counter-rotating rotor blades spinning at about 2500 rpm. The 4 legs of the copter are visible.

UPDATE: Flight 2 and images taken by Ingenuity in this video.

UPDATE: Flight 3 starts at the lower left. Lift-off at 10 sec. Cruises off screen to the right. Returns to view at 49 sec and then to touchdown.

ISS and More

Evening arrived with very clear sky and mild temperature. It was the last night of winter. The International Space Station was due to pass directly overhead from SW to NE. It would pass near the Moon, Mars, Taurus and Orion. The iPad was set with NightCap app to record for about 3 minutes. After recording the scene, I enjoyed some telescope time.

iPad with NightCap in ISS mode, 171.75 sec exposure