Venus | Morning View | 24 Mar 2017

I got my first morning view of Venus this spring at 6:45. There was a layer of high clouds to the east dimming the view quite a lot. Binoculars helped locate it for a photograph. Thanks to Scott at Scott’s Sky Watch for pointing out Venus is now visible both in the evening and the morning if the sky is clear enough. He called it a double dose of Venus.

Looking slightly north of east through high clouds.

Clouds made the image a little hazy.

There was another bonus this morning. Looking to the southeast, the waning crescent Moon shined through a clear break in the clouds.

Occultation | Aldebaran Hidden Again

Once more, the Moon occulted the bright star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus. Previous three posts are found here describing earlier occultations. I stepped out early to see if the sky was clear and got this image at 9:24 pm CST. My phone said the occultation occurred a few seconds past 9:52.

28 min prior to the 9:52 occultation

28 min prior to the 9:52 occultation

Aldebaran disappeared from view about 6 seconds into the video. I looked again at 10:33 pm and saw it had reemerged into view at the upper right of the Moon.


Earlier in the evening at 6:38 pm, I captured this slim crescent of Venus. It will quickly descend toward the Sun during the next two weeks and show a thinner crescent. On about 25 March, it will be aligned with the Sun and not in view. Early in April, it will emerge as a thin crescent before dawn.


Moon | Diffraction Grating View

I headed home after attending the public lecture on aurorae by University of Iowa professor Craig Kletzing. One part of his talk included a demo of color emissions from the element oxygen. It is responsible for nearly all the colors associated with aurorae. We needed diffraction grating glasses to see the demo effect such as these.

As I drove home, I noticed the bright crescent Moon. I stopped the car to look through my grating glasses. Once home I set up the camera with the grating over the lens. It was a nice way to end the day.


Viewing Heavenly Bodies | 2017

🔭  Updates an earlier post to include recent changes and information.

As an amateur astronomer, I use desktop planetarium software to plan viewing sessions and keep track of the planets and Moon. There are many products available for all computer platforms and smartphones. A Google search yields links to many sources. I downloaded and use the open source Stellarium on my desktop computer. It can be customized to your location and is free. For Android and Mac phones and tablets, I like SkySafari. It isn’t free.

Online planetarium sites are popular and offer many features. Below are highlights of some I find interesting. Each has multiple features, a unique look and feel, and different levels of detail. They can help satisfy your curiosity about astronomical events.

I limited this post to include only a few select sites and links. Since many are available, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with too much information. I hope these few of top quality will motivate you to investigate the sky and enjoy what it has to offer. I welcome reader questions or reviews about using these tools or others you find helpful.



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Dial-a-Moon | 2017

How will the Moon look today, on your birthday, or any date in 2017? Find out at NASA Dial-a-Moon. Enter any month, day, and universal time (UT) hour to see a high definition image. The composite images of Dial-a-Moon are made from those of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in low altitude orbit around the Moon since 2009. Here is the link for southern hemisphere readers.

You may leave the universal time (UT) at the default 1 value. If you are a curious type, Universal time conversion can be done at this link. Enter UTC in the lower right box if it isn’t already set. You can switch from 12 hr to 24 hr at the bottom of the entry boxes. You may also enter any other local time in the upper left box. Go back to Dial-a-Moon to enter the UT.

The collection of accurate images of the Moon for each hour have been made into a movie lasting 5 minutes. Try watching full screen and increase the speed by 2x. Speed can be changed using the gear icon ⚙  after the movie starts. Two versions of the movie are available for readers in northern and southern hemisphere.

I explain the peculiar wobble and tipping motions at this blog post.

Northern hemisphere


Southern hemisphere

Comet 45P | Near New Moon

There were many news stories about the appearance of New Year’s Eve Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková in the evening sky near the western horizon. After dinner, I walked my camera and tripod a block away and set up to try imaging the comet. It was to appear somewhere in the field to the left of the thin crescent Moon in this simulated view.

Simulated view by Stellarium

View simulated by Stellarium

I tried several images changing the zoom, ISO, field of view, and shutter speed. I got no evidence of the comet. It was too dim to detect even after several enhancements using Photoshop. If it is clear again tonight, I might try viewing with my telescope instead.

I did salvage one very nice image of the thin crescent new Moon. I’m always glad to see it.