Have you been watching Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest evening skies soon after sunset? They are getting closer together. By late December they will be nearly in the same position in the sky. This composite image used 4 images I superimposed in the recent two weeks. The thin line shows how close their encounter will be. Keep watching the show.
Mark your calendar for these events in August. Brought to you by the folks at NASA and JPL. All events are free. No registration required.
Wear a mask and distance yourself if you are with a group.
Evening views of Venus have been beautiful. The planet is passing us in orbit and by the end of May will be hidden in the glare of the Sun. It will emerge again in June but as a morning object.
Last evening was clear and cold, providing a perfect view of Venus. With the camera mounted on a tripod and fully zoomed, the crescent was obvious. A small telescope or steadied binoculars will work, too. Give it a try. Your evening opportunities are waning.
Canon PowerShot SX60 HS | 1/500s | ISO=400 | 9:21pm
🔭 Updates an earlier post to include recent changes and new information. 🔭
Desktop planetarium software helps plan viewing sessions and keep track of the planets and Moon. Many products are available for all computer platforms and smartphones. A Google search yields links to many sources. Open source and free Stellarium is on my desktop computer. It can be customized to your location and has a nice look and feel. For Android and Mac phones and tablets, I like SkySafari. It isn’t free but is inexpensive.
Online planetarium sites are popular and offer many features. Below are highlights of a few I like. With multiple features, a unique look and feel, and different levels of detail, they can help satisfy your curiosity about astronomical events. I welcome reader questions or reviews about using these tools or others you find helpful.
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I knew it would happen someday. NASA officially declared the Mars Opportunity Rover mission was over. It was active for nearly 15 years and had driven more than 26 miles exploring craters, various rock features, and the weather. Last year, a global dust storm on Mars darkened the skies for many weeks. Opportunity went into a hibernation to save power. After the dust settled and the sun returned, multiple efforts to make contact failed. This is the final transmitted image back in June 2018.
Previously in 2010, Spirit, the other identical rover, had succumbed to the harsh Martian conditions. Both were launched in 2003. They landed with the aid of airbags to soften the impact. They were ‘warranted’ for 90 day missions. Spirit exceeded that by 20x.
Randall Munroe of xkcd published a nice commemorative cartoon for the occasion. Thanks to the intrepid rover for taking us along during its explorations.
Randall Munroe | xkcd.com
NASA published this short video showing some of the highlights of the Opportunity mission.