Trapezoid in the Sky

Last night at about 10 the space station passed overhead. It was a chance to see it pass near Venus and Mars plus the stars Pollux and Castor of the Gemini twins. The iPad app Nightcap captured the scene including 3 airplanes. Their trails completed a trapezoid in the sky during the 147 sec exposure. That was an interesting surprise.

Taken with NightCap, ISS mode, 147 sec exposure, 1/2 sec shutter speed.

Evening Planets | April 2023

Mercury reached its greatest elongation from the Sun in the evenings of April 11-14. We were fortunate to have clear skies during some of those days. At about 8:45 on the 12th, I went out with camera and tripod to see if I could get an image. It was easy to locate a little north of west and about 17˚ above the horizon. Here it is with a few guy wires from a nearby radio tower cutting the corner of the frame.

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Comet c/2022 e3 (ztf) | Fading fast

Discovered in March 2022, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) caused a stir in the astronomy community. In January and February of 2023, hailed in the news as the Green Comet, it was the subject of numerous media stories. The hype surrounding it’s appearance was rather intense. I looked for it on a few occasions when the weather cleared with hopes of seeing what was being described in articles. I was not impressed with it on either of the two times I saw it. I don’t have the equipment to take long exposures or stack multiple images such as those made by astronomers with better resources. I did enjoy their images and appreciate the skill and talent needed to make them.

Where is the comet now in mid-March? It is positioned to the right of the constellation Orion. It is labeled in green in this desktop planetarium simulation. Each day it moves a little farther down and away from Orion as it fades.

Starry Night Pro 8

Venus-Jupiter conjunction progress

I started imaging the evening pair of planets on 19 February when they were still quite far apart. My camera is a Canon Powershot SX60HS with a powerful zoom. It was mounted on a tripod. Settings of ISO 200, 0.5 sec, infinity focus, 2 sec delay timer, and medium zoom were saved for future exposures over the next days of the conjunction. I tried to time exposures between 6:30 and 6:45 pm. Lengthening daylight and weather conditions were challenges. Our region of the mid-United States is especially prone to clouds and wind this time of year. I felt lucky to get six images over twelve days.

Pixelmator Pro was used to layer the images and add text notations. I aligned each exposure on Jupiter as the frame of reference. Both planets moved from night to night. Jupiter moved down to toward the Sun a small amount each day. Venus moved up away from the Sun a greater distance each day. Jupiter was 8x farther away. Venus is rounding the curve of orbit, increasing elongation from the Sun, and catching up to Earth over the next months. It moved from the bottom toward the top of this composite image.

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Venus-Jupiter Daylight view | 1 Mar 2023

Like many others, I’ve been following the evening views of Jupiter and Venus. It has been a challenge to get clear skies in order to see their progress as they neared each other. Today started foggy. That moved out leaving clear skies. I set up my 102 mm Meade refractor on the go-to mount and asked it to find Venus. There it was, glowing bright in the eyepiece, with the much dimmer disc of Jupiter to the lower left. It was a rare sight. I’ve seen both of these planets separately several times before in the daytime with my naked eye, binoculars, and telescope. It is a fun challenge. This was special to see them both in the same view of the eyepiece.

I had an eyepiece camera mounted on the telescope part of the time hoping to get an image with it. I couldn’t find them. So, as a last resort, I held my phone up to the eyepiece as steadily as I could and took 3 images. Maybe one of them would be ok. To my surprise, one of them came out well. I adjusted the image a bit and added notations.

Hand-held phone camera | ISO 400 | 1/5100 sec