Moon Visits the Planets

The sky has been graced by four planets in recent weeks shortly after sunset. Farthest west has been Venus. Next toward the east has been Jupiter, then fainter Saturn, and brilliant Mars in the southeast. This view from Starry Nite desktop software shows their arrangement in mid-August soon after sunset.

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The Moon was a new thin crescent on 11 Sep soon after sunset here photographed by Heiko Ulbricht in Germany.

Heiko Ulbricht | September 11, 2018 | @ Mt. Lerchenberg, Saxony, Germany

Each successive night after 11 Sep, the Moon appeared farther east in the evening sky as it orbited Earth. Our weather forecast predicted a series of clear days which gave me hope of capturing an image of the Moon near each of the four planets during the coming week.

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Moon | Recent Morning Views

Sunrise today was 7:23 am. At 6:49 am, the Moon was barely above the eastern horizon, presenting a narrow sliver of reflected light. Earthshine lit the rest of the Moon faintly.

A wider view showed the star Porrima, goddess of prophecy, watching the proceedings nearby.

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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.

2017_1003VenMars

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Solar Eclipse | Totality Minus 3 Days

The Moon is slowly making its way to the east for its date with the Sun. Today is 3 days before eclipse. At 5:58 am, well before sunrise, the waning crescent was high in the eastern sky not far from Venus. Our plan is to drive south into central Missouri with our daughter and two grandchildren. It will be fun to share this unique experience with them. News reports show traffic is already a problem in some areas as people position themselves for their best views. It should not be an issue for us.