June 6th last year, stargazers from across the globe gathered together to watch one of the rarest astronomical spectacles.
Many turned their attention to the daytime sky to view the planet Venus passing directly between the Sun and Earth – a transit that won’t occur again for another 105 years.
The transit of Venus happens in pairs eight years apart – but then with more than a century between cycles. During the pass, Venus appeared as a small, dark round spot moving across the face of the sun.
Avid skywatchers had a chance to witness tonight’s close pairing between Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon — a nice sky event that kicked off the celebration of the National Astronomy Week 2013 in the Philippines. If you look closely at Jupiter in this image, you’ll also see a hint of its 4 Galilean moons.
During the closest approach, Jupiter and the Moon were 0.5 degree apart. For comparison, the angle covered by the diameter of the full moon is about 31 arcmin or 0.5 degree.
Astronomers use angular measurements to describe the apparent size of an object, or the distance between them. Knowing how to measure angular distance is an essential skill to finding your way around the sky.
The first full moon of 2013 occurred last 26 January, Saturday.
Some call it the Wolf Moon, which the Farmer’s Almanac attributes to the Algonquins and other American Indians, under the notion that hungry wolves would howl on the outskirts of Native villages in the dead of winter.
According to EarthSky.org, the January full moon—like the July sun—”follows a high path across the sky as seen from the northern part of the globe, and a low path as seen from the southern”. Hence, it rises north of due east around sunset, climbed highest in the sky around midnight and sets north of due west around sunrise.
This happens because a full moon lies opposite the sun, mirroring the sun’s place in front of the backdrop stars for six months.
The moon can appear orange when it is low in the sky and when there are a lot of haze or dust particles in the atmosphere just like when the image above was taken. Another image below is a composite with one underexposed and one overexposed image of the moon.
Last January 22, 2013, the waxing gibbous moon appeared near the bright planet Jupiter in the evening sky.
As seen from the Philippines, the Moon and Jupiter made a close approach within roughly 5 degrees of each other. Some folks in the Southern Hemisphere, however have seen Jupiter completely disappear behind the moon – an occultation.
During this event, the Moon was at mag -12.3, and Jupiter at mag -2.6, both in the constellation Taurus.
The sky condition was mostly cloudy. When the clouds parted, I was able to a couple of wide angle images which includes the two famous star clusters in Taurus — the Hyades and the Pleiades. In another image, the moon was shot at two different exposures to show the amount of separation between it and Jupiter.
Images were taken from Bulacan, Philippines around 8:40 – 9:00 pm PHT.
Today I had a nice opportunity to spot the “Lunar X” on the First Quarter Moon! The Lunar “X” is a well-known “optical feature” on the Moon, which resembles the letter “X” when the lunar terminator is along just the right lunar longitude. The intersecting crater walls of Purbach, La Caille and Blanchinus make the illusion “X” that is only visible for a short time.
Based on my observations during the past few months, it is possible to see the Lunar X when the moon is nearly 54% illuminated.This is why you cannot see it every month. In fact, the last time I was able to image it was during October 2012.
By the way, I refer to Stellarium, a free planetarium software, to determine the lunar phase and illumination during a particular date and time for my location. Note that the values given by Stellarium may not be very exact, but they are still very useful as guides for amateur astronomers.
My first image of the Lunar X:
Both images were taken using my Canon Powershot SX40 HS camera.
A 6% illuminated waning crescent moon and the planet Venus were in a close conjunction low in the southeast just before sunrise last 10 January 2013.
The waning crescent which looks like a thin “smile” on the sky, tilted a bit to the right. The soft glow on the dark side of the moon is called the Earthshine.
I always love taking pictures of a thin crescent moon, especially when it’s also nearby another bright objects like the planet Venus. It just makes my day complete. :)
Click on image to view larger version
Before the world ends (just kidding! LOL), here’s my lunar cycle montage :) Wheew. A month’s worth of work.
It’s been said that night photography has long been the realm of the persistent, strong willed…and sleep deprived few. LOL. However, despite being challenging, it is also a very interesting and rewarding venture. With the relatively decent weather last month until early December, I decided to try and capture the moon for as many nights as I could and then create a montage showing the different phases. Trying to catch a full sequence under Philippine skies isn’t the easiest thing to do! Favorable sky conditions may only arise a few times a year so I took this opportunity.
Please take note that no image was taken during December 4, 2012 because of the thick cloud cover during that day. What I did was I used a similar image (having almost the same phase and % illumination) that I took last October 31, 2012 as a replacement to fill the whole cycle.
All individual images were taken using my trusty Canon Powershot SX40 HS superzoom camera. Had to wake up during the wee hours of the night and endure a few mosquito bites only to image each one, especially the waning crescent phases. Haha. But I’m glad I did. Time and patience has paid off. :)
A few minutes after sunset last October 18, 2012, two reddish objects were found near the waxing crescent Moon (12% illuminated) in the western sky. These two bright red objects were actually the planet Mars, and the bright star Antares in the constellation Scorpius. Mars was about 2 degrees to the upper left from the Moon, and Antares about 4 degrees to the lower left from Mars.
Mars and Antares are often mistaken for each other because of their similarity in appearance. In fact, the name Antares means “Rival of Mars” in Greek.
All photos were taken using Canon Powershot SX40 HS. Some if the images were blurry. My camera got out of focus and i didn’t notice till it was too late! :(
Click on the images to see larger versions.
The sky was extra clear that night. Amazed by the beauty of the starry night sky, I took my camera out again and snapped this photo while walking home:
During the early morning hours of August 12, Philippine sky observers had a great chance of witnessing a relatively rare occultation of Jupiter (and some of its largest satellites) by our Moon. In astronomy, an occultation is an event that occurs when an apparently larger body passes in front of an apparently smaller one. In this case, the moon passed in front of the planet Jupiter; the pair being visible in the morning sky in the Philippines about 5 hours and 53 minutes before the Sun. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon was at mag -11.3, and Jupiter at mag -2.2, both in the constellation Taurus.
Despite the presence of hazy skies and thin clouds, we were lucky to have been able to observed the occultation event. Once I located the moon with my naked eye, I immediately pointed my superzoom camera to it and took an image. I found Jupiter close to the moon but it was covered with haze. A few minutes later, Jupiter slipped behind the bright lunar limb and was visible no longer. Half an hour later, I tried to capture a video of the reappearance of Jupiter, but the clouds had thickened to the point where I could no longer find the moon. When the clouds had finally gone out of sight, Jupiter was already emerging from behind the dark limb.
Still, considering the less-than-ideal conditions, it was quite a successful observation. :)
Sky condition: 70-80% cloudy
Camera used: Canon Powershot SX40 HS
I observed this event from Marikina City.
Image details: 150 mm, f/8, 1/160 sec. exposure, ISO-200.
I’ve been eyeing this camera for quite a while already and I was really happy that I was finally able to have it. It’s way cheaper than a DSLR, but it’s definitely worth the money.
It’s bridge-type camera (camera that “bridge the gap” between compact point-and-shoot and DSLR). I think it’s ideal for budding photographers like me who want the flexibility and control of a DSLR, but who don’t want to spend lots of money, or carry the heavy load required when you get a DSLR. But this type isn’t just more affordable; it’s also a much, much more portable choice and it offers a lot of nice features. Shoot wide or at the extremes of the camera’s telephoto (maximum zoom) setting – and toggle between them in a matter of seconds – the choice is yours; no need for extra lenses. It has the versatility of a huge focal range packed into a lightweight compact body.
Another thing that I like about this camera is that it uses CMOS that incorporates advanced light reception technology to enhance sensitivity. Most bridge cameras like its predecessors use CCD sensor and have generally bad low light settings. Its new DIGIC 5 Image Processor, however, provides a major boost in noise reduction, expanding the usable ISO range to an amazing high of ISO 3200. Hence, the Canon HS SYSTEM lets you use higher shutter speeds to capture clearer images with reduced noise and blur. In addition, the combination of the advanced CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 Image Processor in the PowerShot SX40 HS makes it possible to shoot crisp, clear high definition video.
And to top it all off, it also has a 2.7″ vari-angle LCD — great feature that is not very common with most bridge cameras.
By the way, I named her Gienah, after the brightest star in the constellation Corvus. Together with another star of Corvus called Algorab (name I’ve given to my other camera), its name derives from the Arabic phrase meaning “the raven’s wing.” ( “Gienah” from the word for “wing,” “Algorab” from that for “raven.”)True enough, these cameras are like wings to me for they seem to take me to places that further inspire my journey in astronomy and allow me to explore this hobby more with a great sense of joy. ;)
I’m very much excited to use it to take photos of the upcoming sky events. Thank God for this huge blessing! :) Patience paid off!
A thin crescent moon is always captivating sight, so I took the awesome opportunity of having a relatively fair weather last week to photograph the beautiful waxing crescent moon in the western sky using my trusty digital camera.
This morning, a wonderful view of a golden crescent sun was successfully observed by a lot of skyviewers using appropriate filters for visual observing and photography. The partial solar eclipse began at sunrise at 5:27 am local time and ended at 7:06 am. Fortunately, the weather cooperated this time despite bad weather forecasts and continuous rains during the past few days.
In some places like China, Japan, and United States, the event was seen as an annular eclipse which looked like a fiery ring in the sky.
I observed this event along with an Astrosoc orgmate in their house at Marikina City. Their location is great for observing events which can be viewed along the eastern sky. Moreover, it is also high enough to give a very good vantage point.
Only a few minutes after sunrise, a big yellowish grin in the east just above a layer of clouds greeted us earthlings who patiently waited even without sleep. Yay!
Many Filipinos anticipated the event as solar eclipses are not frequently visible in the Philippines. The last one occurred last January 15, 2010, while the next won’t take place until March 9, 2016.
For avid amateur astronomers like me, this event was extra special as it provides a good opportunity for me to practice solar observation in preparation for the upcoming transit of Venus, a very rare phenomenon that won’t be repeated until 2117. I have never done any solar observation before using my own Galileoscope for fear of getting it damaged (its lens and body tube were both made up of plastic which are not great for viewing the sun using solar projection method). Moreover, the danger of having an eye injury also worried me. Hence, I decided not to pursue solar observation unless I get a decent filter that I could safely attach and use with my equipment — be it a camera or my scope.
Months before this event, I was very anxious that I might not be able to observe it having only a cheap plastic scope and a camera. But I was really determined that I’ve read a lot about solar observing and saved some money for it just in case there’d be a need to buy some materials. When the event came nearer, however, financial constraints became a problem, so I just forego the idea of buying a costly filter and chose to buy a #10 welding glass instead. It might not produce nice images but it’s a good and safe alternative.
Nonetheless, God must have heard my thoughts that he made a miracle. Haha! A few days before the solar eclipse, a nice surprise came in when a generous UP AstroSoc orgmate offered me an extra piece of Baader solar filter — for free! Wee!:)
Below were some of the images I took using a hand-held Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera on a 2-inch refractor (Galileoscope) with a Baader 5.0 ND solar filter.
I will upload the other photos soon, including a complete observation report. For the meantime, I’d better get some sleep first because I still need to attend some other important conventions outside the city. :)
To the stars!
We were about to go to the hospital a while ago when I caught a glimpse of the rising waning gibbous moon (almost full) across the road. Luckily I always have my point-and-shoot camera with me and I was able to take an image. It’s quite a challenge because a lot of vehicles were running on the road. Haha!
Anyway, I hope it won’t rain tomorrow night so that everyone of us could witness this year’s perigee moon or Supermoon :) It’s the biggest and closest full moon of the year.
According to NASA, “it will be as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of 2012″.
Moon closest: May 6 at 11:29 am PHT
Full moon: May 6 at 11:35 am PHT
When I look into the night sky on a clear evening I am always completely in awe of the immense beauty of it all. That is why before leaving the house last night, I thought of getting an image of the first quarter moon that seemed to smile at me in the western sky. :)
Image taken via afocal method (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera on Galileoscope).
The planet Saturn formed a cosmic triangle with the star Spica in Virgo and the Waning Gibbous Moon last night, 7 April 2012.
This image is composed of two images that have been overlapped to create a composite: one underexposed image of the moon to show the lunar features, and one overexposed to make Saturn and Spica more visible. (Sorry for the bad editing. I still lack skills in using Adobe Photoshop).
The image shown above was last night’s Full Moon called the Paschal Full Moon.
In Christianity, the first astronomical full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox is usually designated as the Paschal Full Moon or the Paschal Term. Traditionally, Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.
Image taken via afocal method (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 on my Galileoscope)
Situated well above the 88% illuminated waxing gibbous moon tonight were two bright objects — one is the planet Mars and the other one is the star Regulus in the constellation Leo.
These three formed a nice cosmic triangle in the night sky just like what is shown above. (Please take note that the image was a composite.)
Reddish Mars has been in Leo close to the star Regulus for the past few weeks, and the two will remain companions all April. During May and June, Mars will drift away from Regulus, and will head toward the constellation Virgo where Saturn is currently residing.
Venus and Jupiter are slowly drifting apart after appearing side by side at twilight last week. Venus which now hangs above Jupiter will be climbing higher in our sky over the next three months, while Jupiter continuously sinks into the horizon. Both are in front of the constellation Aries the Ram.
For the past week, I’ve been setting up my camera and tripod after sunset to take photos of these two planets, with weather permitting of course. It was unfortunate however, that the skies were overcast during the time of their closest encounter and I only got the chance to see them again last March 16 when Venus has already glided past Jupiter.
By April 2, Venus, placing about 15 degrees above Jupiter will head toward the Pleiades (M45) in Taurus and will spend the next few days near the dipper-shaped star cluster. It will be a fantastic photo opportunity for avid skygazers as this event happens only every 8 years.
I am hoping that the sky condition will get better on the coming days ahead. Clear skies!
Enjoy the beautiful views of the Venus-Jupiter conjunction as seen from various parts of the globe through Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) image collection.
Last March 13-15, a lot of amateur astronomers participated in AWB’s event, “Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory” which highlighted the closest encounter of Jupiter and Venus — the two brightest planets in the night sky.
Images were submitted to AWB by uploading the them in Twitter and using the hashtag #VenusJupiter. Two of my images got included in this collection as well. Thank you, AWB!
Under the motto “One People, One Sky”, AWB brings people together from around the world through our common interest in astronomy .
True enough, “the boundaries we place between us vanish when we look skyward.” :)
If you’ve been looking west after sunset recently you can’t have failed to see Venus blazing there so bright, outshining everything else in the sky. To Venus’ upper left is another bright” star”, which is actually another planet, Jupiter.
These two bright planets visible in the night sky have been putting on quite a show this past month as they have been slowly getting closer together in the western sky just after sunset.
Next week, Venus and Jupiter will be MUCH closer than they are now. :)
On March 15, an impressive celestial show at twilight will surprise sky observers as these two planets reach what astronomers call conjunction – the closest they can appear in the sky together.
The pair of planets will appear to be only 3 degrees apart in the western sky. That is equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arms’ length. Their proximity in the sky is an illusion, of course, as Venus is 180 million km away from Earth and Jupiter is more than 600 million km farther away.
After their mid March close encounter, the two planets will quickly go pass each other – Jupiter dropping down towards the horizon, getting closer to the Sun, while Venus moves higher up in the sky, moving away from the Sun, and brightening as it does so.
The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.
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Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory
The Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 15 will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright. This will be a fantastic visual and photographic opportunity, as it’s not often that you get the brightest planets in our Solar System so close together.
In line with this, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), in collaboration with Amateur Astronomers Association of Kurdistan & Opportunity Astronomical Observatory (Iraq), presents “Beauty without Borders: Conjunction of Glory”.
All the amateur/professional groups out there are invited to participate and enjoy the beautiful views.
Join the conversation on Twitter @awb_org using #VenusJupiter with other groups around the world. Post your images on our Flickr or Facebook page.
Tour the Planets: Jupter and Venus Conjunction Live
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Here is a video from Newsy.com to help you know more about this event: http://www.newsy.com/videos/venus-and-jupiter-set-for-cosmic-meetup/
March 5, 2012 – This would have been a very fine evening for skygazing if only the clouds weren’t so annoying.
Various sky events were happening all at the same time, but nothing can be seen but the clouds.
This day marked the closest encounter of Mars to Earth until the year 2014. Mars is now displaying its greatest brilliance in our sky. Also on this day, the planet Mercury arrived at its greatest eastern point, 18 degrees to the east of the sun. This was Mercury’s best eastern apparition in 2012. In addition, a bright ISS (almost as bright as Jupiter) passed near Venus at around dusk. It was a nice opportunity to capture this ISS pass because of its proximity to two of the brightest objects in the night sky this month.
I was originally planning to take photos of Mars and Mercury during twilight – Mercury in the western sky, and Mars on the eastern side – but as I said, thick clouds came in and obscured my view.
Mercury, now shining at magnitude -1.2, is only a little fainter than Sirius (the brightest star in the sky). Though this planet is often cited as the most difficult of the five brightest naked-eye planets to see, there is now a fine “window of opportunity” for seeing Mercury in the evening sky. This window which began last February 22 and will close after March 12, provides several good opportunities to see this so-called “elusive planet” with our own naked eyes.
Locating Mercury in the west after sunset is quite a challenge because it’s so close to the horizon. Moreover, although it is actually as bright as a first-magnitude star, the glow of evening twilight tends to subdue its brilliance.
This month, Mercury starts become visible around 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. This tiny planet can be found hanging beneath the brighter planets Venus and Jupiter. Using Stellarium, I estimated its location to be about 25 to 30 degrees below Venus. It was hard to spot Mercury at first glance but after a few seconds, my eyes were able to detect its faint glow.
However, it was visible only for a very brief moment.
As soon as I finished setting up the tripod and the camera, the clouds have already covered about 5 degrees of the horizon and Mercury was nowhere to be seen.
I tried my luck to look for this planet on the following evenings but the sky was not any better until March 8.
Weather was not so bad as the past few days so I was slightly optimistic. The sun set promptly at 6:06 pm and I searched in the same area of the sky, expecting to see Mercury. After more than half an hour, Jupiter and Venus popped into the view – still there is no sign of Mercury. A nice big full moon in the east was rising, and it seemed to grin at me cruelly!
I was just about to give in when at 6:40 pm, Mercury sailed into view; flashing yellow and orange and battling the murkiness. Having just enough time to take a few photos before it disappeared a few minutes after, I hurried and managed to get off a few shots.
It was a pleasant surprise. :)
Photos above were taken using my Panasonic Lumix digital camera and were post processed in Photoshop to enhance the visibility of Mercury. The planet was too dim and too small to be seen without zooming into the images.
Mercury is quickly decreasing in altitude as each day passes, so take the opportunity well this month to spot it.
I was about to go home when I caught a glimpse of Venus and the thin Moon hanging close together in the western sky at dusk last January 26.
I didn’t have a camera with me then. Fortunately, a friend of mine had his camera and let me use it to take a few images of this stunning sight.
Venus is now shining brilliantly in the west-southwest after sunset at magnitude -4.0. It will be climbing higher in our sky over the next three months as it comes closer to us in its orbit. Over that time the planet will brighten but its phase will shrink as the Sun shifts to the other side of Venus from us.
By February 2012, Venus will climb up higher into the evening sky and will stay out even longer after dark. It’ll be at its highest above the sunset in March 2012, when Jupiter and Venus will stage an amazing conjunction in the western twilight sky. These two bright planets will lie about three degrees apart in the West in the constellation Aries. Venus will beam at magnitude -4.3, and Jupiter is a worthy companion at magnitude -2.1. The pairing will make for a lovely photo op. :)
On March 25, Venus, Jupiter and the thin crescent Moon will form a straight line in the western sky.
Clear skies! :)
Despite the rain and an overcast sky, we were thankful that for a brief period of time God permitted us to have a glimpse of the Red Moon during the total eclipse of the moon last December 10, 2011.
The moon was nearly high overhead during the totality phase of the eclipse and was located in the constellation Taurus. Totality lasted for about 51 mins.
I didn’t get decent shots of the moon during this event but I was really happy to have witnessed it. :)
Click on the images below to see larger versions.
The red tint of the eclipsed Moon is created by sunlight first passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, which preferentially scatters blue light (making the sky blue) but passes and refracts red light, before reflecting back off the Moon. Differing amounts of clouds and volcanic dust in the Earth’s atmosphere make each lunar eclipse appear differently.
By the way, I observed this event together with my friend and UP AstroSoc orgmate, Bea Banzuela. We were eating a cold dinner (literally!) from the rooftop of their house in Marikina City while checking the sky and taking photos of the moon.
Bea used her sophisticated camera, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 (with telephoto lens) in capturing lunar images. Below is one of the images she took:
The lunar features in this image are more recognizable. :) I love that camera! Haha! Thanks Bea, for allowing me to repost this.
“When you want something, all the universe conspire in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
I was really happy that once again, one of my images was featured in the Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day (AAPOD) website last December 9, 2011. It’s an image featuring the planets Venus and Mercury along with the thin Moon during a nice celestial grouping at dusk last October 28.
It also got included in an article posted in EarthSky.org. Deborah Byrd, founder and president of EarthSky sent me message through Facebook to ask permission to repost my image.
Moreover, another surprising news came in as I received a notification that the same image has won, along with another image of mine, in the first round of voting in the 2011 International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) Art Contest. :) Yay!
Here are the links:
- AAPOD: Moon, Venus, and Mercury at Dusk
- EarthSky: Three amazing images of young moon you’ll see tonight
- 2011 InOMN Art Contest
It was really inspiring for an amateur like me who doesn’t even own a decent camera fit for sky photography to have my image featured in such astronomy websites. Thank you, AAPOD, EarthSky and InOMN!
I hope this would encourage more astronomy enthusiasts who are also into sky photography to submit their images and share their interest to many people who might also find a new fondness for the night sky.
Perhaps I should start saving more to have that camera which I’ve been eyeing on for so long. ;) All things in God’s time.
To the stars!