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!