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!
Jupiter (upper right) and Venus (left) Feb. 10, 2012 6:50 PM
Jupiter and Venus, the two great and famous luminaries of heaven are now 30° apart in the western sky during early evening and are moving closer to each other by roughly one degree each day.
Jupiter, king of planets, has been our constant evening companion for the last six months. Only Venus outshines Jupiter among the planets and stars. Venus and Jupiter are so bright you might think you’ve witnessed a double supernova beaming through the evening twilight. But, no, it’s just the two brightest planets in our own solar system.
Over the next couple weeks, Venus and Jupiter will continuously reign the evening sky; only the moon will be brighter. The planets will continue to get closer and closer to one another until March.
On the evenings of February 24, 25 and 26, the thin lunar crescent will pass close to Venus and Jupiter.
By March 14 and 15, these two bright objects will be on a spectacular conjunction — the closest in 2012. The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.
At the moment of closest approach, Venus will be at mag -4.9, and Jupiter at mag -2.1, both in the constellation Aries. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.
After this event, Venus and Jupiter will remain close throughout the month of March 2012. They are like twin beacons – two very bright planets – near each other in the west as soon as the sun goes down.
I was walking past the Diliman Sunken Garden with someone last October 14 when I caught a glimpse of the Waning Gibbous Moon (94.6% full) close to bright Jupiter. Thank God that after several days of continuous rains, the skies have finally cleared that evening
These two objects which both dominate the night sky this month were just less than 15 degrees apart.
I was lucky to have been able to take a few images of this nice celestial conjunction since I always bring the camera with me. It was a bit challenging though, because I didn’t have my sturdy tripod during then to stabilize and elevate the camera.
The streak of light above Jupiter was just a passing airplane which happened to be included in the frame when I was doing the shot.
More photos below…
Special thanks to that someone who kept me company while I was taking photos that evening at the middle of the Sunken Garden.
As summer time has already ended, the constellation Sagittarius, along with the other Summer constellations sets earlier during the month of October.
Sagittarius is believed to have originated with the Babylonians. He was their god of War, and he stands with his bow aimed at the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Like Centaurus, he is a half man, half beast creature.
We in modern times may not be able to imagine the stars of Sagittarius as a Centaur. Instead, many stargazers know the stars of Sagittarius as a “Teapot”. This asterism is really easy to recognize.
Sagittarius is an important constellation in that it marks the direction of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It also contains more Messier objects than any other constellation in the sky.
Earlier this evening, I took the chance to take an image of the “Teapot” before it disappears in the night sky. I was also planning to image Scorpius but it was already too low in the south west. As I looked at the image more closely, I began to noticed something interesting. On the right (just above its lid), there is a faint cloud-like patch that resembles the Milky Way. I got surprised.
Could it be really possible to see a faint apparition of the Milky Way in this light-polluted suburb?
This morning, I went outside again at around 4:30 AM to check the sky condition. I’ve been doing this for about a couple of days now in hopes of seeing a clear sky despite the continuous rains over the past few weeks.
It’s really creepy out there — wind’s blowing strong & it’s totally dark! But thank God it wasn’t too cloudy and I was able to do some timelapse photography just before the stars start fading away against the blue sky at dawn.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the coming weeks. Clear skies!
In the Philippines, the rainy season usually starts in the month of June and runs through about November. During this period, thunderstorms and typhoons which generally affect a wide area (sometimes half of the archipelago) are common. In fact, only this June three typhoons (namely Dodong, Egay and Falcon) have already visited the country along with heavy rains.
Clear skies were seldom visible for most of the month of June was so stormy. Hence, having an opportunity to spot this season’s prominent constellations during clear nights was really a blessing to an amateur astronomer like me.
The sky was moonless on the first week of June. So I took this chance to set up the tripod and the Panasonic Lumix digital camera to get nice constellations images. Thanks to Aaron Misayah for loaning his camera to me.
The Lumix camera features a ‘starry night’ scene mode — a setting which allows you to capture long exposures, with 15, 30, and 60 second shutter speed options. I selected the 60 sec exposure and point to regions of some of my favorite constellations.
Note that the Lumix didn’t have ISO control when in starry night mode. If I set the camera to manual mode (where I do have access to the ISO settings), I don’t have access to the exposure time. The longest exposure time I have in manual mode is 1/8 seconds. But after I looked at the pictures in manual mode (ISO 1600, 1/8 seconds exposure), I notice that there are a lot of noise. I think they’re trying to hide the fact that the Lumix is very noisy in high ISO mode so they made it not selectable when you’re using long exposures.
Anyway, below are some of the photos I took from our residential area in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. I used Photoshop to add the constellation lines.
1 June 2011
camera settings: 6mm, f/2.8, 60 sec. exposure time, ISO-80
Zooming into the photo above will reveal vertical streaks (not the star trails). These unnecessary streaks have occurred because I forgot to use the self timer on the camera for this shot. By clicking on the shutter button, even a slight vibration from the finger would create blur on the picture, even when you are using a tripod.
5 June 2011
camera settings: 6mm, f/2.8, 60 sec. exposure time, ISO-80
By the way, I am living from a suburban site. The limiting magnitude for such a location is frequently close to 4 . This means that the apparent magnitude of the faintest star that could be visible to the unaided eye is about magnitude 4.
The original images were a bit darker but I increased the brightness and contrast in the post processing to find out the dimmest star recorded. I found that every star that was visible with the naked eye was in the image, which is good! The results of each shot have actually far exceeded my expectations. I never thought that a little humble compact camera could go a long way.
I have also tried using this camera in shooting landscape and scenery pictures and it also produced good results. Click here to see my previous post about it. At about 30-45 minutes after the sunset, the sky is not completely dark yet, but the colour appears to be more intense with traces of natural light still available. It would also be nice to take sky photos during this time.
Perhaps, this could be an interesting camera at a truly dark sky site. I have yet to try that when I still have the opportunity.
Meet the night sky’s newest ‘double star’!
It’s only a made-up one and temporary pairing, but Saturn and the star Gamma Virginis, also known as Porrima, make one of the most realistic close pairs of ‘stars’ in the night sky this season. Their pairing closely resembles a telescopic view of a true double star.
The beauty of this close pairing is that Porrima itself is a true binary or double star, making its proximity to Saturn a ‘double double’ delight.
As of this month, the two are separated by a gap of just 1.7″ of arc — a quite small separation. Remember that a second of arc is equal to 1/60 of a minute or 1/3600 of a degree. For reference, the full moon is 1/2 degree or 30 minutes of arc in diameter.
Saturn is easy enough to find. Wait until an hour and a half after sunset, then look for it high in the south-southwest about 15 degrees from Spica. (Saturn will be just a tad brighter and should look yellow compared to Spica’s blue.) For the naked eye observer, watching Saturn and Porrima during June of 2011 provides a terrific opportunity to see a planet in retrograde motion – then pause, then swing back in its normal eastward path against the background stars. For the small telescope user it’s even better. Porrima is a stunning double star when seen in a back-yard telescope – and Saturn, with its rings, the most awesome planet in a small telescope.
Camera used: Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera (7mm focal length, f/3.1, ISO-80 at 60 sec. exposure)
You can view a nice close up image of Saturn and Porrima here.
I and my friend Bea Banzuela were walking around the Academic Oval of our university last May 5 when we noticed the sunset behind the trees at the lawn.
The transition of the bluish sky into crimson during this time of the day is always lovely to look at.
I remembered that the 2-day old thin Moon will set just before the Sun that afternoon. I checked Stellarium for its location in the western sky and waited until it became visible.
We soon found it hanging below a contrail a few minutes after the Sun had disappeared from view. It was around 5% illuminated and barely visible to the naked eye.
As the sky grew darker, the Moon become more apparent, along with the bright stars located around it.
We were grateful that we had along with us a nice point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC camera which works great when used for landscape photography. Using its starry sky mode, we were able to produce the images above even with minimal light. This setting allows for 15, 30 and 60 second exposures that is best for night sky photography. Other cameras often produce very dark images unless there is some amount of light out. (Thanks to Aaron Misayah for lending us his camera.)
I hope the sky would always be this clear.
Throughout the month of May, a beautiful display of planets could be observed in the morning sky just before sunrise. Last May 2 – a day before the New Moon- the 1% thin waning crescent Moon joined the four naked eye planets in a very spectacular morning sky show.
This planetary display was quite difficult to observe in a residential place like ours because we were surrounded with several houses which blocks my view of the sky near the horizon. Moreover, as this event occurred near sunrise the view of the planets and the very thin Moon were easily spoiled by the glare of the rising Sun.
Hence, I never expected so much in my attempt to observe this celestial grouping.
Fortunately, a friend and orgmate told me that she was able to witness the event and take nice images of it from the roof deck of their house in Marikina City. She was lucky to have a clear view of the eastern sky from that vantage point.
I almost cried with joy when I saw her pictures!
Do you now understand why?
All images were taken by Bea Banzuela and were reposted with her permission.
Camera used was Panasonic Lumix DMC 10.1 mp digital camera (This camera possesses a remarkable capability of taking wide-angle shots just like the ones above!)
April’s Moon reached its full phase last April18 at 10:45 AM PST (2:45 AM UT).
During Palm Sunday in the Philippines last April 17, 2011, I and some friends spotted the 99.5% full Moon rising at dusk. It looked like a big ball of cheese hanging up in the sky along a street named Galaxy Street in Panorama, Marikina City.
It seemed larger near the horizon during moonrise than it does while higher up in the sky.
According to EarthSky.org, this is the first full moon of springtime for the northern hemisphere. We in this hemisphere call it the Pink Moon, to celebrate the return of certain wild flowers. Other names are Egg Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, or Easter Moon.
The first Full Moon of spring is also usually designated as the Paschal Full Moon or the Paschal Term. In most years, the Christian celebration of Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. If the Paschal Moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is the following Sunday.
For those living in the Southern Hemisphere, the autumn counterpart of the Paschal Full Moon is called Harvest Moon, the closest full moon to the autumnal equinox.
What sets the Harvest Moon apart from the others is that instead of rising at its normal average of 50 minutes later each day, it seems to rise at nearly the same time for several nights.
However, in direct contrast to the Harvest Full Moon, the Paschal Full Moon appears to rise considerably later each night.
Here are the other photos taken by me and two of my fellow UP AstroSoc folks, Andre Obidos and Bea Banzuela.
*First 2 photos — Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS7 10.1 MP Digital Camera
*Wide angle photos — Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
All images can be clicked to see high-res versions.