Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Moon

Moon Meets Jupiter – February 18, 2013

moon and jupiter- feb 18

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.

moon angular measurement

Image credit: Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network

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.

Clear skies!


January 2013’s Full Wolf Moon

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.

FULL WOLF MOON

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.

wolf moon

 

 


Moon and Jupiter – January 22, 2013

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.

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Photographing the Lunar ‘X’

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.

lunar x - january 19 copy

My first image of the Lunar X:

Lunar X copy

Both images were taken using my Canon Powershot SX40 HS camera.


Moon and Venus – January 10, 2013

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. 🙂

Clear skies!

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Last Full Moon of 2012

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Full Christmas Moon or Cold Moon – 28 December 2012. Image taken from Quezon City, Philippines.

The weather has not been good here lately because of typhoon Wukong (local name: Quinta). However, tonight we were fortunate to witness this lovely full moon — the last for the year 2012.

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Image was composed of 2 individual shots that were fused together to create this composite.

According to Space.com the December full moon is also called the ‘long-night’s moon’ given it’s proximity to the northern winter solstice (the time of year when nights are the longest), and thus, tonight’s lunar show will manifest for the longest amount of time in the year. In places like Manila, where moonrise occurs at 5:34 p.m. and sets at 5:55 a.m., tonight’s full moon will be visible for as long as 12 hours and 21 minutes.

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Thank God the weather was more cooperative today. This was truly a nice year-ending lunar treat — a great way to cap a year of amazing sky shows.


Lunar Cycle Montage (November-December 2012)

lunar phases 1 copy

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. 🙂


November 28, 2012 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

There will be a penumbral lunar eclipse visible in the Philippines on November 28, 2012. Penumbral lunar eclipses occur when the Moon passes through Earth’s penumbral shadow.

Eclipse diagram. Image credit: eclipsegeeks.com

Here are the key times for the lunar eclipse based on information from NASA:

Penumbral eclipse starts – 12:14:58 UT (8:14 p.m. PHT)
Greatest eclipse – 14:33:00 UT (10:33 p.m. PHT)
Penumbral eclipse ends – 16:51:02 UT (12:51 a.m. PHT)

(Note: Philippine time is UT+8)

Unlike partial and total lunar eclipses, penumbral eclipses are not very noticeable. It is because the change of shade to the Moon is so small that hardly any difference can be seen compared to a normal Full Moon. You will not see a chunk on the moon taken out of one side; nor you’ll see the Moon turn red (as it does during a total lunar eclipse) for it will not pass through Earth’s umbral shadow.

The start and end of the eclipse will not be visible to the naked eye and cannot be detected without special equipment, like telescopes and binoculars. In fact, it is only during about 30 minutes before and after the eclipse’s maximum that a light grey shading will be seen along the moon’s northern limb.

The moon during a penumbral eclipse. Image credit: Fred Espenak

Although it is not that spectacular, this event still provides the opportunity to see dimming on the Moon’s surface.  Moreover, it’s also nice to spot the Moon near bright Jupiter and the bright star Aldebaran in the night sky during this event.

Moon near Jupiter and Aldebaran in Taurus – November 28, 2012 (scrrenshot image from Stellarium)

Remember, it is quite safe to watch a lunar eclipse with the naked eye. 🙂 Clear skies and happy viewing!


Moon, Mars and Antares – October 18, 2012

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:


Full Harvest Moon 2012

The weather condition has not been at all favorable for observing this year’s Full Harvest Moon, the full moon that comes closest to the autumnal equinox. The Moon last night can be hardly seen because it’s always obscured by clouds. Fortunately, short cloud breaks allowed me to take a few images, but the hazy sky made it difficult to get a correct focus on the moon.

The Harvest Moon has a special place in the agricultural history. Through most of the year, the moon rises each day about 50 minutes later than the day before. However, when the autumnal equinox approaches, the difference in rise times drops to about 25 to 30 minutes and even farther north, the difference is 10 to 15 minutes. As the Harvest Moon rises after sunset, this provides extra minutes of light each evening for farmers to work longer hours to harvest their crops. This is how it got its name.

Below were the images I took last September 30, 2012 using my Canon Powershot SX40 HS camera.

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Lunar Occultation of Jupiter – August 12, 2012

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.

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Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter at Predawn on July 15th

Eastern sky at 4:00 am local time. Manila, Philippines. Image: Stellarium

Philippine sky observers will have a great chance to see all of the three  brightest objects of the night sky in close proximity to each other this weekend (weather permitting). On the morning of July 15th, the waning crescent moon will join the very bright “stars” Jupiter (upper) and Venus (lower) to form a nice celestial grouping, along with two prominent open star clusters — the Pleiades and the V-shaped Hyades —  in the constellation Taurus.

Venus has reached its greatest illuminated extent in Earth’s sky last July 12. Thus, it appears so dazzling now as a “morning star”  in our predawn sky, near Jupiter.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the globe, this celestial grouping event will be viewed as an occultation of Jupiter by the moon. An occultation is an event in which a celestial body covers another, farther away object, such as when the moon covers a star or a planet or when a planet or an asteroid covers a far away star. For this event, the moon will cover Jupiter for about an hour (the exact time and durtaion of the occultation is  dependent on the observer’s location). View the visibility map and timings of this event from IOTA.

Seeing Jupiter’s occultation is possible with the naked eye, but the look through a telescope, even using a small magnification, is marvelous. At first, two of Jupiter’s large moons (Io and Europa) will disappear behind the moon, then Jupiter will disappear and then the other two moons (Ganymede and Callisto).

Places close to the southeast will witness a ‘grazing occulation’ when Jupiter and its moons will skim the edge of the Moon. This will be well worth seeing through a telescope and Jupiter’s moons may be seen blinking in and out of view as they pass behind the lunar mountains. Further north and west a very close conjunction will be seen.

Don’t worry because even though we won’t be seeing this event in the Philippines this weekend, we are still lucky enough to see a very rare version of such an event next month, during the morning of August 12, 2012. That will be surely worth getting up to see!

jupiter-occultation-jul-201

Moon occulting Jupiter with its moons. Image: Stellarium

Observing occultations can also contribute to science. During the 80’s, Uranus occulated a distant star. Photos of the events showed that just before and after the occultation the star blinked several times. The theory then was developed that Uranus has a set of rings (like Saturn). When Voyager 2 reached Uranus it detected and photographed the predicted rings.

Don’t miss this event. Clear skies!

Related link: List of Notable Celestial Events in 2012


Waxing Crescent Moon (June 22-23, 2012)

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.

Finding Luna. (Hint: Look closely below the feather-like clouds.)

A sight of Luna hanging over the University Ave. in UP Diliman.

 

Luna peeking out from behind the purple-colored building.

 

A closer look.

 

Clear skies!


A Bite Out of the Strawberry Moon

A large cumulonimbus cloud was covering the moon until eclipse maximum.

I was lucky to have witnessed the partially eclipsed moon in the eastern sky last night despite a thick cloud cover and a chance of a thunderstorm.

The June 2012 full moon is called the Strawberry Moon (according to the Farmer’s Almanac)

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June, full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry”, hence the name.

Because of this,  it seemed as if the shadow of the Earth that covered the moon during the eclipse is a small bite out of the Strawberry Moon.

Shown below is a composite image of eight separate photos showing the phases of last night’s partial lunar eclipse beginning at 7:32 pm PHT as seen from Marikina City, in mostly cloudy skies.

Yesterday’s weather had been winding us up all day, with nearly 100% cloud cover from dawn to dusk. Fortunately, we did get good cloud breaks which allowed glimpses of the Moon.

By the way, I observed this event with my fellow UP AstroSoc member and favorite observing buddy, Bea Banzuela from the rooftop of their house located in Barangka, Marikina City.

Tomorrow, a rare transit of Venus across the Sun’s disk will surely entice a lot of sky viewers again. It is an event that you would not want to miss!

Clear skies!


How Big is a Supermoon?

The image above is a comparison of the apparent size of last month’s Paschal Full Moon and tonight’s perigee moon or Super Full Moon. Both were taken using the same method and same equipment.

Perigee is the point in moon’s elliptical path around the earth at which it is closest to the center of the earth.

Although decent focus was very hard to achieve due to passing clouds (hence my supermoon image appeared blurred), it is still noticeable that there was not much significant difference between the size of the two full moons eventhough the supermoon is the biggest and brightest of all the full moons this year.

In fact, looking at the moon in the sky without anything to compare it to, you wouldn’t notice  find any specific difference in its shape, size, color or brightness. But the difference in size can be quite significant if you were to photograph a full moon at apogee (farthest) and perigee (closest) using the same lens. It’s 33 vs. 29 arc min for average perigee vs. apogee, meaning the apogee moon is about 15% larger in diameter or 35%  larger in area.

The apogee moon this year will occur on November 28 at 406349 km.

By the way, for those who were asking, nothing special will ever happen at the particular moment when the ordinary “full moon” will become a “Super moon” at a given “point of time”. Only the media people were exaggerating the news about this event.

For astronomers, it’s just a common phenomenon taking place at regular period.


The Perigee Moon or Supermoon of 2012

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

Clear skies!


First Quarter Moon – April 30, 2012

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).


Skygazing at Predawn – April 19, 2012

This morning I took the chance to image the close pairing of Mercury and the thin waning crescent Moon.

Mercury an inner or inferior planets like Venus, always appear close to the sun in the sky due to their low elongation (angular separation from the sun as (angular separation from the sun as viewed from earth), hence it’s always interesting to spot this tiny elusive planet near other brighter objects such as the moon.

Neither Mercury or Venus ever appears very far from the sun and consequently never far above the horizon (except Venus at maximum elongation). Both can only appear in the west in the evening and in the east in the morning and only for a short amount of time.

Inferior planet elongation. Image credit: wapi.isu.edu

In the case of Mercury, take note that it will always be located in the sky no more than 28 degrees from the Sun.

After checking Stellarium, I prepared my trusty point-and-shoot camera and tripod and went outside before 4:00 AM.  A view of Scorpius in the southwest greeted me as I set up.

The eastern horizon was fortunately clear that time. In just a little while, a thin golden arc of light began to appear above the horizon. I took my 2-inch Galileoscope out and pointed at the moon.


Thin crescent Moon rising at around 4 AM

It didn’t take long before the twilight began to creep out and push the darkness away. The sky turned blue and soon I noticed the earthshine, the ghostly illumination of the lunar dark side.

Mercury should be located only a few degrees away from the moon. I searched the area just below the lower limb of the moon where this planet was suppose to lie and found its faint shine.

It was barely visible in the images fo it lies above the glow of the rising Sun so I used the dodge tool in Photoshop during the post-editing to make it more visible.

After a few minutes of imaging, the light from the two objects were eventually washed out in the solar glow.


Paschal Full Moon and the Astronomy of Easter

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)

Related links:


Mars, Regulus and the Waxing Gibbous Moon

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.


Triangular Spectacle: Moon, Venus and Jupiter

Last February 26, 2012, the crescent Moon joined the other two brightest objects in the night sky – Jupiter and Venus – to form a spectacular celestial grouping during and after twilight! They’re just a few degrees apart at the time of twilight in the west.

This sky show dazzled a lot of  skywatchers around the world during the weekend.

I have always been fascinated with celestial conjunctions. Hence, I immediately headed to SM Mall of Asia (near the Manila Bay area) after my on-the-job training in Makati City to take pictures of this event.

Traveling around the city—especially during the busiest evening rush hour period is one hell of a headache. Nonetheless, all the effort was worth it. 🙂

When we came, big dark clouds threatened our view.  As the brightest objects in the night sky, Venus, Jupiter and the Moon can shine through urban lights, fog, and even some clouds. During that time, however they were hardly visible behind the clouds.

Fortunately, the skies cleared up just in time and we saw the awesome celestial trio. Thank God! 

Once the moon retreats from view, Jupiter and Venus will continue growing closer. The gap will narrow to 10 degrees by the end of February until they pass each other in mid-March.  On March 13 and 14, Jupiter and Venus reach their closest distance to each other. They will lie only three degrees apart. That’s just about the width of a finger and a half at arms length.

March 26, 2012: Venus, Jupiter and the Moon align | Image : Stellarium

By March 26, a crescent moon will join them once again, producing another brilliant sky display visible at twilight.

Don’t miss it!


Moon and Venus – February 24, 2012

Taken at 6:25 pm from the Gonzales Hall of UP Diliman (Photo details: 7mm,  f/3.7, 1/8 sec. exposure at ISO 100)

Conjunctions of the moon and the planets are quite special events.

Image taken at 6:43 pm (Photo details: 6mm,  f/3.5, 8 sec. exposure at ISO 100)

A conjunction is an alignment of 2 or more celestial bodies (usually the moon and planets) in the sky, from our vantage point on Earth. The objects aren’t necessarily physically close to each other in space, but from where we see them, when the bodies are grouped close together on the sky we call them in conjunction.

When the objects get so close together that one passes in front of the other from our vantage point, we call that an occultation.

A conjunction doesn’t have any particularly special meaning, but they can be interesting to observe because very close conjunctions are quite rare events. It can be very exciting to see two planets in the same field of view of your telescope!

Not only that, but conjunctions, especially with the moon and/or bright planets are involved, are just a lovely spectacle to look at and photograph.

On February 25-26, the crescent Moon will join the other two brightest objects in the night sky to form a spectacular celestial grouping during and after twilight! They’re just a few degrees apart at the time of twilight in the west.

This will be a lovely sight to see.

Clear skies! 🙂

All photos were taken by me using Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera.


Moon, Mars and Leo – Feb. 8, 2012

Mars in the eastern sky at 9:51 pm | Quezon City, Philippines

We were sitting on one of those weird benches surrounding the trees in the open-air space of UP-Ayala Technohub after having a rewarding dinner when I noticed a red-orange star in the eastern sky infront of us. My brain told me that, based on its brightness and location it had to be Mars.  It was hardly recognizable at first because the waxing gibbous moon was shining close to it. Moreover, we were situated in a very light-polluted area that my eyes were struggling to see those faint celestial objects near the horizon.

The red planet is back in the eastern sky at nightfall on these evenings. It is now in fact, one of the brightest “stars” (around -0.9 mag) in the night sky. It is growing even brighter and more prominent, especially towards the end of the month as it comes close to opposition to the Sun and its nearest pass to Earth.

Moon, Leo and Mars

Mars started to retrograde (move westward) toward the star Regulus in the constellation Leo last January 24. That happens whenever Earth is about to pass between the sun and Mars, which will happen on March 3, 2012. Mars has been brightening ever since retrograde motion began.

By the end of February, Mars will rise only 20 minutes after the Sun sets, so it will be easily seen by the time the sky darkens and will shine all-night long. By then Mars will have brightened to magnitude -1.2, nearly as bright as Sirius.


Venus and the Moon at Dusk – January 26, 2012

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.

A view of the U.P. Carillon Tower

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.

image: Stellarium

Clear skies! 🙂