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.
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.
Conjunctions of the moon and the planets are quite special events.
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.
All photos were taken by me using Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera.
As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities.
Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.
|2||Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer|
|4||First Quarter Moon||11:15 AM|
|8||Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)|
|8||International Observe the Moon Night 2011|
|12||Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon)||10:05 AM|
|13||Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart|
|15||Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades|
|16||Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth|
|20||Last Quarter Moon||11:30 AM|
|22||Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)|
|27||New Moon||04:00 AM|
|28||Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation||dusk|
|29||Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth)||08:40 AM|
Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids
The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.
Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.
Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.
International Observe the Moon Night 2011
Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.
For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
The month of May will show up the finest planetary conjunctions of the year. Naked-eye planets line-up in the eastern horizon before sunrise. On May 1, 9, 13, and 30 at 5:00 AM, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune will be found lining-up above the eastern horizon as shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Uranus and Neptune will be needing a star map and a binocular or a modest-sized telescope for its proper viewing. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, except for Neptune, which will be found at the constellation of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.
Saturn will be visible in the evening sky throughout the month. The Ringed planet will be located among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.
|1||Mars Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|2||Jupiter 6° south of the Moon||03:00 AM|
|3||New Moon||04:50 PM|
|5||The 3% thin crescent Moon will lie in between the star groups Hyades and Pleiades in the constellation Taurus in the west.||dusk|
|7||Mercury at greatest western elongation||dawn|
|7||Eta Aquarids : Active from Apr 19 to May 28 — ZHR 70|
|8||Venus Mercury at minimum separation||dawn|
|11||First Quarter Moon||04:35 AM|
|11||Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter Conjunction – The three planets will form a 2-degree long vertical line in the early morning sky. The planet Mars will also be visible nearby. Look to the east near sunrise.||dawn|
|11||Mercury Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|12||Venus Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|14||Saturn 8° north of the Moon||11:00 PM|
|17||Full Moon (called Full Flower Moon)||07:10 PM|
|18-26||Mercury Venus Mars conjunction||dawn|
|18||Mercury Venus at minimum separation||dawn|
|22||Jupiter 8° below the Moon||dawn|
|25||Last Quarter Moon||02:50PM|
|31||Mars 4° South of the Moon||dawn|
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
I stayed up until dawn today (May 1, 2011) to watch the beautiful celestial grouping of the thin crescent Moon (5% illuminated) and the morning planets (Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter). Luckily, the eastern sky was not cloudy when I went outside at 4:40 AM. But only the Moon which looked like a yellow crescent and Venus were only visible. The other planets were too dim and too low to be seen over our suburban place.
All pictures were taken using my Kodak C813 Digital Camera.
This month’s highlights:
- Saturn in the evening sky
- The 2011 Lyrid Meteor Shower
- Four Planets and a Crescent Moon in the morning sky
|Date||Event||Time (in PHT, UT+8)|
|5||Saturn at Opposition
— The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.
|6||Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun||23:00|
|10||Mercury in inferior conjunction||04:00|
|11||First Quarter Moon||20:05|
|17||Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth)||14:00|
|21-22||Lyrid Meteor Shower*
— The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.
|22||Mercury-Venus-Mars-Jupiter visual alignment
— Visible from April 25 to May 30
|23||Venus at Uranus at minimum separation (0.9 degrees)||dusk|
|25||Last Quarter Moon||10:45|
|27||Neptune 6 degrees south of the Moon||21:00|
|29||Four Planets and Crescent Moon in the morning sky
— On the last two mornings of the month, given a clear low eastern horizon, there will be four planets and a thin crescent Moon visible just above. You will need binoculars, so cease looking when the Sun has risen.
|31||Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth)||02:00|
*Check out the following links for more info:
- Lyrids Meteor Shower – AstronomyLive.com
- Lyrids Watch 2011 – GAM 2011 Events
- Lyrids – Spacedex.com
- Lyrids – MeteorShowersOnline.com
Lyrids Quick Facts:
A video guide on finding the constellation Lyra:
HubbleSite – Tonight’s Sky: April 2011
Clear skies to all and happy observing!
A few minutes after sunset tonight, find the thin waxing crescent Moon near Jupiter in the western sky. Degree of separation is ~8 degrees.
For Philippine skywatchers, Jupiter can be found hanging about 13 degrees above the horizon at 6:40 PM just as shown in the picture. Jupiter is right at the end of this memorable apparition so spot it while you can. It will be lost to the twilight by the third week of the month and in solar conjunction in early April.
Also, if the sky condition tonight is good we may also have the chance to see the earthshine — a smoky glow on the dark portion of the crescent Moon. It is caused by sunlight that reflects off the Earth onto the Moon’s night side and occurs when the Moon is a thin crescent.
image created using Stellarium
I and my friends were about to have our dinner at the very nice Casa Verde Restaurant in Cebu City when we spotted this close pairing of the Moon and Jupiter last February 7, 2011. These two objects were roughly about 7 degrees apart.
We were lucky to have seen this conjunction despite the poor sky condition that night.
Last March 1, the 12% illuminated Moon was about 2 degrees close to the bright planet Venus in the eastern sky during predawn hours.
Due to thick clouds over our place at the time of this celestial conjunction, I did not have the chance to catch a glimpse of it.
Fortunately, one of my orgmates in U.P. AstroSoc — Anthony Urbano of Eteny Works — was able to observe and take a picture of these two objects amongst partly cloudy skies.
I really like this image because of its nice purplish color.
Thank you, Kuya Ets for letting me repost your photo.😀
Clear skies to all!