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)
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 just bought my first digital camera that I could use in taking photos of the night sky. 🙂
Algorab, my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2
It was a 14-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 digital camera which I named Algorab. (For astronomy enthusiasts, the name came from Delta Corvi, the most notable star of Corvus, which simply means ‘The Crow or Raven’ in Arabic. It is is a double star, 3.1 and 8.5 magnitude, pale yellow and purple, on the right wing of Corvus.)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH2 is a ultra-compact digital camera with an effective resolution of 14.1 megapixels. The lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 28mm wide angle to a 112mm telephoto and features a true optical image stabilization system with which to fight blur caused by camera shake.
Crepuscular rays | image taken using Algorab
The main reason why I bought this camera is because of its long exposure capability (up to 60 seconds). Long exposure times permit the camera to gather enough light to take a quality photo, even in the darkest of environments like the night sky. If you want to keep the noise levels low and use lower ISO levels in dark environments long exposure times can be very useful. Most people don’t normally need to take very long exposure photos, but they can provide an amazing creative opportunity for amateur astronomers. For example you can take long exposure shots of the night sky to capture the movement of stars across the sky, capture night-time vistas, landscapes at dusk, etc.
Orion over a light-polluted area
I’ve already used a previous model of Panasonic Lumix before and I got amazed when I first learned about its impressive feature. FH2 compared to Lumix FS7, however, has significantly better wide angle (28 mm vs 33mm) meaning it can capture around 20% bigger view. FH2 also has more than 10% larger sensor and has a slimmer compact body (0.7″ vs 0.9″).
Moreover, this model can also record 1280 x 720p High Definition (HD) video.
Another feature that I love about this camera is its Intelligent Scene Selector which allows its user to select the best option from Macro, Portrait, Scenery, Night Portrait, Night Scenery and Sunset by detecting the environment.
Overall, this budget product is excellent for its affordable price. It has a well balanced performance for a point and shoot; it’s easy-to-use, has good image quality and it contains certain features that are typically found on higher end products.
I’m really excited to use it to take images of the upcoming planetary conjunctions. 🙂