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

Posts tagged “planetary conjunctions

Skywatching Highlights: February 2013

Mercury and Mars less than a degree apart after sunset on February 8th

Mercury is well placed in the evening twilight this month, but spotting it won’t be easy. The closest planet to the sun will be low in the west-southwest horizon and will be a bit washed out by twilight’s glow. Binoculars may be needed to find it in the glare of twilight.

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Mars and Mercury in the western sky at twilight on Feb 8. Image: Stellarium

On February 8, Mercury will be less than 1 degree from pale orange Mars. The sky won’t be dark enough to see them until they’re just setting, so you’ll need a view to the west that is unobstructed and free from light pollution.  They should be visible half an hour after sunset. During the event, Mercury will be about eight times brighter than Mars.

On February 11, a thin crescent moon, one day past new moon will join Mercury and Mars in the twilight sky.

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Mars, Mercury and a thin crescent moon (2.5% lit) Image: Stellarium

Mercury’s visibility will continue to improve until February 16, when it reaches its greatest eastern elongation from the sun and appears 11 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. Afterward it will drop back toward the sun, disappearing into bright twilight by the end of the  month.

Moon and Jupiter less than 1 degree apart on February 18

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Moon and Jupiter roughly 0.5 degrees apart on Feb. 18. Image: Stellarium 

Another close conjunction between Jupiter and the Moon, joined by Aldebaran and the Hyades to the left and the Pleiades to the right, will occur on February 18th. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon will be at mag -11.9, and Jupiter at mag -2.4, both in the constellation Taurus.

The pair will be a little too widely separated to fit comfortably within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or a through pair of binoculars. To some parts of the world like in the southern Indian Ocean, Southern Australia and Tasmania, this will be viewed as an occultation event where in the Moon will actually pass in front of Jupiter.

Other events this month:

* FEBRUARY 1: Moon ~10 degrees above Spica (in  the constellation Virgo)
* FEBRUARY 4: Moon ~7 degrees below Saturn in the eastern sky
* FEBRUARY 5: Moon by “Scorpion’s Crown” before dawn
* FEBRUARY 8: Mercury & Mars in tight conjunction in the western sky shortly after sunset (about 0.4 degrees apart)
* FEBRUARY 9: Moon ~8 degrees above Venus before dawn
* FEBRUARY 11: Thin moon near Mercury & Mars after sunset
* FEBRUARY 16: Mercury in greatest eastern elongation (11 degrees above WSW horizon)
* FEBRUARY 18: Moon and Jupiter less than 1 degree apart
* FEBRUARY 25: Moon and Regulus (in the constellation Leo) ~10 degree apart

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MOON PHASES:

* FEBRUARY 3: Third Quarter Moon at 21:57
* FEBRUARY 10: New Moon at 15:20
* FEBRUARY 18: First Quarter Moon at 04:31
* FEBRUARY 26: Full Moon at 04:26

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Measuring angles in the night sky

The post made reference to angular separations of objects in the night sky, like the moon and planets. If you’re wondering how to measure or approximate these angular distances when you do skygazing, below is a simple guide that will teach you how.  The good news is you don’t need any device. You only have to use your own hand. 🙂

Hold your fist at arms length, and:

  • Extend your little finger; it’s width is approximately 1 degree.
  • Extend your three middle fingers (without the little finger); thats about 5 degrees.
  • A clenched fist (thumb to little finger) is about 10 degrees.
  • From the tip of the little finger to the tip of the thumb, an extended hand with fingers and thumb splayed subtends about 20 degrees.

Thats it!  Those measurements are approximations but are accurate enough to locate the objects in the sky .


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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Venus and Jupiter – March 16, 2012

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.

Venus and Jupiter - 16 March 2012 8:33 pm, UP Diliman Sunken Garden

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.

APOD (15 April 2004): Venus and the Pleiades. Credit & Copyright: David Cortner

I am hoping that the sky condition will get better on the coming days ahead. Clear skies!


Closest Encounter of Venus and Jupiter in 2012

If you’ve been looking west after sunset recently you can’t have failed to see Venus blazing there so bright, outshining everything else in the sky. To Venus’ upper left is another bright” star”, which is actually another planet, Jupiter.

Jupiter and Venus - 8 degrees apart. Image captured 5 March 2012 at 6:45 pm.

These two bright planets visible in the night sky have been putting on quite a show this past month as they have been slowly getting closer together in the western sky just after sunset.

Next week, Venus and Jupiter will be MUCH closer than they are now. 🙂

On March 15, an impressive celestial show at twilight will surprise sky observers as these two planets reach what astronomers call conjunction – the closest they can appear in the sky together.

Getting closer - 5 degrees apart. Image taken 9 March 2012 at 6:24 pm.

The pair of planets will appear to be only 3 degrees apart in the western sky. That is equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arms’ length. Their proximity in the sky is an illusion, of course, as Venus is 180 million km away from Earth and Jupiter is more than 600 million km farther away.

After their mid March close encounter, the two planets will quickly go pass each other – Jupiter dropping down towards the horizon, getting closer to the Sun, while Venus moves higher up in the sky, moving away from the Sun, and brightening as it does so.

The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.

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Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory

13 – 15 March 2012

The Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 15 will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright. This will be a fantastic visual and photographic opportunity, as it’s not often that you get the brightest planets in our Solar System so close together.

In line with this, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), in collaboration with Amateur Astronomers Association of Kurdistan & Opportunity Astronomical Observatory (Iraq), presents “Beauty without Borders: Conjunction of Glory”.

All the amateur/professional groups out there are invited to participate and enjoy the beautiful views.

Participate by hold an observing night with your local astronomy group or do a backyard astronomy session with your family and friend. Take your scope to the street for a “guerilla-astronomy” session.

Connect:
Join the conversation on Twitter @awb_org using #VenusJupiter with other groups around the world. Post your images on our Flickr or Facebook page.

Chat by NASA on 25 March 2012

Join and share with your friends!

Clear skies!

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Here is a video from Newsy.com to help you know more about this event: http://www.newsy.com/videos/venus-and-jupiter-set-for-cosmic-meetup/


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!


Notable Celestial Events in 2012

This year comes with its share of many remarkable skywatching events that we can participate in.  The most important is the rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in  June 2012. The next time this will occur again is in 2117. We have the unique opportunity to observe this. (A note to Philippine observers: We are in a good location for this event!)  Moreover, there’s also the Mercury elongation in February, Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 13-15, the solar eclipses on May 21 and November 14 and  our favorite annual meteor showers.

The list below also contains some tips for Philippine observers.

Clear skies and happy observing! 🙂

February 20 – March 12 :  Best Chance to see Mercury

The planet Mercury will be far enough from the Sun’s glare to be visible shortly after sunset. Mercury will reach greatest elongation from the Sun on March 5, reaching a relatively bright magnitude of about -1. This will be your best chance to see the planet this year.

February 26 : Moon, Jupiter and Venus at Dusk

Look westward after sunset to see the moon and the dazzling planets Jupiter and Venus lighting up the western sky.

Moon, Venus and Jupiter | 6 pm | Manila

March 3 : Mars at Opposition

The red 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 this planet. Mars will be an imposing naked-eye sight, shining at magnitude -1.2, just a bit dimmer than Sirius, the brightest star, and will be visible in the sky all night long.

March 14 : Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

The two brightest planets in the sky will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky. On March 25 and 25, the crescent Moon will be near the two planets, creating a dazzling evening spectacle.

March 26 : Crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus line up at Dusk

Watch for the young waxing crescent moon and the planets Jupiter and Venus near each other in the west after sunset. The moon, Venus and Jupiter rank as the brightest, second- and third-brightest heavenly bodies of nighttime respectively. This will be last chance in 2012 that you will see them all-together at dusk.

moon, venus, jupiter - march 2012

March 27: Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation and will be separated from the Sun by 46°, its greatest apparent distance from the sun on our sky’s dome. Venus will set about three hours after sunset during this event. At this superb evening elongation for the Northern Hemisphere, Venus will stand above the setting sun. This is a good time to look out for the Schroter Effect, which predicts that dichotomy the 50% lit phase occurs a few days early for evening elongation.

April 3: Venus near the Pleiades

Venus will appear to the left of the Pleiades star cluster.  Especially with binoculars or a small telescope, this bright plant should appear swimming in a sea of stars.

April 15 : 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.

April 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. With no moon to get in the way this year, this really should be a good show. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.

*April 2012 is Global Astronomy Month!

May 21 : [Annular] Solar Eclipse

The path of annularity will begin in southern China and move east through Japan, the northern Pacific Ocean, and into the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of eastern Asia and most of North America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (Note: In the Philippines, we will be able to see a crescent sun at dawn.)

Partial Solar Eclipse | 6am | Manila

June 4 : Partial Lunar Eclipse

The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Asia, including the Philippines  Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Americas. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) In the Philippines, we can observe this event as an eclipse at dusk, meaning we will be able to see an eclipsed moon rising.

eclipse magnitude:  37.6%
moonrise: 6:17 pm PHT
greatest eclipse: 7:03 pm PHT
partial eclipse ends: 8:07 pm PHT
penumbral eclipse ends: 9:19 pm PHT

(source: PAGASA)

June 4 Partial Lunar Eclipse | 7 pm | Manila

Go to http://shadowandsubstance.com/ to see an animation of the eclipse.

June 6 : Transit of Venus Across the Sun

This extremely rare event will be entirely visible throughout most of eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and Alaska. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunrise throughout Europe, western Asia, and eastern Africa. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunset throughout most of North America, Central America, and western South America. The next transit will not take place until the year 2117. (NASA Transit Information | NASA Transit Map)

Local circumstances for Philippine viewers

Venus transit of the Sun in June, 2004. Photo by Anthony Ayiomamitis.

July 15 : Moon, Venus and Jupiter near the Hyades and the Pleiades Star Cluster

See the three brightest objects in the night sky next to the Pleiades and the Hyades open star cluster in Taurus before dawn on July 15th.

Moon, Venus, the Hyades and Pleiades | 6 am | Manila

August 12, 2012: Occultation of Jupiter by the Moon

For Philippine observers, the morning of 12 August sees the waning crescent Moon pass in front of Jupiter and its moons in a so-called occultation. Occultations are comparatively rare events, which offer good photo opportunities for amateur astronomers. Prospects and timings for the event vary with location.

The event takes place while Jupiter and the Moon are low in the sky during the wee hours of the morning.

Local circumstances:

2012 Aug 12 02:43 Occultation disappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)
2012 Aug 12 03:16 Occultation reappearance of Io (Mag 5.5)
2012 Aug 12 03:17 Occultation reappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)
2012 Aug 12 03:18 Occultation reappearance of Europa (Mag 5.7)
2012 Aug 12 03:20 Occultation reappearance of Callisto (Mag 6.1)
2012 Aug 12 03:32 Occultation reappearance of Ganymede (Mag 5.0)
source: Pyxis Astronomy Educational Services

August 11, 12 : Perseids Meteor Shower

The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 11 & 12, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 24. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. The near last quarter moon will be hanging around for the show, but shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a shower with up to 60 meteors per hour. Find a location far from city lights and look to the northeast after midnight.

October 5 : Moon-Jupiter Conjunction

The King of the Planets and the crescent moon will reunite for a close celestial pairing. Check the eastern sky around midnight to spot these two objects that are less than one degree apart!

Moon and Jupiter at 11 pm | Manila

October 21, 22: Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid Meteor Shower usually reaches its peak around October 21, having an average of 20 meteors per hour. The Orionids are fast meteors and also have fireballs. These meteors radiate near the boundaries between the Great Hunter Orion and Gemini. The cometary debris left behind by Comet Halley — bits of ice, dust and rubble — create the Orionid meteor shower. It last visited Earth in 1986.

A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, but some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. The first quarter moon will set by midnight, leaving a dark sky for what should be a good show.

The best time to view these meteors is usually in the wee hours before dawn. That time holds true no matter what time zone you’re in.

The red lines illustrate the position of the radiant for the Orionid Meteor Shower. The radiant is the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate from.

November 13 : Total Solar Eclipse

The path of totality will only be visible in parts of extreme northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of eastern Australia and New Zealand. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information (Note: This event is not visible in the Philippines.)

November 17, 18 : Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight, and be sure to find a dark location for viewing.

November 27 : Conjunction of Venus and Saturn

These two bright planets will be within 1 degree of each other in the morning sky. Look to the east around sunrise.

December 3 : 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.

December 11 : Saturn, Venus, Mercury and the Crescent Moon at Predawn

Check the eastern sky about an hour before dawn to see this magnificent celestial display of the three planets and the thin lunar crescent.

Eastern sky at around 5 am | Manila

December 13, 14 : Geminid Meteor Shower

Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 & 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. This year the new moon will guarantee a dark sky for what should be an awesome show. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.

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References:

  • Stellarium Planetarium Software

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! 🙂


Skywatching Highlights: January 2012

Well-known constellations like the ones in the Winter Hexagon – Gemini, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Auriga and Taurus – can be easily seen during the longer hours of darkness in the Northern hemisphere this month.

Most of the events listed here can be readily observed with the naked eye, but some objects such as the planets and some star clusters are best seen through binoculars or a small telescope.

All of the times and dates found here are in Philippine Standard Time (PHT) unless otherwise indicated. Note that PHT = UT+8.

Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂

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This month’s highlights:

  • The Quadrantid Meteor Shower
  • Planetary conjunctions with the Moon
DATE EVENT TIME NOTES
Jan. 1 First Quarter Moon 2:15 PM
Jan. 2 Moon-Jupiter close pairing (~7° apart)
Jan. 3 Moon at apogee 4:00 AM farthest distance to Earth
Jan. 3-4 Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower 3:23 AM Quadrantid Shower: ZHR = 120
Jan. 5 Earth at perihelion  (0.9833 AU) 8:00 AM closest distance to the Sun
Jan. 5 Moon near the Pleiades (3.1° N)
Jan. 9 Full Moon 3:30 PM
Jan. 16 Last Quarter Moon 5:08 AM
Jan. 16 Moon near the star Spica (2° N)
Jan. 17 Saturn 6° north of the Moon 3:00 AM
Jan. 18 Moon at perigee 5:00 AM nearest distance to Earth
Jan. 23 New Moon 3:39 PM
Jan. 25 Neptune 6° south of the Moon 8:00 PM
Jan. 27 Moon-Venus close pairing dusk Venus 7° south of the Moon
Jan. 30 First Quarter Moon 3:39 PM
Jan. 30 Moon-Jupiter close pairing
Jan. 31 Moon at apogee  2:00 AM farthest distance to Earth
January 2: Moon-Jupiter Conjunction

Image: Stellarium

An eventful sky year begins with brilliant Jupiter high up on the Aries-Pisces border at nightfall. On January 2, Jupiter will be about 7 degrees away from the 61% full moon in the constellation Pisces.

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January 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Image: SkyandTelescope.com

This should be a fine year for one of the best, but least observed, annual meteor showers like the  Quadrantids. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. This meteor shower should be most active in the early morning hours of Wednesday the 4th, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5.  The Moon sets around 3 AM local time then, leaving the sky dark until the first light of dawn around 6 AM. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.

References:


Mercury, Venus and the Young Moon at Dusk

Triple celestial display at dusk – Mercury, Venus and the Young Moon

Last October 28, 2011 I immediately headed to the SM Mall of Asia after our 2-day sem planning in Makati to take an image of this nice celestial grouping shortly after sunset. Sleeplessness failed to hinder me 😛

It features the thin Young Moon and the two inner planets, Venus and Mercury hanging near each other in the western sky at dusk.

I was really fortunate to have been able to catch this sky display just before darkness came. *Traffic in the city really sucks.*

Anyway, I hope the skies will always be this clear. 🙂

To the stars!


A Parade of Four Planets and the Old Moon

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!

Planet Trails (From L to R : Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus) Taken at 5:26 AM

The Old Moon, planets and the city lights during dawn 🙂 Image taken at 5:29 AM. Click on the image for hi-res version.

Bye bye Mars. Image taken at 5:36 AM.

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!)

Happy observing! 🙂