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

Posts tagged “uranus

Celestial Grouping on May 2011

Here is another rare planetary grouping that is hard to miss! 🙂

As soon as I came across this website shared by Daniel Fischer and read about the proximity of Venus and Jupiter to each other  on May 2011, I immediately ran my Stellarium software and simulated planetary positions throughout that month.

I got excited when I saw the nice planetary grouping of Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury (you can add Uranus and Neptune to your count if you have binoculars or a small telescope) with the thin waning crescent Moon during the predawn hours of May 1 and 2.

Uranus could be found a few degrees above Venus but is too faint to see. Image: Stellarium screenshot

All of these celestial objects will lie just within the constellation Pisces, separated by only a few degrees from each other. 😀 This is a good opportunity to spot all these planets close together during one occasion.

In order to observe this, you must have a clear eastern horizon because they will appear very low in the sky. Also, be sure to bring a pair of binoculars to help you see these objects better and wake up early to avoid the glare of the sun.

Venus is, as always, the brightest and most visible of the planets, and it can be your guide to spotting the others. About half way between Venus and the rising sun is Jupiter, the second brightest planet.

Mars will be a tiny speck just above Jupiter, and Mercury another tiny speck about half way between Jupiter and Venus. Uranus is slightly more than one binocular field above and to the right of Venus, and Neptune is much farther to the right, about 40 degrees away in Aquarius.

The planetary grouping is visible from April 23 to May 30.

Checkout the eastern sky during the next mornings. Note: The time is in PST (UT+8)

Astrologers have always been fascinated by planetary alignments, and the doomsayers of 2012 have been prophesying a mystical alignment on Dec. 21, 2012. They view planetary alignments as foretellers of disasters. Modern amateur astronomers look forward to them as nothing more than grand photo ops. In fact, the modern tools of astronomers, such as planetarium softwares, show otherwise: absolutely no alignment at any time in 2012.

Happy observing 😀

October’s ‘Brightest Star’

As soon as the sun goes down and the sky is clear, who wouldn’t notice this bright object aside from the moon that dominates the evening sky?

Jupiter was at opposition last 21st of September, but remains big and bright this month. It is in retrograde motion, so it spent the first half of the month in the constellation Pisces, then moved into Aquarius last October 16.  Everyday it will rise higher and higher in the sky, and by the end of this month it could be found 50 degrees (about two and a half handspans at extended arms length) in the eastern sky a few minutes after sunset.


Moon and Jupiter (about 20 degrees apart) Oct. 21, 2010

Jupiter and Uranus are close together and can be seen near each other in a pair of binoculars. Uranus is the brightest object within a binocular field north of Jupiter, and is in fact bright enough to be (just) seen with the unaided eye under dark sky conditions.


Jupiter and Uranus in the constellation Pisces (photo details: Canon PowerShot SX20 IS 29mm, F/8, 15 sec. exposure, ISO-1600)

For many weeks to come, Jupiter will still be excellent in binoculars and small telescopes. If you want to view Jupiter’s moons, a pair of binoculars would be suffice to aid you.

However, one thing which really surprised me is that a friend’s camera, something that is in between a point-and-shoot and a Digital SLR, called Canon PowerShot SX20 IS was able to capture this awesome image featuring Jupiter and four of its largest moons, using only its maximum zoom in capacity. Canon PowerShot SX 20 has a 20x wide-angle zoom lens.


Would you believe that this was taken without a telescope or binoculars? 😀

Photo details: 100 mm focal length, F/5.7 lens aperture, 1 sec. exposure, ISO-200)

Amazing, isn’t it?

Meanwhile according to this forum, using larger telescopes with bigger aperture could help you see Jupiter’s belts.

I have seen them before through some telescopes, but I still wish to see them again through a personally owned one, hopefully soon. 😀


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images courtesy of U.P. Astronomical Society member, Andre Obidos

100 mm, F/5.7, 1sec exp. time, ISO-200)

Jupiter and Uranus Aligns with the ‘Super Harvest Moon’ on the night of Autumnal Equinox

In the Philippines, this year’s autumnal or fall equinox will occur on September 23, 2010 at 11:oo AM (UTC+8).

Equinox is the time when  the length of night and day across the world is nearly, but not entirely, equal. The real time when there would be exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of night usually occurs a few days after an equinox  — this time it will happen on October 1. After this, Philippine nights will be longer as the Sun approaches the celestial equator.

The full moon during the night of the equinox will be extra special because for the first time in almost 20 years, northern autumn is beginning on the night of a full Moon which is called the ‘Super Harvest Moon”.

Usually, the Harvest Moon (the name for the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox) arrives a few days to weeks before or after the beginning of fall. It’s close, but not a perfect match. The Harvest Moon of 2010, however, reaches maximum illumination a mere six hours after the equinox. This has led some astronomers to call it the “Harvestest Moon” or a “Super Harvest Moon.” There hasn’t been a comparable coincidence since Sept 23, 1991, when the difference was about 10 hours, and it won’t happen again until the year 2029.

On the same night, the Harvest Moon can be found soaring high overhead with the bright planet Jupiter and fainter Uranus beside it. These objects in the night sky will be in spectacular conjunction to mark the change in seasons.

You can easily catch them in the eastern sky just a few minutes after sunset. Keep an eye on the Moon as it creeps above the eastern skyline. The golden orb may appear strangely inflated but his is just the lunar illusion at work. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, a low-hanging Moon appears much wider than it really is. A Harvest Moon inflated by the moon illusion is simply gorgeous.

Jupiter (still shining at -2.79 magnitude) will be less than 1 degree from fainter Uranus. You need telescopes or binoculars to see Uranus though. The full moon will be just about 10 degrees apart from these two.

Clear skies and happy viewing! 😀