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

Posts tagged “venus

Venus, the Pleiades and Hyades


Tonight, the planet Venus shining bright in the western sky appeared close to the dipper-shaped open star cluster, Pleiades.

Just above them was the V-shaped Hyades, another noticeable cluster. In mythology, the Hyades are the half sisters to the Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas.

Image taken with Nikon D60 DSLR camera (24 mm, f/5.6, 20 sec. exp. at ISO 1250).

More photos below:

(From bottom to top) Jupiter, Venus, the Pleiades, and the Hyades.

The streak of light was an airplane which happen to pass in between Venus and the Pleiades while the shot was being taken

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!

AWB March 2012 Events

Global Astronomy Month 2012 (www.gam-awb.org) is merely a month away. Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) has organized three exciting events in March to do the warm-ups!

Spread the word and join in.

# # #

“Hello Red Planet”

3-5 March 2012

Mars will come into Opposition on March 3, 2012 in the constellation Leo with its face fully illuminated by the Sun and two days later, on March 5, 2012, the planet will have its closest approach to Earth during this apparition: 100.78 million km (0.6737 AU)—the best time to say “Hello” to the Red Planet.

Read more…


“Conjunction of Glory”

13 – 15 March 2012

Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the sky, will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky of 15 March 2012 at 10:37:46 UTC.  This will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright—and 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. 

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

Read more…


“March Equinox 2012”

20 March 2012

The March equinox occurs at 05:14 UTC, Tuesday 20 March.  The Sun will shine directly down on the Earth’s equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world.  This is also the first day of spring (Vernal Equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (Autumnal Equinox) in the southern hemisphere.

Wherever you are on 20 March, 2012, celebrate your season in the cycle of life with Astronomers Without Borders.  Enjoy your own unique Equinox this year—and why not tell others about the experience?

Read more…

To the stars! 🙂

More about GAM 2012:

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.

King and Queen of the Night Sky

Jupiter (upper right) and Venus (left) Feb. 10, 2012 6:50 PM

Jupiter and Venus, the two great and famous luminaries of heaven  are now 30° apart in the western sky during early evening and are moving closer to each other by  roughly one degree each day.

Jupiter, king of planets, has been our constant evening companion for the last six months.  Only Venus outshines Jupiter among the planets and stars. Venus and Jupiter are so bright you might think you’ve witnessed a double supernova beaming through the evening twilight. But, no, it’s just the two brightest planets in our own solar system.

Over the next couple weeks, Venus and Jupiter will continuously reign the evening sky; only the moon will be brighter. The planets will continue to get closer and closer to one another until March.

On the evenings of February 24, 25 and 26, the thin lunar crescent will pass close to Venus and Jupiter.

By March 14 and 15, these two bright objects will be on a spectacular conjunction — the closest in 2012. The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.

At the moment of closest approach, Venus will be at mag -4.9, and Jupiter at mag -2.1, both in the constellation Aries. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

After this event, Venus and Jupiter will remain close throughout the month of March 2012. They are like twin beacons – two very bright planets – near each other in the west as soon as the sun goes down.

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! 🙂

A Triple Celestial Treat: My Image in AAPOD, EarthSky, and InOMN Photo Contest

I was really happy that once again, one of my images was featured in the Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day (AAPOD) website last December 9, 2011. It’s an image featuring the planets Venus and Mercury along with the thin Moon during a nice celestial grouping at dusk last October 28.

It also got included in an article posted in EarthSky.org. Deborah Byrd, founder and president of EarthSky sent me message through Facebook to ask permission to repost my image.

Moreover, another surprising news came in as I received a notification that the same image has won, along with another image of mine,  in the first round of voting in the 2011 International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) Art Contest. 🙂 Yay!

Here are the links:

It was really inspiring for an amateur like me who doesn’t even own a decent camera fit for sky photography to have my image featured in such astronomy websites. Thank you, AAPOD, EarthSky and InOMN! 

I hope this would encourage more astronomy enthusiasts who are also into sky photography to submit their images and share their interest to many people who might also find a new fondness for the night sky.

Perhaps I should start saving more to have that camera which I’ve been eyeing on for so long. 😉 All things in God’s time.

To the stars!

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!

Skywatching Highlights: May 2011


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.

Date Event Time (PHT)
1 Mars Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
1-2 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction 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 Jupiter Conjunction  
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
10-14 Mercury-Venus-Jupiter conjunction 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
30 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
31 Mars 4° South of the Moon dawn

Clear skies! 🙂



  • PAGASA Astronomical Diary
  • Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
  • 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org

Luna and the Planets in the Dawn Sky

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.

I saw these two objects rising behind the roof of our neighbors house. At 5:00 AM, the Moon and Venus were roughly 15 degrees above the horizon and were separated apart by 6 degrees.

All pictures were taken using my Kodak C813 Digital Camera.

Clear skies! 🙂

Planets Align for This Year’s Lyrids!

Tonight presents the expected peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, from late night Friday (April 22) until dawn Saturday (April 23). Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.

Sky at 5:00 AM, April 23 (21:00 UT April 22) as viewed from Manila, Philippines. The point where the yellow lines converge shows the "radiant" for the Lyrid meteor shower. The radiant is the spot in the sky that the meteors seem to fan out from. | image: Stellarium

Lyrid meteors are usually around magnitude +2, which is bright enough to be visible from most cities, but you’ll see more and enjoy them more if you leave the city for a dark place where the stars shine brighter. They often produce luminous trains of dust that can be observed for several seconds. Some Lyrids will be brighter, though, and the occassional “fireball” can cast shadows for a split second and leave behind glowing, smoky debris trails that last for minutes. Lyrid meteors disintegrate after hitting our atmosphere at a moderate speed of 29.8 miles per second.

In observing these meteors, the hour before dawn is usually best, except that a bright waning gibbous moon will be lighting the sky hiding most of the fainter meteors in its glare. This year, it is more favorable to watch late at night, during the dark hour before moonrise.

Tweet your data!

You can also share your data by Tweeting your postcode, your country (click here to find your country code) and, optionally, the meteor count along with the hashtag; #MeteorWatch (you are welcome to use GAM hastags as well – #GAM2011 #LyridsWatch)

The meteor data will appear in a map at MeteorWatch.org

While the best meteor-watching will be late night through daybreak, it’s well worth staying outside just before sunrise for a beautiful planetary alignment will be joining the Lyrids.

Venus is so bright in the eastern sky you can’t miss it, and below it Mercury, Mars and Jupiter could be found hanging a few degrees away from each other. If you have hazy skies or live in an urban area, you may need binoculars to see Mars and Jupiter.

All four heavenly objects will fit within a circle about 15 degrees in diameter, beaming together through the colors of the predawn sky. 

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

Enjoy the show! 🙂

Skywatching Highlights: March 2011

March is filled with several exciting conjunctions, lunar occultations, planetary displays and other celestial events which will take place alongside with some big astronomy-related projects geared toward promoting the appreciation of the night sky to many people globally.

March Event Time Notes
5 New Moon 04:45 AM
6 Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth) 04:00 PM
7 Final close pairing of Jupiter and the moon for 2011
10 Moon shines near the Pleiades star cluster
11 Moon near star Aldebaran
12 Moon in between Capella and Betelgeuse
12 Juno at Opposition 6:00 PM
13 Moon shines in front of Winter Hexagon
13-18 Close pairing of Mercury and Jupiter dusk These appear low in western horizon
13 First Quarter Moon 07:45 AM
15 Gamma Normids Active from Feb 25 – Mar 22. ZHR 6
16 Minimum separation Mercury Jupiter dusk Mercury 2° to the left of Jupiter
16 Mercury 2° North of the Moon 01:00 AM
17 Lunar occultation of omicron Leonis Start: 6:20 PM End: 07:10 PM
17 Moon and Regulus are less than 10 degrees apart
19 Sun-Earth Day
20 Full Moon 02:10 AM This will also be the largest full moon of the year because it will be near perigee, its closest point to the Earth.
21 Vernal Equinox 07:20 AM

6th worldwide GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign

March 22 -April 4 for the Northern Hemisphere

23 Moon near red star Antares before dawn
23 Mercury greatest elongation East(19°) 09:00 AM
26 Last Quarter Moon 08:10 PM
26 Earth Hour 2011 8:30 PM
31 Venus 6° South of the Moon 09:00 PM

Note: Dates and sky displays are based on Philippine settings. Philippine Standard Time (PST) = UT + 8


Astronomy Terms:

Occultation – An event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.

Opposition – When two celestial bodies are on opposite sides of the sky when viewed from a particular place (usually the Earth).

  • it is visible almost all night, rising around sunset, culminating around midnight and setting around sunrise;
  • at this point of its orbit it is roughly[1] closest to the Earth, making it appear bigger and brighter.
  • the half of the planet visible from Earth is then completely illuminated (“full planet”)
  • the opposition effect increases the reflected light from bodies with unobscured rough surfaces
Greatest  (Eastern) Elongation When an inferior planet is visible after sunset, it is near its greatest eastern elongation. A planet’s elongation is the angle between the Sun and the planet, as viewed from Earth
Vernal Equinox The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the southern hemisphere




  1. EarthSky.org
  2. PAGASA Astronomical Diary — March 2011
  3. Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 (by PAS)
  4. SeaSky.org
  5. Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Moon in the Predawn Sky this Week (Jan. 28 – Feb. 1)

Last Jan. 25, Saturn, Spica and the Moon formed a beautiful triangular celestial grouping. During the following days, early risers can watch the waning crescent Moon pass bright Venus, with Antares and Scorpius looking on. Check southeastern sky a few hours before sunrise.

Location of the Moon in the predawn sky for the next few days:

Jan. 29 — Moon is near the red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius
Jan. 30 — Venus and Crescent Moon are almost 5 degrees apart
Jan. 31 — Moon will be located just above the “Teapot” asterism in Sagittarius
Feb. 1 — Moon and Mercury will be less than 10 degrees from each other

This is a good opportunity to spot these celestial objects because of their proximity with one another and because of their perfect location within the prominent constellations. Clear skies! 🙂


Reference: Stellarium Planetarium Software

Catching the Quadrantids


Despite the 50% predicted cloud cover and significantly large uncertainty in the precise time of the peak, I and some of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc tried our luck in observing  the first meteor shower of the year during the night of January 3 until the dawn of January 4, 2011. According to British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath, the narrow peak of this shower is predicted to occur some time between 2100 UT  on 3 January (5AM on January 4) and 0600 (UT) on 4 January 2011 (2PM on January 4), however the radiant of the shower  is very low in the evening hours, and will rise higher towards dawn so the best time to view this event in the Philippines was during the predawn hours of January 4.


This was my first time to observe the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. Unlike the other popular annual meteor showers like the Perseids, Leonids and the Geminids, this shower is expected to be less spectacular due to lower activity and unfavorable position of the radiant to a country near the equator like the Philippines. Nevertheless, the moonless night during January 4 and 5 enticed me to give it a chance.

We chose to observe in Marikina City, at a friend’s house which has a roof deck. From there, we had a fine view of the north and eastern sky wherein most of the Quadrantids are expected to pass.


The radiant of the meteor shower which is found a little below the Big Dipper and beside the constellation Bootes, was set to rise at around 1AM of January 4. While waiting, we spent the time preparing our simple reclining chairs and sleeping bag which we intend to use as a mat where we could lie down. We also set up our organization’s 4.5″ Meade Reflector — which we fondly called Datascope — to look for deep sky objects. We pointed it first at the famous stellar sisters, the Pleaides or M45, in Taurus. We enjoyed stargazing and constellation-hopping because the sky was fairly clear then.

At around 1:30 AM, I saw my first Quadrantid. 😀 It was a short and swift one having a thin  trail and a pale bluish big head, typical of a Quadrantid meteor. It passed between the pointer stars, Dubhe and Merak in Ursa Major. It was an amazing scene!

After about 30 minutes, patches of clouds began to block our view. We decided to pause our observation for a while to pick up a friend who would join us.

We continued on our observation with a less cloudy sky (around 40% cloud cover)  by 3:20 AM  during which we saw another Quadrantid passing near Corona Borealis. Another one zoomed past by the Bootes at  4 AM.

At 5 AM (21:oo UT), during the time of the peak we saw more meteors flying across the northeast in between cloud gaps of the 50-60 % clouded sky. In my previous post,  I calculated for the number of meteors that could be seen given the 50% cloud cover and 4.0 limiting magnitude using the formula given by IMO. The actual meteor count we got during the peak is 6, which was relatively comparable to the 8 meteors per hour which I had calculated. 🙂

Venus and the light-polluted suburban site

By 5:40 AM, we also saw one artificial satellite flying from the northwest. During this time, Venus and Mercury were already shining high in the east though they seemed to disappear from time to time as clouds pass in front of them. We also took sometime to capture a few bright constellations like my favorite, Crux in the south.

We ended our observation at past 6:00 AM when the Sun started to climb up in the east. A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we finished our observation and ate our breakfast — McChicken Fillet Meal from McDonalds — courtesy of our friend Saeed, who had his birthday during that observation.

Beautiful Sunrise!

Silhouette shot for your birthday, Saeed 🙂


UP AstroSoc members

The following night two of my fellow UP AstroSoc friends — Bea and Aaron — went to Seven Suites Hotel Observatory in Antipolo City, accompanied by some of our UP AstroSoc associates, to observe the Quadrantids from there. The sky there offers a more favorable viewing condition because  it was farther from the light-polluted city. They were even lucky to have less cloudy sky during that night. 🙂

Below are some of the pictures taken during their observation at the Seven Suites Hotel Observtaory. All images are by Bea Banzuela.


A lone Quadrantid along Ursa Major!


Star trails - exp. time is 30 mins. According to Bea, a slight ground movement made this shot a bit shaky 😦

The Winter Triangle

The constellation Crux in the south

Viewing Venus with the observatory's 12" Dobsonian Telescope -- the 4th largest in the Philippines

Big Dipper

I never expected that this event would turn out to be another memorable and fun observation. 🙂 Thank you, UP Astrosoc!

To all those who were able to say hello to this year’s Quadrantids, congratulations and good luck on your observation of the next meteor shower. 😀

New Year’s Celestial Treat

A beautiful celestial display of Mercury and Venus with the thin waning crescent Moon brightened up the first two mornings of  2011. 🙂

Heavy smog caused by the cold, foggy weather and  smoke generated by firecrackers and fireworks from the New Year’s Eve celebration blanketed our suburban place during the early morning of January 1st. Despite this, I was still lucky enough to have witnessed even just the nice pairing of Venus and the Moon in the Eastern sky, a few minutes before sunrise. Below are some of the images I took using my point-and-shoot Kodak C813 8.0 megapixel digital camera. Images were a bit blurry because I didn’t use a tripod.

A thin old Moon to the lower right of the planet Venus (1/1/11 at 5:47 AM) Mercury, the red star Antares and Saturn were difficult to see because of the smog. Click on the images to enlarge.

I also posted about this skygazing guide over my Twitter and Facebook account and I was happy that some of my fellow amateur astronomers and UP AstroSoc friends have also tried capturing  images of this sky event over their own places. With their permission, I have included their pictures into this post. 🙂

Moon and Venus over Pasig City, Philippines – images by Elaine Tacubanza

Happy Hatsuhinode (初日の出) – the first sunrise of the year – by Kathleen Rosario (Parañaque City, Philippines)

Another friend, Bea Banzuela, did her skygazing during the predawn of January 2. Aside from taking landscape photographs of this event, she also used the 4.5″ Newtonian Telescope of UP AstroSoc to view the Moon and Venus over her place at Marikina City. Notice the lovely earthshine on the Moon in her pictures. 🙂

From L to R : Mercury, Moon and Venus

Mercury, Moon and Venus with a few bright stars of Scorpius


A few minutes before sunrise

Thin Moon through the finderscope

Moon taken through the eyepiece of Datascope (afocal method)


This event was indeed a nice celestial treat to start the year off. 😀

Mercury and Venus

Another great opportunity to image the naked-eye planets, Venus and Mercury in the Eastern sky during predawn hours of the next few days. Both will be located close to red star, Antares of Scorpius.

Clear skies! 🙂

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 😀

Moon and Predawn Planets on Dec. 30 – 31

The final mornings of 2010 (during Dec. 30 and 31) will feature the waning crescent moon with the planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky before sunrise.

4:00 AM PST (UT+8) of Dec. 30, 2010 - Moon, Venus (mag.-4.39) and Saturn (mag. 1.21) | Manila, Philippines | Click image to enlarge.

Depending on where you live worldwide, Venus and the moon will rise above the eastern horizon some 3 to 4 hours before sunrise, to light up the wee morning hours until daybreak. For Philippine observers, the screenshot from Stellarium above shows that the Moon – Venus separation is ~20 degrees on December 30, 2010. During this time, the moon will also be ~20 degrees below Saturn. The bright stars Spica in Virgo and Arcturus in Bootes could also be found within this celestial grouping.

5:30 AM PST (UT+8) of Dec. 31, 2010 - Moon, Venus (mag. -4.39 ) and Mercury (mag. 0.39) | Manila, Philippines

Venus is very bright and easy to find. If you look at Venus with a telescope before dawn, you’ll see this planet shining as a wide waxing crescent.

By December 31, the moon and Venus will shine nearly side by side with only 10 degrees of angular separation. Also on this date, Mercury which was in evening dusk during early December will now be in the predawn sky, closer to the horizon. In the screenshot above, it was ~8 degrees above the horizon and ~25 degrees away from Venus. December 2010 provides you with the unique opportunity to catch Mercury in both the evening and morning sky in a single month. Using binoculars will help you see this tiny planet.

Clear skies to all! 🙂



Note: The general rule amateur astronomers use is that the width of your fist from top to bottom held at arm’s length equals about 10 degrees. Read more about this here.



reference: EarthSky.org

Night with the Geminids

Last December 13,  I went to the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in U.P. Diliman to observe the peak of the 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower with my amateur astronomy group, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. AstroSoc).

When I came at around 11:00 PM, about 50 people were already at the Sun Deck of the observatory. Everyone was enthusiastically waiting for the bright Geminid meteors despite the growing chance of an overcast sky.  The other guests set up their personally-owned telescopes to view the Great Orion Nebula and other deep-sky objects not blocked by clouds.

Amidst the 40% cloudy sky, the constellation Gemini where the meteors seemed to radiate from could be seen at ~40 degrees above the northeastern horizon. In the west, bright Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon were already about to set. The pair looked beautiful as they went lower in the horizon and become partially covered behind the tree tops.

As moonlight disappeared, the sky become darker and more favorable for meteor watching.  Four big and bright fireballs zoomed across the sky before midnight. 😀 Unlike other meteor showers, the Geminids can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, making them fairly easy to spot.

However, this short-lived outburst was soon replaced with an overcast sky which lasted until about 2:00 AM. During this time, I took the chance to go online and update my twitter status regarding our observation (I was able to do this thanks to Sun Broadband plug-it!). Several groups locally and internationally were also sharing their meteor counts and meteor watching experience. Below is a screenshot showing  some of my tweets during that time.

As what I have noted there, the Observation and Instrumentation Cluster (ObsIn) of  U.P. AstroSoc kept a record of the  tally* of the number of meteors seen every hour during the Geminids observation.

Limiting Magnitude**: ~4.0

Dec. 13, 2010
22:00 – 23:00 —— 27
23:01 – 24:00 —— 29

Dec. 14, 2010
00:01 – 01:00 —– overcast sky
01:01 – 02:00 —– overcast sky
02:01 – 03:00 —– 20 (with one green fireball!)
03:01 – 04:00 —– 2
04:00 – 05:00 —– 0

Total: 78

prepared by: Francis Bugaoan and Carlo Selabao

* This report just shows the number of meteors seen.Values listed above are the max.  number of meteors observed  within each time frame which means that it includes all meteors seen by at least one person. These are not the computed Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of the meteor shower.

** This is used to evaluate the quality of observing conditions. It tells the magnitude of the faintest star visible to the unaided eye

By around 2:00 AM, clouds began to moved away which allowed us to continue on our meteor counting. One green fireball which crossed the northwest sky appeared like a falling big blob of light. 😀 Everyone cheered happily upon seeing it. It lasted for about 5 seconds before disappearing into view.

More than an hour later, Venus which is now a “morning star” lit up the eastern horizon together with Saturn, Spica and Arcturus. Gemini was then past the zenith while my favorite Winter Triangle was already in the west.

Because of this beautiful pre-dawn sky, U.P. AstroSoc members  took the opportunity to lead the guests into a star-hopping activity to familiarize them with these celestial objects and the constellations.

As sunrise approached, one member noticed a rarely seen atmospheric phenomenon called the Belt of Venus. It is an arch of pinkish band above the shadow that Earth casts on the atmosphere opposite the sunrise or sunset. It is best visible when the atmosphere is cloudless, yet very dusty, just after sunset or just before sunrise.  The arch’s pink color is due to backscattering of reddened light from the rising or setting Sun.

Venus rising behind the PAGASA Observatory Dome (image by Bea Banzuela)


We finished our observation at around 6:00 AM. A lot of the guest observers who came by told us that they enjoyed the meteor counting, as well as the stargazing activities and they’re looking forward to the next meteor shower observation.

Despite the cloudy weather, I was surprised that the Geminids still gave us a fairly spectacular cosmic  show. Truly, this shower never fails to live up its reputation as the best meteor shower.

Final Appearance of Venus in the Western Sky for 2010


In this image taken last October 3, the planet Venus was just 13.5 degrees above the western horizon at 6:18 PM (UTC+8), Apparent Magnitude: -4.44 A few days later, Venus was lost in the glare of the sun and set soon after it.

Shining high in the evening sky over the past few months, Venus is the brightest thing in the sky after the Sun and Moon. All this has changed rapidly. To those who have been watching Venus night after night, you have probably noticed that it is not as high in the sky as it was like a month before. Venus has gone lower and lower in the sky during the past few weeks and now it was no longer visible as it was too close to the Sun. On October 29, it will be in inferior conjunction, the time when Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth. During this period, Venus cannot be seen from Earth. It will disappear for a short period that averages 8 days until it becomes visible again in the morning sky, rising with the Sun (called heliacal rising).

After rising, Venus will reach its greatest brilliancy then its greatest western elongation, moving quickly (in retrograde motion) away from the Sun.

Venus at 19 degrees above the western horizon, Sept. 19, 2010 at 6:26 PM (UTC+8) Apparent magnitude: -4.44

Sunset and Moon Viewing by the Bay

For the celebration of the International Observe the Moon Night 2010, I decided to invite my fellow amateurs from UP AstroSoc to do our observation in an area behind the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City which was also facing Manila Bay. The place has a very nice view of the western sky and it is in fact, known as one of the best places to watch the sun set. 😀

We went to the mall as early as 4pm to visit a Book Fair which was ongoing then at the mall’s convention center. There were lots of good books  there which were in relatively lower prices including Astronomy books! I almost got tempted to buy one for myself. 😛 Haha.

By 5:30 PM, we went outside the mall to view the sunset. Luckily, the heavens granted my wish and it didn’t rain that day. As we were crossing a bridge on the way out, we saw the breath-taking view of the setting sun! (partly covered in clouds though)

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One of my friends, Bea Banzuela, created a time-lapse video of the spectacular view:

The moon then was already shining brightly near the zenith.

The Moon! 🙂

As the sky grew darker, we took advantage of our location by taking numerous landscape and wide-angle shots of the moon. After several hours, the moon was just about 40 degrees above the western horizon. Its reflection on the water was very nice. Surrounding constellations like Sagittarius and Scorpius were noticeable too despite the bright glare of the waxing gibbous moon.

Happy InOMN! (click to enlarge image)

Moon and the Fountain

The planet Venus dropping by to join the celebration (click to enlarge)

Moon by the Bay (click to enlarge image)

We had planned to stay there until the moon set but, since that would happen at around 2 in the morning, we left earlier than planned.

The Moon behind us 🙂

I would like to thank and congratulate the international organizers of this first InOMN. This event was truly an amazing way for us to see the moon in a different light and appreciate our closest neighbor in space.

Hoping for another successful year for the InOMN in 2011!

To the moon and beyond! 😀

Constellation Hopping and The Planets this month — September 2010


* Venus, Mars and Spica together in evening sky at start of month
* The above 3 joined by the Moon on the 11th
* Jupiter at opposition (21st) with Full Moon (23rd) and Uranus nearby
* Mercury bright in the morning sky

Western sky view a few minutes after sunset on September 11 – the thin crescent moon joins the celestial trio of Venus, Mars and Spica (brightest star of Virgo)

Philippine nights will be longer as the Sun approaches the celestial equator. Autumnal equinox will occur on September 23 when day and night will have approximately equal length on Earth.This point is also called as First point of Libra.

The rich band of constellations and stars along the Milky Way from the constellations Cygnus, the Swan, in the north to Sagittarius and Scorpius in the south, begin to give way this month to fainter constellations, many of them with watery associations such as the constellations of Capricornus, the Sea Goat, Aquarius, the Water Bearer and Pisces the Fish. The famous asterism Teapot in the sky in the constellation of Sagittarius can be observed at about 40 to 47 degrees above the southern horizon, an hour after sunset as shown below.

View of the eastern sky on September 7 at 4:00 AM (PST)

Betelgeuse, the super giant red star and the prominent star of the famous constellation Orion, the Mighty Hunter, will be located at about 25 degrees to the upper right of Mars. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky of the constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog, will be an easy target as it glows below the constellation of Orion. Procyon, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog, can be located at the lower left of Canis Major. By drawing an imaginary line among the bright stars of these constellations, an equilateral triangle will be formed called the Winter Triangle as shown here:

Southern sky at 7:25 PM (PST)

Also, flying high in this month’s sky is the mythical winged horse Pegasus. Although one of the largest constellations in area, it boasts no bright stars. Its most noticeable star pattern is the Great Square of Pegasus: four second magnitude stars marking the body of the horse. Ironically, the brightest of those stars, Alpheratz, isn’t even an official member of the Pegasus constellation, being part of the neighboring constellation Andromeda. The brightest star in Pegasus isn’t part of the Square: it is Enif, the Arabic word for “nose.” It marks the head of Pegasus, off to the west.

As you look further south, you can see Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish, with the only bright star in the region: Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut, which is 25 light-years from Earth, made headlines in 2008 as one of the first stars to observed to have a planet that was directly imaged with telescopes.

To the east of Fomalhaut is another huge dim constellation, Cetus the Whale, with the only other brightest star in the area, Deneb Kaitos, which means the tail of the whale. Cetus also contains the variable star Mira. Currently this star is too faint to be visible with the naked eye, but over the next few months it will start climbing in brightness until it becomes one of the brightest stars in this constellation.

Normally this sea world is a dim and mysterious place, with only one bright star, Fomalhaut. But this year it is enlivened by a visit from the giant planet Jupiter, right on the border between Pisces and Aquarius.

The Planets

The tight grouping of Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Spica ends its spectacular run this month. All four are low in the western sky at nightfall as September begins, but Saturn drops from sight early in the month. Mars and Venus are still in the sky by month’s end, but they shine for only a little while before dropping below the horizon. By that time, however, the night sky’s next-brightest object, the planet Jupiter, is climbing skyward in the east, and will shine brilliantly throughout the night.

Mercury will shine brightly at magnitude -1 as it reaches its greatest elongation west on September 20 (18°  from the Sun). For early risers, Mercury makes its best morning appearance of the year on the second week of September. Look in the constellation of Leo the Lion near his lower foot star, Rho Leonis. The two objects are 20 arcminutes apart on September 16 and 17.

Venus continues to be prominent in the evening sky, though also low for northern hemisphere observers, at around magnitude -4. The crescent Moon, less than 3° away on September 11 will make an attractive pairing. On the 24th, Venus will reach its peak magnitude of -4.6.

Mars is now shining very low in the evening twilight sky. This month +1.5 magnitude Mars starts a few degrees to the upper right of brilliant Venus. Though the planets will slowly move apart they will stay within 7° of each other all month long.On September 11, the Moon will pass with 5° of the planet.

Giant planet Jupiter is now top target for planetary observers, dominating the night sky and rising in the east as it is getting dark at a bright magnitude of -2.9 in Pisces. The planet is putting on a show for those with reasonable sized telescopes, having lost one of its prominent dark belts and with its two red spots in close proximity. On the 21st,  Jupiter will be at opposition,means it will be visible all night long, rising in the evening, reaching its highest elevation around midnight and setting during dawn.

Saturn is located low in the west during evening twilight. By month’s end the +1.0 magnitude planet will be too close to the Sun to be seen easily by most observers. On September 9,the Moon will be within 7° of Saturn.

Uranus will lie within one degree of Jupiter in Pisces between September 12 and 25, making the giant planet a good signpost to finding its more distant cousin. On the 22nd, it will also be at opposition. If given a clear dark sky and no moonlight, it can be spotted with the unaided eye at magnitude of 5.7.

Neptune will be found among the background stars of the constellation Capricornus, the Sea-Goat and will be standing 42 degrees above the east southeastern horizon at around 7:00 PM (PST) on the 19th of the month. A modest size telescope will be needed to observe the bluish planet.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are Sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During September, 10-16 or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors. Information on most of the minor showers will be provided on a weekly basis by Robert Lunsford’s Meteor Activity Outlook this month.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the following sites: Wayne Hally’s and Mark Davis’s NAMN Notes, and the International Meteor Organization’s 2010 Meteor Shower Calendar.


sources: PAGASA, SPACE.com, Skymania.com, TheTransientSky

The brightest star in Pegasus isn’t part of the Square: it is Enif, the Arabic word for “nose.” It marks the head of Pegasus, off to the west.

Catch the Closest Celestial Trio of 2010

For Philippine skygazers, here is another celestial grouping before the month of August ends. 😀

Clear skies!

* * *

From earthsky.org

Venus and Mars will team up with the star Spica (the brightest star of the constellation Virgo) to stage this year’s closest celestial trio – three heavenly bodies fitting within a circle smaller than 5 degrees in diameter. A typical binocular field covers about 5 degrees of sky, and you might catch all three snuggling within a single binocular field in the early evening from end of August until early September.

Unfortunately for the northern hemisphere, the threesome sets at very early evening. Dazzling Venus is easy to see, but Mars and Spica tantalize at the threshold of visibility. The best viewing window opens up from around 45 to 75 minutes after sunset. Have binoculars handy!

After the trio sets in the west, look for the blazing planet Jupiter to rise in the east. After rising, this wonderfully brilliant world will be out all night long!

western sky on August 30, 7PM (PST)

On September 2, the three objects will seem to align in a straight line! 🙂

Venus at Greatest Elongation in 2010

The planet Venus has reached its greatest eastern elongation, or its maximum angular separation (visual distance) from the Sun as observed from the Earth, last August 20. The inferior planets, Venus and Mercury, are best viewed during their greatest elongation. On that night, Venus appeared higher and brighter in the evening sky.

During this appearance, I and my  fellow UP AstroSoc member, Andre Obidos saw our nearest planetary neighbor hanging about 20 degrees above the western, an hour after sunset. For comparison, your fist held at arm’s length covers roughly 10 degrees of the night sky.

We were really amazed by its dazzling display during that night. 😀 One may not easily tell that it was indeed a planet. Shining at -4.22, it was the brightest object then, aside from the waxing gibbous Moon. Unfortunately, fainter Mars and Saturn which were lying about a few degrees from Venus were not easily visible.

Below are the images which Andre took.

Venus at its greatest elongation in 2010

Venus and Arcturus

Last year, Venus, the planet named after the Goddess of Love, reached its peak of brightest just after Valentine’s Day 2009.

If observed through a telescope, it can be noticed that Venus was one half lit by reflected light from the Sun and the other half in dark.

Just like the Moon, Venus has phases. It can be full, gibbous, half or a crescent. These phases occur for the same reason that Moon phases do. One side of Venus is sunlit (the “dayside”). The other side is dark (the “nightside”). As Venus orbits the Sun it turns one side, then the other, toward Earth. At the moment, Venus is turning its nightside toward us. We can see only a sliver of the dayside–hence the crescent.

In one way Moon-phases and Venus-phases differ: The Moon is bright when it’s full, and dim when it’s a crescent. Venus is just the opposite. It reaches greatest brilliancy at crescent phase. When it is “full”, it is not normally possible to observe Venus because it is then on the other side of the Sun. Strange but true. 😀 (useful diagrams and explanations here)

By October 2010, Venus will end its reign as it goes lower and lower in the sky. It will reach its peak magnitude of -4.6 on September 24, about 23 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star. But in mid-October, Venus will dim to -4.3 and will set with the sun until it passes inferior conjunction on Oct. 28. In November, it will enter the dawn sky as the “Morning Star”.

it will be brightest in early autumn as it heads back down toward the sun, reaching its peak brilliance for this apparition on Sept. 23 at an eye-popping magnitude of –4.8.  That would make it 23 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star. Venus then quickly fades, vanishing from view in mid-October, and passes inferior conjunction on Oct. 28.