The last few weeks, Venus has been bright in the sky in the early evening, as it chases the sun in the solar plane. Tonight (and the last few nights), Mars joined Venus to its upper right, and I caught a few pictures as it dipped below the neighbor’s roof.
Once they were our of sight, I turned to the south and caught the rising, nearly-full Moon.
My efforts at astrophotography have been rough lately. The best convergences of the last few months have been cloud obscured. This included Friday night, when the full moon was only a few degrees away from Mars, which was at opposition to the Earth.
Note: Opposition is when the Earth and a planet are in line with the sun, marking their closest approach in a particular orbit of the sun. Due to the elliptical nature of the planets' orbits, not all oppositions are the same distance. On Friday, the Earth and Mars were 62 million miles from each other. The closest they can come is 35 million miles, which occurred a few years back.
The Galileoscope is a $15 kit that allows you to build a refracting telescope. I ordered mine in mid-May and it arrived Tuesday of last week. The first thing I noticed is that it's made of fairly lightweight plastic. What did I expect for $15?
The next think I noticed is that the included instructions are just bad. They refer to parts of the telescope without actually telling you what they look like. I've never actually used a telescope before, so I was just guessing on putting it together.
On May 15th, I placed an order for the equipment needed to attached my Nikon D200 to the Galileoscope I ordered the same day. I received an email two days later that the parts were backordered, but should be available in a couple of weeks. I wasn't too worried about it, as the Galileoscope hadn't even started shipping yet and I doubted I would receive it until sometime in July.
Yesterday, the Galileoscope arrived. I had not received the parts from Adorama yet, so I logged into my account to check the status. All it said was that it's backordered as of May 17th. There was no projected ship date.
Saturday evening, June 27, 2009, Saturn and the Moon had another close encounter. This was much nearer than the one Thursday evening, and this time, Saturn was to the upper right of the moon.
The sky was nice and clear tonight, but it was difficult to get both the Moon and Saturn exposed properly, as the difference in brightness was so great. I got a nice picture of the moon, however.
There was an interesting convergence of stars and planets Thursday evening, with Saturn and the Moon approaching the edges of the constellation Leo. Saturn was to the upper left of Leo and the Moon was to the lower right.
It was a tough night for astrophotography, as there was a great deal of sky glare from the recently set sun, and there was considerable haze. I got a couple of shots that are worth showing, however.
Pre-dawn clouds Friday and Saturday kept me from shooting a couple of wonderful convergences this week.
Yesterday (June 19, 2009), the crescent Moon grouped with Venus and Mars. Venus was to the lower right of the Moon, and the much fainter Mars was between them. The clouds were just broken enough that I was able to get an occasional glimpse of this Friday morning, but I wasn't able to get any pictures.
The best planetary convergence of May 2009 occurred this morning, with the Moon, Venus and Mars forming a triangle in the eastern, pre-dawn sky. Being in the eastern sky, there was considerable light pollution coming from Austin and Round Rock. I didn't feel like driving to the other side of Williamson County at 5am, so I just worked with it as best I could.
Mars is in the lowest part of the images, many times only visible as a small dot. It was actually a bit more visible to the naked eye, with a clear reddish tint.
For those out in about in the early hours this morning, you may have been treated to an unusual site, the moon and venus right next to each other in the sky. This dance between the moon and venus has been going on for a few months, but this morning, the crescent moon actually passed in front of a crescent venus (known as an occultation in astronomy).
I'm not what you would call a morning person (I much prefer to shoot in the late evening), but I drug myself out of bed to take some pictures of this. This conjunction was bright enough that I could actually shoot it from my front yard, without having to drive away from the bright lights.