1) Yes, I saw Venus and the Moon in the morning (see photo, below). Jupiter was out as well, but I didn’t have my wide lens, so he didn’t fit.
2) No, I did not see Venus go behind the moon Monday afternoon – too hard to look sideways through the cumulus clouds to see them only 4 degrees above the horizon.
But Henry (a co-worker) and I saw the pale Moon at noontime, without optical aid and then used binoculars to see Venus.
3) Yes, I saw the planetary stop light Monday evening – see photo below! But no meteors. (Hard to do when looking through a camera viewfinder.)
Venus and the Moon in the blue sky just before sunrise:
Here’s the moon at 250 mm telephoto – a bit grainy. Cropped and contrast enhanced:
From top to bottom: Saturn (yellow), Mars (red), Spica (blue-white, let’s pretend it’s green!)
Intentionally unfocused to bring out the color differences:
Thanks to my children for the new, very steady, tripod!!
What does Saturn look like in a small telescope? What does Venus look like in a small telescope? What does Mars look like in a small telescope?
What does Saturn look like in a small telescope? That is the most popular item on my blog – the place more people go to than any other!
So, here are photos of Saturn, as well as Venus and Mars, all taken on two nights – May 18th and 19th, 2012, all except one, through my 8-inch dobsonian (reflector) telescope.
If you look at the photo before you click on it (unless you have a wide-screen and you’re looking close-up), it’s how Saturn looks in a small telescope.
Then click and you’ll get an idea of what Saturn looks like in a large telescope. (You may have to hit the ‘back’ button to get back to the post.) This is a snapshot, unprocessed. Your view through a large scope will be a bit smaller, but sharper, with Saturn’s faint cloud belts, a thin gap splitting the ring in two and Saturn’s brightest moon, Titan nearby.
Here’s a shot over-brightening Saturn to get an image of Titan, faint, to the lower left. It’s more obvious in the eyepiece.
Here’s Venus, now visible low in the west, right after sunset.
Almost any binoculars or telescope will show Venus as a tiny crescent, looking like a miniature crescent moon. First the view through my 9 power finder scope, Venus at the bottom of the frame. I took this photo I took with my Canon XS held up to the eyepiece. The thick black lines are the cross hairs in the finder scope. Here’s Venus taken through the telescope with the Canon XS attached directly to the scope (“prime focus”). This is the same way I took the photo of Saturn, above. Notice how much larger Venus looks. Venus is smaller than Saturn, but it’s much closer.
Venus will get lower in the sky each night in May, with a slimmer crescent each night, but larger from end to end by a little bit each night.
Now for comparison, here is Mars, taken the same way. Mars is smaller than Venus and further away, so it’s tiny, even in a large telescope. Details are hard to see, except perhaps at high power and with a steady sky.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of planets through my scopes.
Lots of evening sky photos – Jupiter, Venus, Mercury – Orion and star clusters – Mars – and stars around them
Look for Mercury – a tiny dot down to the right of the tree. The two bright dots above are Venus (brightest) and Jupiter (highest and not as bright as Venus).
Canon XS 20 seconds, F/20, 29mm, ISO 200.
If you turn around, Mars is rising in the east. It’s a red dot, brighter than the other stars around it from the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo looks like he’s jumping up into the sky (sorry I left off some of his head at the top of the frame).
As a bonus, here’s a photo of Orion (on the left) and the Pleiades (looking like a little dipper) to the upper right and the V-shaped Hyades cluster in between.
Click to enlarge and look for the little out-of-focus star in the stars below the bright three belt stars of Orion! That’s the Orion Nebula.
(Canon XS 20 seconds, F/4, ISO-400, 18mm.)
Also, I used the custom white balance feature on the Canon XS, which makes makes the sky look more normal, without the reddish glow often seen on long exposures in light-polluted skies.
Now go out and see it all for yourself – get where you can see the sky and block out bright lights!
Evening’s Bright Dot is Jupiter, Which Leads Us to Mercury
The Moon Runs Over a Star
March Comes in Like a Lion – Leo Rises
The Space Station and Solar Sail Make Appearances
Where are Saturn, Venus and Mars?
Don’t Forget Daylight-time Starts March 13th
Which Planet is Closest to Us?
Watch that bright dot in the western sky right after the sky gets dark in the evening. That’s the planet Jupiter. It will get lower in the sky every night, but as it gets down, it will pass the planet Mercury from the 13th through the 16th. If you have never seen Mercury in the sky, this is a great opportunity to see it. Mercury will be dimmer than Jupiter, but easy to see without optical aid with Jupiter nearby pointing the way.
Look out for the Moon this month as it cruises though our skies. On the 1st and the 31st, it lines up with Venus in the morning sky just before sunrise. It shares the evening twilight with Jupiter on the 6th and 7th. And the first quarter moon, when the moon looks half-full, is stuck high in the horns of Taurus the bull on the 12th. If you want to take up a challenge with your binoculars or telescope, the sight of a star instantly winking out when the dark limb of the Moon passes in front of it is exciting and educational (showing the lack of a substantial atmosphere on the Moon). The Moon covers μ Geminorum, a star normally easily seen without optical aid (magnitude 2.9) at the foot of one of the Gemini twins, on the evening of the 13th about 7:00pm in the New York City area. The moon’s glare may make it hard to find the star, so find the moon high up in bright twilight sky in advance of 7pm and look to the left of the moon with your optical aid to see the star. Then wait and watch for the moon to run it over.
Does March come in like a lion? Is our skies, it does, as Leo the lion rises into our evening skies from the eastern horizon. The bright winter constellations we have been enjoying seem to move quickly westward, as if in fear of our not-cowardly lion of the east.
Saturn is an object for late evening object through early morning. At 800 million miles away, it is tiny, but in a telescope, unmistakably Saturn with its ring. In your telescope, you’ll also see a nearby star. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan is fainter, but visible in telescopes larger than 3 inches wide.
Venus is still out there in the pre-dawn sky, only about one fist-width or so above the horizon.
Mars is still hiding in the glare of the Sun, but it is far enough from solar conjunction that scientists are listening again for signals from the Spirit rover, which hasn’t been heard from since the beginning of its Martian winter last March. The Opportunity rover is trundling along toward the large crater called Endeavour. Opportunity has been on Mars for 2511 Martian days and has 16½ miles on its odometer.
The International Space Station has bright evening-time overflights of our area now through the 13th and in the mornings starting on the 24th. The Nano-sail D solar sailing satellite has unfurled and NASA is having a contest to encourage photos of it as it travels across our skies like a moderately bright star. The best times for viewing Nano-sail D are in the evening through the 6th, and in the morning after that. Check spaceweather.com or heavens-above.com as the viewing times may change as the sail’s orbit is modified by solar wind pressure and bumps from the few atoms that make up our atmosphere at that altitude.
Remember that daylight time starts on March 13th, making the time of sunrise and sunset 6:59am and 7:07pm, respectively. Note that it’s not exactly a 12-hour period of daylight; one reason is due to the refraction of sunlight by Earth’s atmosphere from below the horizon lengthening daylight by a few minutes.
Which planet is closest to Earth most often? The surprising answer is Mercury. This year, for example, Mercury is the closest planet to Earth from March 14th through December 27th, when Mars becomes the closest planet to Earth. The distance from Earth to Venus is more than the distance from Earth to Mercury until January 7th, 2012, as Venus spends most of 2011 moving away from Earth in its slightly faster, inner orbit.
Anytime up to one hour before sunrise, Venus is hard to miss. This photo doesn’t do justice to its brilliance, especially in a dark sky. In binoculars, it’s a tiny moon-like crescent. It’s easier to see that it’s a crescent as the sky gets brighter.
Click on the photos for the full size photo. Even better, go out and see for yourself. (Venus is so bright that if you have a clear view of the east and southeast from your window, you can see it from a darkened room.)
This morning a crescent Venus was visible in binoculars and telescope 9 degrees (almost a fist width held at arm’s length) to the upper right of the rising sun. Here’s a photo with my Canon Rebel EX attached (prime focus method) through my 8-inch wide dobsonian reflecting telescope.
Click on the image to see the full size photo.
The dark areas in the corners are the edge of the ring that attaches the camera to the telescope. The area around Venus is so bright because it’s about one-half hour after sunrise.
I blocked out the sun, found Venus in binoculars and then aimed my telescope/camera combination to the place where Venus was. Since Venus is in front of the sun, it is a tiny crescent, like, but narrower than the moon this morning.
On the lower right is the Moon with the Canon hand held up to a 30mm eyepiece of my 8-inch dobsonian. Click on the photo for the full sized picture.
Comet Hartley2 – Ready for its Close Up?
Hey, Dude, Where’s My Ride (to space)?
Daylight Time Ends, Early Morning Darkness Pushed Back
Jupiter is that bright dot in the sky, the first ‘star’ you can see after sunset. Jupiter will be especially noticeable when the Moon comes into Jupiter’s neighborhood on the 15th and 16th. But even a nearly-full Moon can’t drown out the king of planets. Now that Jupiter is available in prime time, get your binoculars or telescope to see up to four tiny moons very close to the planet. Jupiter is banded – just one light brown band these days – but it can be seen even in small telescopes. Jupiter is so bright now that the band may be lost in the glare of the planet. Try reducing the brightness by holding one side of a pair of sunglasses between your eye and the eyepiece so see if you can improve the contrast and see the band.
Just one binocular-wide view to the left of Jupiter is a faint ‘star’ about a little fainter than one of Jupiter’s moons. That’s our solar systems’ seventh planet, the third largest – Uranus, five times further away than Jupiter. Does it look different from the stars in the same view? Since the stars are tiny points of light due to their great distance, planets often look more substantial and flicker less, even if they are as far away as Uranus.
Some sharp-eyed observers with a clear southeastern horizon looking less than one-half-hour before sunrise will spot Venus rising just before the Sun during the first week of November. Venus will look like a tiny, very thin crescent moon in binoculars or a telescope. It will be very bright, but very deep into the dawn’s early light, it will be a challenge to find.
Early risers later in the month will see Venus blazing low in the predawn sky, with the star Spica and the planet Saturn above it. In a telescope, Saturn will be the ‘star’ with the very tiny ring around it. Saturn is all the way on the other side of the solar system now, so it’s really small, but Saturn’s rings are now tipping toward us and are easier to see than when the rings were edge-on earlier this year.
Mercury is hard to see low in the post-sunset sky and Mars is even harder to find.
Comet Hartley2 – Ready for its Close Up?
The spacecraft formerly known as ‘Deep Impact’, will be zipping by Comet Hartley2 as it zips by the earth. Since the impact part of Deep Impact, now called EPOXi, was left on Comet Tempel, the spacecraft will be just taking pictures. Radar from the giant radio bowl in Puerto Rico indicates that Hartley2 is somewhat dumbbell-shaped. See http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00002742/ , and watch for photos at http://epoxi.umd.edu/ during and after the closest approach of the spacecraft to Hartley2 on November 4th.
Hey, Dude, Where’s My Ride (to space)?
The next-to-last launch of the USA’s Space Transportation System was scheduled for November 1st [next attempt Nov 30], on a mission to the International Space Station to install additional modules and to provide supplies and parts for. (Shuttle Discovery’s launch was postponed to Wednesday, November 3rd.) The end of an era in American access to space is approaching. When will the next era of American human space launches begin? In the meantime, the International Space Station’s mission continues, with astronauts being ferried by Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The ISS is a bright moving dot in the evening sky through November 17th and in the morning sky from the 24th through mid-December. Check web sites for times in your location.
Daylight Time Ends before sunrise on Sunday, November 7th. During the first week of November, here in the NYC area, the sun will appear to rise later (as late as 7:30am EDT) than it does during the shortest days of December (as late as 7:20am EST), allowing extra time in the morning for astronomy through the first week of November.
Heads UP! for August 2010
One blazing planet and three or four dimmer planets are low, but seeable, in the twilight soon after sunset. But they are upstaged by the rise of the King of the Planets, Jupiter. Also, around the middle of the month, tiny pieces from the distant comet Swift-Tuttle give us the Perseid meteor show. It’s a good year for viewing these fast-moving, bright meteors.
Stay out after sunset
Four planets are conveniently located in the western twilight sky an hour after sunset. Venus gets our attention at once. It’s beyond dazzling, but you’ll need a clear view of the western horizon. Look low in the part of the sky where the sun just set.
Venus has good company this month. If you watch the sky each night, you’ll notice that it looks like Venus is going to run over much fainter Mars and Saturn. They are fainter, but readily visible with some patience. Over several nights, Saturn (as bright as one of the brighter stars) appears to sidestep the on-rushing Venus, passing just above Venus around the 7th . Mars (a little brighter than Saturn) appears to slow down as it lingers in the vicinity of Venus all month. For the first half of the month, you can cover all three planets with your outstretched fist. Our gang of three are closest together for our WAA Observing Night on the 7th. Our fourth early evening guest, Mercury, is way down to the lower right of Venus, for the second and third week of August. The crescent Moon drives by on the 12th and makes a striking line-up after dark on the 13th.
So follow Venus this month as it brightens a bit but sinks lower toward the horizon. On September 1st, Venus will make a small group with Mars and the bright star Spica. It will be an especially cool sight in binoculars. Just aim at Venus and move a little to the right.
A Rain of Stars
Do you tilt your umbrella forward when you run in the rain? That’s a classic demonstration of why we see more meteors on the morning side of midnight than during the ‘prime time’ evening hours. In the morning, our side of the planet is in ‘front’, that is, in Earth’s direction of travel, as we move around the sun. That’s why we advise sky watchers to get up early in the morning for the most meteors. This year, the Perseid meteor shower has two features that may encourage those who are disheartened at getting up at 0200 (i.e., oh-too-early in the morning for me). First, the shower is predicted to peak around 9pm EDT on August 12th. Second, the Perseids is a display with many bright meteors. If your goal is to see some bright meteors, you should be just fine with whichever of the evenings near the 12th will be clear. Stay out after the sky gets dark (10pm or later) and lay out so you can see a large part of the sky comfortably, preferably with a sleeping bag to protect you from the mosquitoes and the dew, and you should get your share of ‘OMG, did you see that?’ meteors.
The Reign of a Planet
Jupiter is called the king of planets, when it (he?) rises after 10 o’clock early in the month you’ll know why. Brighter than anything except the Sun, Moon and Venus (as we saw earlier in the evening), it’s hard to miss his entrance. To view Jupiter and his retinue of 4 bright moons, you’ll need to stay out late or get up before dawn so you can get a good view in the morning sky. Use a telescope or steadily-held binoculars to see the moons and I think you’ll agree it worth the wait. The Moon comes by on the 26th.
Be a Beach Bum
You need a really dark location to see the Milky Way. So, it’s a great time to visit someone’s beach house. If you can get away from the lights, the Milky Way looks like a stream of high, thin clouds in a band soaring high into clearer skies away from the murky horizon. But also look low in the south- can you see the group of stars that looks like a teapot, low in the southern sky? If you look carefully, the Milky Way looks like ‘steam’ from the teapot. This area around the constellation Sagittarius is a wonderful visual playground for an observer with binoculars or a small telescope.
What’s that Bright Star Overhead?
Overhead, the sky and your imagination can transport you millions of miles or tens of light-years away. Vega is that bright star almost overhead on these August nights. Vega’s north pole points nearly at Earth, so the Sun (a dim, but visible star at Vega’s 25 light year distance) could be the pole star for Vega’s possible planets. Nearby, the top of the Northern Cross points like an arrow to a spot 7 degrees away that would mark the pole star – if you were on Mars. So look straight up and you can imagine being someone else’s pole star; and what it would be like standing on the north pole of Mars!
For a great sky scene that you can’t see from Earth, go to NASA’s Solar System Simulator this month and ask it to give you a view of Venus as seen from Mars. Start with a 60 degree field of view. Earth is part of a striking scene with Venus and Jupiter. Mercury joins the scene about mid-month. I wonder if they’ll try to get a photo of this scene from one of the rovers.
The Moon is a great sight with binoculars or telescope. For August:
Last Quarter 8/3 New Moon 8/9 First Quarter 8/16 Full Moon 8/24
You can see lots of detailed craters and mountain ranges, especially from the 15th through the 18th.
The International Space Station
The ISS makes overflights of our area in the dawn skies from August 4th though 24th and in the evening skies from August 23rd through September 15th. Check nasa.gov, spaceweather.com or heavens-above.com for times when you can see the ISS and many other bright satellites for your location. The ISS is often as bright as Venus, so it’s easy to spot as it appears to lazily drift over us while orbiting the Earth at 18,000 miles per hour.
Have a telescope? Want to see how to use it?
Come to Pound Ward Ridge Park on Saturday evening, August 8th, members of the Westchester Astronomers will be there to help you use your telescope. Check the August WAA newsletter at http://www.westchesterastronomers.org/ for updates.
Photos taken through my 8-inch dobsonian telescope of the moon, Jupiter and Venus, during the daytime!
The moon is not to hard to find in the daylight sky, if you know where to look.
But finding the next two brightest objects in the sky after the sun and the moon is a bit harder. I’ve used planetarium software on my palm pilot to get the position of these objects – their direction and elevation above the horizon. I can point the telescope using an angle finder to get the elevation above the horizon and move the scope left and right to pick up the object in the wide-angle finder scope and then zero in with the higher magnification of the main telescope.
Attached are view though the scope: the Moon July 2nd 6:14am (sunrise was 5:27am), Canon Rebel zoomed in and looking though a 40 power eyepiece. Jupiter was taken on June 19th at 9:35am with the Canon Rebel zoomed in and looking though a 200 power eyepiece. Note the faint darker band contrasted with other, lighter clouds. Venus was taken on July 5th at 5:46pm, also though the Canon zoomed in with the 200 power eyepiece.
Show your support for your local planets !
Not much darkness this time of year, but with Venus, Mars and Saturn lining up for you in the evening twilight, how can you not go out and see them!
After sunset face yourself toward where the bright twilight is leftover from the sunset earlier in the evening. The planets are easiest to see about 9 to 10pm, after the sky gets a bit less bright and before the planets disappear over the horizon. It helps to not have hills and trees in the western sky, as well.
Details on the planet lineup
Binoculars make viewing the planetary lineups more striking, but are not necessary! First start with dazzling Venus. Once the sun sets, it’s the brightest thing out there, unless the Moon is nearby or a bright aircraft comes along. So pick out Venus and then move to its upper left. The next bright dot is much fainter, but gets easier to see as the sky gets dark. For the first part of the month, that’s the first magnitude star Regulus. Venus pushes past Regulus on the 8th and 9th (the pair are a pretty sight even by themselves). Then, ruddy Mars is next, then Saturn. By the end of the month, the spacing between the planets tightens up while the grouping moves lower in the western sky. You may have to wait for the sky to darken a bit, but the close encounters are worth seeing and showing off to friends.
Waiting on Jupiter
The King of the planets is still sleeping late, and you have to stay up to midnight or get up super-early in the morning to see him. I hear Jupiter is so bright, you can’t miss it. I cheated and found Jupiter at 10:30am in the daytime (see bkellysky.wordpress.com for a photo). The king will reign supreme in the evening sky starting in September.
Mercury Joins the Party
Anytime Mercury gets up from the horizon, it’s a good time to find it. Look low to the right of Venus from mid-July through early August. If you find Mercury, then it’s easy to see all five classical planets in one night. Move up to Venus, Mars and Saturn (especially easy when they get close together – closest on August 8th!). Then stay up for Jupiter to rise and you’ve done all the five planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye.
The Moon Swings By the Planets:
By Venus on the 14th – zoom in with your point and shoot for a nice photo! Near Mars on the 15th, Saturn is on the right on the 16th. Jupiter is near the moon after it rises after 11pm on the 30th.
Sunset Block Party in Manhattan on July 8th
See http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/resources/starstruck/manhattanhenge/ for details on the setting sun shining down the cross streets of Manhattan on July 8th.
See the International Space Station
Looking like a bright dot of light, the ISS soars over us on many evenings between now and July 14th. In late June the ISS is in sunlight almost all the time, so it’s visible about every 90 minutes all night. See nasa.gov or heavens-above.com or spaceweather.com for times for your location.
Two flights of the Space Transportation System remain!
STS-133 was planned for September, but may be moved to launch on October 28th or 29th. STS-134 may be moved to February 2011. There is a booster rocket set for another flight if NASA can get the funds for one additional flight. The STS has been the major source of water and supplies for the ISS.
Chcck out http://www.westchesterastronomers.org/ for the July newsletter and come to the July 10th star show under the stars!
 Of course, less patient people may not believe you. See my encounter with an inquiring mind at the June 16 entry on the Brightness of Venus folder at the unmannedspaceflight.com blog: