Moon Reunites with Venus on Hot Summer Night, June 2018

Click to see the full image.

June 16th, 2018, 9:05 p.m. local time

We’re about a month from the last rendezvous of the Moon and Venus.  I wasn’t planning to get the camera and tripod set up tonight due to the excessive heat.  But after the Sun set, I went outside, thought the humidity was somewhat bearable, and decided to give it a try.  I was not outside too long, though, as the bugs were ridiculous.

Fortunately I had my image set from last month to use as reference for the camera’s settings.  This made tonight’s session easy and quick, as was necessary, as explained above.

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Curious Location to See the Moon

Sears Tower and Moon, via smartphone.

June 7th, 2018,11:30 a.m. local time

I don’t always photograph the Moon in broad daylight.  But when I do, I try to include a former world’s tallest building, for perspective.

Moon and Venus Together, May 2018

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May 18th, 2018, 9:05 p.m. local time

The Moon and Venus were side-by-side again last night in the Western sky.  The surrounding clouds offered a nice opportunity for a larger framing of the evening view.

If you look closely above and to the left of the Moon, you can see stars.  They were not visible to me at the time I took this picture.  The brightest one on the left is the star Alhena in the constellation Gemini.  And in fact, the very faint stars, which you will only be able to see if you click on the full image, are all part of the bottom of Gemini.  Castor and Pollux, at the top of Gemini, were visible at this time, but out of the image frame.  I am guessing that next month, these two plus the Moon will make for another nice viewing, weather permitting.

Finally, note that the glow around the Moon and to a smaller degree Venus are not exposure issues.  Those coma-like appearances were plainly seen due to the cloud cover.

Binocular Relaxation

April 30th, 2018, 10:45 p.m. local time

I will say this for cloudy weekdays – at least I don’t have to make up excuses for not taking my telescope and camera out on a “school night.”  Last night though presented another mostly clear sky and this time with beautiful warm spring temperatures.  It was too tempting to not go outside to do something, anything

Not wanting to take all of the equipment out, I settled for the second easiest path – using my binoculars (the easiest is no equipment at all).  It was the perfect night for it anyway, just to look up at many different, interesting parts of the sky.  So in the warm air with a cool gusting breeze, here is what I observed.

Spring Triangle

My initial objective was prompted by Scott Levine’s referencing of the “Spring Triangle” formed by Spica, Arcturus, and Regulus.  I wanted to see how far apart all three stars were to gauge if they could be photographed together.  The Spring Triangle is quite a bit larger than the already large Summer Triangle of Deneb, Vega, and Altair.  There may be a small chance of capturing all three in the very widest view my camera and lens can reach.  I hope to try soon.

Since I had my binoculars with me, I decided for fun to note the color of each of these three spring stars.

  • Arcturus – orange
  • Spica – blue
  • Regulus – mostly white with maybe a little blue

Did I get the colors right?  Searching for information on each star, I learned that:

  • Arcturus is a red giant
  • Spica is a type of binary star dominated by a blue giant
  • Regulus is a multi-star system that appears to be dominated by a white-blue star

So with the exception of calling Arcturus orange, I guessed correctly on each of them.

Moon

At this time last night the Moon had just cleared my tree tops, allowing me to take images through my telescope.  See yesterday’s post.  Tonight, it was still shrouded by many bare tree branches.  It was visible, but even through binoculars it was a difficult to focus on any of the Moon’s surface detail.

Jupiter

Jupiter keeps coming, very slowly, up and up each night.  It still clears my trees too late every evening to get the telescope out just yet (on a school night).  But I could still see it through the trees.  Tonight it was ahead of the Moon almost as much as it was trailing the Moon the prior night.

Through the binoculars I noticed a faint dot just ahead of the planet on its elliptic path.  Could that be one of its moons?  Searching later for the exact position of the moons at that time showed this:

So I was seeing either Ganymede or Callisto, both of which were far to Jupiter’s right at the time.  If I had known about this positioning while viewing them, I would have tried to pay much closer attention to see both moons even through the trees.

Coma Berenices

I admit I have become a bit infatuated with this asterism.  It is too faint in my light polluted skies to see unaided, but pops our as a gem of stars through binoculars.  If there is a single example of when binoculars view is superior over any telescope view, it is with Coma Berenices.

Sometimes called the tail of Leo, first find Leo above, and then it is not too difficult to scan Eastward until you locate this amazing batch of stars.

Gemini

My favorite friends of Orion and Taurus are all but gone into the West this viewing season, and Gemini follows close behind.  I used my binoculars to trace out the upper bodies of Castor and Pollux, a task that is harder than it sounds through a magnified view.

Mizar and Alcor

I don’t know why but I always enjoy spotting the pairing of stars Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major.  It may be because it was the first “double” I observed when I resumed my astronomy hobby several years ago.  It’s also a fun one to show onlookers and guests who have never seen a double star magnified before.

Clear Sky, Bright Moon

Click to see the full image.

April 29th, 2018, 10:45 p.m. local time

My sky was remarkably clear all weekend.  Blue skies at day and clean skies all night.  Just one problem, though – the Moon was approaching Full and washed much of the sky out.  So I settled for looking at the Moon, mostly.  Jupiter was trailing behind the Moon on Sunday evening, but unfortunately I would have had to wait another 90+ minutes before it cleared my trees, and I could not stay up past midnight.

I took the above picture using my Dobsonian and smartphone.  I have mentioned before that the Full Moon is the least interesting of all of the Moon’s phases.  There are no crater shadows, no crescents or odd-shaped ovals.  No new thin outlines in early evening or old thin outlines at dawn.  Looking at the Full Moon is like staring at a moderately bright light bulb.

It is still fun to look at.  The brightness is a marvel, whether it is by the Moon illuminating your night surroundings or (my favorite) by you observing the light reflections off of cloud cover.

Just Moon

Click to see the full image.

April 19th, 2018, 08:35 p.m. local time

On Monday we had the wonderful pairing of the Moon and Venus.  They were framed perfectly side-by-side in the early evening Western sky.  Yesterday brought snow, which meant clouds and nothing to see.  But all the snow melted by afternoon today and the sky cleared once again.  The Moon is now significant higher than Venus after Sunset, and fuller.  So I took my digital camera and tripod outside to take the above picture.

It is significantly harder to manually focus on the Moon when it is a waxing crescent like this.  That is because there is less surface area to gauge than, by comparison, the Full Moon.

Nearly Missed This Gem – Moon and Venus after Sunset

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April 17th, 2018, 08:20 p.m. local time

I saw the notice that the Moon and Venus were going to be close to each other tonight.  I didn’t think it would be very visible.  I was very wrong.  About 45 minutes after Sunset these two sparkled cleanly in my West sky.  Despite the unseasonably cold chill (the reason I have not posted anything for several weeks), I set up my camera to take this photograph.

Speaking of our Solar System, Jupiter is on its way.  I happened to be outside this morning at 2:30, and our largest planet was shining so bright I almost forgot what it was!  Opposition is now less than a month away and I am looking forward to dragging my telescopes out to see it very soon again up close.

March 2018’s Second Full Moon

ISO 100, f/16, 1/125 sec, 300mm focal length

March 31st, 2018, 09:35 p.m. local time

It’s Springtime, which means temperatures are…dropping like the middle of Winter?  Yes, it’s true.  Forecasts call for lows back into the teens (Fahrenheit) by Easter Friday.  Stargazing visibility has been poor to pointless over the last week or so.

But on this final day and final night of March, the skies cleared while the wind howled.  The beaming Moon, contrasted to the blurry haze of last night’s, was too tempting a target not to get my camera and tripod out.  I stayed outside only for a few minutes, as the wind made it feel like January 31st all over again.

Tonight’s image came with a new experiment for me – color correction.  I followed the steps in this good video to find the image’s mid-gray, using PaintShop Pro.  I then did some minor sharpening, contrast, and brightness adjustments.

In other news, we are almost a month out now from Jupiter’s 2018 opposition.  The planet’s nighttime schedule is just about at the point where I can start looking at it again via telescope and taking pictures, on nights when I can stay up past midnight, and the weather cooperates.  Hoping this upcoming cold snap is brief and I can start getting outside again on clear nights.


Edit: After re-examining the above Moon picture the following morning, it seemed a bit too dark to me.  Here is the same picture but with the brightness and contrast notched up, just a bit.  Also, if you are using the WordPress default blog viewer, I recommend clicking on these pictures directly, as that viewer seems to be distorting/compressing the images, at least on my PC.

Waning Moon, March 2018

Click for the full-sized image.

March 2nd, 2018, 08:45 p.m. local time

Though I missed taking a picture of the Full Moon on March 1st, I did get this picture the following night of the early Waning Moon.  Taken while the Moon was still rising in the East, you can see its circular edge facing down, with crater shadows starting to appear at the top.  This is because the Sun’s light is now closer to the East/circular side.  Over the next two weeks the crater side will continue to erode towards the circular edge, until there is nothing left but the New Moon, at which point we begin again with the next Waxing Phase.  And remember that this month will see a Full Moon again on March 31st.

Picture was taken with my DSLR camera on tripod, 300mm lens.