Daylight Moon with Venus

May 22nd, 2017, 9:20 p.m. local time

Normally I complain about my blocked view of the East sky, due to all my trees and neighbors’ houses in the way.  But sometimes the setup has its benefits.  Today this barrier sufficiently shielded the Sun so that I could find the late stage Waning Moon.

And I thought I was only shooting the Moon, but after reviewing the wider images I noticed that Venus was also picked up!  It may be hard to see, but look above and to the right of the Moon.  The planet was not visible to the eye alone, but was still available with the right camera exposure.

Here is a different, closer view, focused on the Moon:

This last picture, a wide view, approximates what this Moon phase actually looks like when the Sun is out:

Looking ahead, the weather forecast is miserable through the Memorial Day weekend.  Rain and clouds.  This morning it is very bright with no clouds, but as always seems the case, thunderstorms are predicted an hour after sunset.


Fixing Venus

Unfortunately, our home planet has an atmosphere.  What we see of the universe beyond our tiny cocoon is distorted by sometimes hundreds of layers of different gaseous configurations.  It impacts all of our telescopes particularly badly.  The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors’ main advantage is not in size, but that they do not have to contend with the Earth’s translucent layers (of course those telescopes have their own unique challenges, but that is another story).

When I took my latest Venus pictures a few days ago, I created them by stacking video through PIPP, AutoStakkert, and RegiStax.  I have not done this process regularly since late last summer, when I was vigorously imaging Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Since then I have attempted stacking only a few times, maybe two in January and one or two this month, all for Venus.  Although I have the process mostly down pat, I do forget a few things from time to time.

My earlier picture of the ~5% illuminated Venus did not account for atmospheric diffraction.  It pushes parts of the image to too much red and the opposite side to too much blue.  I have noticed this condition primarily with Venus and Jupiter.

RegiStax has an RGB Align function which corrects this red-to-blue problem.  I went back and ran my Venus picture through RGB Align, and above is the result.

What do you think?  Does this look better than the non-RGB aligned Venus?

How Venus Won the West

March 15th, 2017, 7:45 p.m. local time

With a clear sky, calm air, and moderately cold temperature, I had no excuse not to attempt a final imagining of Venus before it passes towards and through the Sun.  Sure it will come back, but this also finally marks the end of a journey I started in August of last year, when I spent many sunsets searching with my binoculars for the emerging planet.  My first images were awful – was not the ideal time to photograph Venus when it was far away from Earth and also so low on the horizon.

But tonight, I got what may be my best Venus image yet.  With my 127mm Mak-Cass and smartphone, I took a bunch of videos.  When I stacked them separately hours later, the above is the one I considered to be the prime of the crop.

Will I be getting up early to see Venus rising in the East this Spring?  Maybe, or at least I hope I can do it on a weekend or two.

Details of my telescope setup:

  • 127mm Mak-Cass Orion Starseeker IV
  • 10mm Plossl eyepiece
  • x2 Barlow lens
  • Baader Neodymium filter
  • Moon 13% transmission filter
  • Orion SteadyPix EZ Smartphone Telescope Photo Adapter
  • Samsung Galaxy S7

Extreme Planet Hunters: Uranus Edition

Click for full size.

Click for full size.

My astronomy activity last night wasn’t intended to be about Aldebaran disappearing behind the Moon, as I flat out forgot about it.  Instead, earlier that evening I wanted to try out the technique written about at Scott’s Sky Watch to capture Uranus with a camera.  It was only after I was done searching for Uranus that I happened to notice the headline about Aldebaran on the side of my blog.

Scott took a remarkable picture, using Mars and Venus as a guide to find the obscure Uranus.  I wanted to try to duplicate what he did.  I don’t have a “real” camera though, only my smartphone, but the Samsung Galaxy S7’s is still pretty decent.  Following Scott’s explanation, I set my ISO to 400 and exposure to 10 seconds (the max the stock camera app will go).

The first image on this post is typical of the many I took about 45 minutes after sunset.  All of them seemed overly bright, but I could see “hidden” stars throughout.  Still, I feel the image qualities were sub-par.  One obvious explanation is the excessive light pollution in my front yard from every neighbor keeping their porch lights on.  Another may simply be the inferiority of my camera.  And in hindsight, I should have been storing the raw native images and not JPEGs.

(Trust me that in the top image, the “UFO” is nothing to worry about.  I live near a busy airport.  That bright dot was only in this one image out of the dozens I took, but it was the best image I have to show what I think I found.)

If you click the top image, you will get the full size image so you can scan and zoom in yourself.  Initially, I was very disappointed because I saw absolutely nothing where Uranus should have been.  Last night I chalked this up as a loss, and instead decided to blog about my cool success with Aldebaran.

But this Sunday afternoon I re-read Scott’s Uranus post, and in particular I studied his image.  Note that Scott’s image was taken a couple days prior to mine.  I hope he doesn’t mind, but I copied his Uranus discovery image to demonstrate what I noticed:


I added in the orange arrows.  I took notice of those three stars.  Now, here is a closeup of my image above:


Click for full size.

Wow, I thought, I have the same three stars!  Obviously, my image is much worse than Scott’s, but nonetheless the star pattern is definitely the same.  And by following that pattern towards Mars, I do believe that I captured an ever-so-small chuck of photons from our solar system’s seventh planet.

Here is the same image with the shadowing, contrast, and brightness altered to try to accentuate the three stars and Uranus:


Click for full size.

So do you think I caught Uranus, or am I just imagining it?

Mars and Venus Play Peekaboo

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

March 2nd, 2017, 6:20 p.m. local time

It’s a cold, chilly night, with cloud cover breaking every so often.  Our thin crescent Moon was able to penetrate most everything Mother Nature threw at it tonight.  But distance Venus, despite its still-glaring brightness, struggled to keep up.

And then I almost forget about their other solar system neighbor hanging around – Mars.  Faint but still distinct, it could only punch through those fast-moving clouds in the best of moments.  Mars is not pictured here, but was about halfway between the Moon and Venus.

Lonely Venus


When dusk murk enshrouds
Sentinel Venus remains
But nobody sees