Panoramic View of Jupiter and Venus

Jupiter Venus 20210901

September 1st, 2021, 7:56 p.m. local time

Took a walk last night, enjoying the gradually-cooling weather as mid-Summer shifts to late Summer.  I generally walk West into the Sunset before turning back East to head home.  On my way back, I noticed that Jupiter was clearly visible in the Southeast.  Saturn could also be seen with some effort.

As I was about to turn off from the main side road, I checked the sky again and noticed Venus was within my vantage.  So I did what any amateur astrophotographer would do…I got out my iPhone, set it to “Pano” mode, and took the accompanying long picture.  Jupiter rose from the SE while Venus set in the SW.

I tried to pinpoint Saturn.  I know approximately where it was, but I could not differentiate it from the camera artifacts, so I make no attempt here to mark Saturn.  But it is definitely “in” the shot.  And for that matter, Pluto is in this sky as well.

In case you are having difficulty finding the bright planets, this may help:

Jupiter Venus 20210901 labels

Click for full-sized image.

On a side but related note, I really hate the new WordPress editor.  It is far too “GUI” and makes what were once easy functions far more difficult.  I know you can install a plugin to get the classic editor, but it’s just not worth the effort.  A great example is linking and captioning images.  This was so easy in the classic editor but now requires a silly number of steps and never quite turns out right.  Trying to leverage the buttons/popups is frustrating.  And you can’t edit the HTML source like was possible before.

Trees and Planets and Light Pollution

August 20th, 2021, 12:05 a.m. local time

I took this picture with my iPhone quickly as I was packing up my telescope on Jupiter’s opposition night (more on this in a future post).  This image is largely unremarkable but I noticed in hindsight it reveals much of my stargazing circumstance.

  • In my blog posts I frequently mention the trees blocking my views to the South.  Here you see the westernmost tall cottonwoods of that line.
  • Jupiter, Saturn (faint), and the Moon appear to be in elliptic line, but they are really not.  Each has its own elliptic, notably Jupiter’s is higher that Saturn’s from this vantage.  Jupiter clears the trees so I can take pictures much earlier than Saturn, which has to exit the tree line fully for telescope views.
  • You can see a neighbor’s absurd light pollution bubble.  I have planted my own small trees, not shown here, that do a respectable job blocking the light from my deck.  It’s just the angle of my iPhone shot that happened to catch what I now largely ignore.
  • See that house side at the bottom that looks like it is painted two colors?  The light side is actually streetlight reflection, which has gotten worse in the past year as the traditional bulbs have been replaced by grated high-powered LEDs.

The moral of this story is that trees are a blessing and a curse for stargazing.  While they obscure parts of the sky, they also defend against light pollution.  Trees are in sum a great net benefit for observing the night sky.

Pictures taken with my iPhone and minorly post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Moon and Venus at Sunset, August 13th, 2021

August 13th, 2021, 8:22 p.m. local time

Earlier this week, I intentionally rerouted my evening walk so I could get a better perspective on both the Moon and Venus.  This picture is framed by a school and trees which begin to mark the residential area.  You can see that even with a spattering of clouds, the second and third-brightest objects in the sky were clearly visible.

I did more post-processing on this picture than I normally do, as I wanted to ensure Venus was properly shown relative to the darkening sky and Moon’s brightness.  A best-guess approximation, you may call it.

Pictures taken with my iPhone and post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Venus and the Pleiades in April 2020

Click for full-sized image.

April 5th, 2020, 8:30 p.m. local time

Inspired by other blogs such as Heads UP! taking cool pictures of Venus near the Pleiades, I knew I had to get in on the action myself.

On Sunday night, aside from imaging the Moon, plus another target (stay tuned), the bright planet and star cluster were my primary objective.  Venus is now “above” the Pleiades in our perspective from Earth, but they were still very close to each other as of Sunday.

Observing the Pleiades has been a hobby of mine ever since I built my Dobsonian in late 2016, though I don’t think I have mentioned it directly on this blog.  Even in my light polluted environment, that big scope has the power to illuminate some of the faintest stars in the cluster.  They are all a beautiful blue.

For comparison, here is a previously unpublished sketch of the Pleiades I drew a few years ago.  I have flipped it upside down so it aligns with the photo I took on Sunday (Newtonian reflectors like my Dob invert the image).

Image settings for reference:

  • f/5.6
  • 1/2 sec exposure
  • ISO 3200
  • 140mm lens
  • Minor post-processing in PaintShop Pro

Venus, Early March, 2020

March 4th, 6:40 p.m. local time

Venus is still a remarkable and bright experience, in the West sky shortly after Sunset.  I dragged my Dobsonian outside for the first time this year tonight, and took a few sets of videos to stack.  Above is the result, which nicely shows the planet’s current silhouette as it faces, relative to Earth, the set Sun in the West.

If you’re up at dawn, you can see Jupiter in the East.  I assume Saturn is near Jupiter as well, but I haven’t been able to find it, and my view in that direction is largely blocked.  But in a clear morning sky, it’s hard to miss Jupiter right now, even through the obstructions of leafless trees.

Going to be a fun planet-viewing year – Venus now, and later, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and Mars’s next opposition.

Image settings/equipment for reference:

  • Homemade Dobsonian telescope, 254mm
  • TeleVue Barlow x5
  • Neodymium filter
  • Canon EOS SL3
  • f/00 (infinity)
  • 1/1000 sec exposure
  • ISO 400
  • Stacked 4 ~24 second videos, HD at 60fps

Leap Day Moon, Venus, and Choice Confirmations

Moon and Venus

February 29th, 2020, 6:40 p.m. local time

Today’s post is best started two days prior.  For those of you that were able to see it, the Moon and Venus were very close that night.  It was a wonderful sight, and I had a very clear skies.  The only problem was the cold and bitter wind which swayed me against taking the camera out.

I kind of regretted not doing it for the next two days.  After all, a moment like that doesn’t happen very often.  Still, this Saturday evening was clear again and so I got the camera and tripod out, and took the above image.

Only one problem, though, was that the temperature was still a tad below freezing, and boy I felt it in my fingers quickly.  For both Venus and the Moon closeup (below), I hurried along the focusing and pictures, more than I usually prefer.

So the only silver lining is that I realized, if tonight’s cold and mild wild was unpleasant, it just wouldn’t have been worth it on Thursday night.  At least I got to have the experience of witnessing the Moon and Venus close together, once again.

(Side note – Uranus is allegedly in the above image, close to Venus.  But again, it was just too cold to fiddle with the camera’s settings to play with a high ISO.)

February 29th, 2020

Image settings for reference (Moon closeup):

  • f/5.6
  • 1/250 sec exposure
  • ISO 100
  • 300mm lens

Relative Planets

Evenings of July 6th through July 8th, 2018

The weather was amazing this weekend, especially for early July.  Clear skies, no humidity, and bugs only became a problem on the final night.

On Friday evening I took another set of Jupiter pictures.  These are not shown, as the following day’s images were far superior.

After Friday’s Jupiter session, I kept the telescope out after midnight, so technically on Saturday, to image Saturn for the first time this year.  As always, I have to wait for the planets to clear trees to the Southeast.  Since Saturn is now a few weeks past opposition, I get a clear few of the planet shortly after midnight.

For Saturn, I checked my written log for the settings I used last year (ISO 3200 and 100 exposure).  These, according to my log, gave me my best results.  But thinking I could do better based on my recent Jupiter work, I decided to try ISOs at 1600 and 800 and exposures of 60 and 30, respectively.  Lower ISO means less noise.  The results were not too bad, but I think the 3200/100 settings are still the best, and will try those next time.

On Saturday night, I took what I think may be my best Jupiter yet.  The finder focus on my first attempt was near perfect, if not perfect.  Look at the cloud band detail!  I only wish the Great Red Spot was facing us more at the time.  You can also see Io next to the GRS.

Then on Sunday I dragged my big telescope to my front lawn to capture Venus setting in the West.  This is the first time I did that.  The results were much better than I expected.  You cannot get much from Venus beyond its general shape.

What is neat about lining all three images side-by-side is that they were taken with the same telescope and same equipment setup, so you get a great sense of their relative sizes as seen from Earth.  Venus is noticeably smaller even though it is the closest to Earth and approximately the same size as Earth.  Right now, Venus is just over 90 million miles (145 million km) away.  Jupiter is about 450 million miles (724 million km) past, and Saturn is 840 million miles (1350 million km) from us.

What I should have done was take an image of a star, to show its relative size as well.  Next time!

Equipment used this weekend:

  • 254mm homemade Dobsonian
  • Canon EOS at prime focus
  • TeleVue x5 Barlow
  • Neodymium filter

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.

Moon and Venus Together, May 2018

Click to see the full image.

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.