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Archive for July, 2012

Venus continues to recede from Earth, but I hope you’re getting to see Venus and Jupiter shining brilliantly before dawn these days. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate for me on July 15, when I had hoped to see the Venus-Moon-Jupiter conjunction, but since I got to see the 5-20-12 solar eclipse and the 6-4-12 lunar eclipse and greatest of all, the 6-5-12 Venus transit, I won’t complain! I’ll share some Jupiter and Moon photos soon, but here’s a Venus phase update. Beginning with this update, I’m starting with a photo taken during the transit. For earlier Venus photos, consult my “Venus Photos” and “Venus Phases” categories on the right:

5:49 AM CDT July 22, 2012 (10:49 UT)
Angular diameter 31.96 arc seconds
34.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 48,512,519 miles (78,073,332 km)
9:18 AM CDT July 13, 2012 (14:18 UT)
Angular diameter 36.52 arc seconds
27.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 42,450,876 miles (68,318,063 km)
11:56 AM CDT July 3, 2012 (16:56 UT)
Angular diameter 42.79 arc seconds
19.0% illumination
Distance from Earth 36,238,688 miles (58,320,514 km)
11:21 AM CDT June 27, 2012 (16:21 UT)
Angular diameter 47.07 arc seconds
13.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,940,927 miles (53,013,283 km)
8:38 AM CDT June 21, 2012 (13:38 UT)
Angular diameter 51.42 arc seconds
7.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 30,154,150 miles (48,528,401 km)
8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow, LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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The Moon, Jupiter, and Venus form a graceful arc before dawn at 5:05 AM CDT July 14, 2012. On the morning of July 15th, the Moon will be close in between Jupiter and Venus. IMPORTANT: If you’re viewing from parts of Asia, Europe, or North Africa, you may witness an occultation of Jupiter by the Moon on the morning of the 15th. Details and map here:

15 July 2012 Occultation of Jupiter


Above, from left to right: Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, Europa. Io was transiting Jupiter at the time. 5:06 AM CDT July 14, 2012 (10:06 UT).


Above: Waning crescent Moon at 5:28 AM CDT July 14, 2012 (10:28 UT). 8″ reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece.
Below: Closeups with added 2x Barlow:

5:17 AM.

5:24 AM.

5:16 AM.

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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The appearance of Venus from Earth is always changing in two ways; phase and apparent size. Currently it is in the crescent phase and becoming more and more illuminated. By mid-August it will look like a tiny half-moon in the telescope, and later on will become more gibbous as it moves towards the far side of the Sun from us. But even as its illumination is growing, it is looking smaller and smaller as it recedes further from Earth. So as the phase grows and the apparent size shrinks, there’s a sort of balance point in these opposite trends, when Venus shows overall the greatest apparent illuminated area to Earth, and therefore looks the brightest. Astronomers call it the “Greatest Illuminated Extent,” and Venus reached that point yesterday. It’s still pretty close to it one day later, so here’s another Venus phase update, and be sure to look for Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon to make a spectacular conjunction before dawn the next couple of mornings:

9:18 AM CDT July 13, 2012 (14:18 UT)
Angular diameter 36.52 arc seconds
27.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 42,450,876 miles (68,318,063 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
11:56 AM CDT July 3, 2012 (16:56 UT)
Angular diameter 42.79 arc seconds
19.0% illumination
Distance from Earth 36,238,688 miles (58,320,514 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
11:21 AM CDT June 27, 2012 (16:21 UT)
Angular diameter 47.07 arc seconds
13.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,940,927 miles (53,013,283 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
8:38 AM CDT June 21, 2012 (13:38 UT)
Angular diameter 51.42 arc seconds
7.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 30,154,150 miles (48,528,401 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece
10:50 AM CDT May 16, 2012 (15:50 UT)
Angular diameter 48.03 arc seconds
12.3% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,284,073 miles (51,956,179 km)
10:26 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (15:26 UT)
Angular diameter 43.71 arc seconds
18.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 35,473,212 miles (57,088,600 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
12:41 PM CDT May 3, 2012 (17:41 UT)
Angular diameter 39.11 arc seconds
24.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 39,649,337 miles (63,809,423 km)
18mm eyepiece

7:14 PM CDT April 22, 2012 (00:14 UT 4-23-12)
Angular diameter 33.12 arc seconds
33.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 46,812,338 miles (75,337,236 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow

6:28 PM CDT March 24, 2012 (23:28 UT)
Angular diameter 22.95 arc seconds
52.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 67,571,683 miles (108,746,083 km)

4:10 PM CST February 12, 2012 (22:10 UT)
Angular diameter 16.24 arc seconds
70.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 95,450,953 miles (153,613,419 km)
18mm eyepiece

1:48 PM CST February 8, 2012 (19:48 UT)
Angular diameter 15.82 arc seconds
71.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 98,020,580 miles (157,748,833 km)
18mm eyepiece

2:37 PM CST January 5, 2012 (20:37 UT)
Angular diameter 13.19 arc seconds
81.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 117,572,894 miles (189,215,232 km)
2:21 PM CST November 29, 2011 (20:21 UT)
Angular diameter 11.46 arc seconds
89.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 135,265,885 miles (217,689,541 km)
4:18 PM CST November 20, 2011 (22:18 UT)
Angular diameter 11.13 arc seconds
91.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 139,346,992 miles (227,254,246 km)
12:03 PM CST January 5, 2011 (18:03 UTC)
Angular diameter 25.58 arc seconds
48.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 60,611,164 miles (97,544,214 km)
10:02 AM CST November 27, 2010 (16:02 UTC)
Angular diameter 44.72 arc seconds
20.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 34,669,885 miles (55,795,771 km)
12:40 PM CDT (17:40 UTC), November 5, 2010
Angular diameter 59.94 arc seconds
2.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 25,866,740 miles (41,628,483 km)

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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My great niece Caitlin took this wonderful photo on Pluto’s last visit to the dog park.

Pluto, his sister Blondie, and four other puppies were born mid-August, 1995, in rural Bexar County, south of San Antonio, Texas.

I adopted him and named him Pluto on October 28, 1995.

This amazing, amusing, loving, and lovable dog lived in Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, and back in Minnesota again, and was our true and faithful friend, a gift from God.

We gave him back to God on July 12, 2012, after a long, full life of nearly seventeen years. There will never be another dog like Pluto.

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I hadn’t taken a photo of Jupiter with the four Galilean Moons since last March. I never get tired of viewing this ever-changing “mini solar system.” Above, from left to right: Callisto, Io, Europa, Jupiter, Ganymede. Above & to the left of Jupiter, a star in the background is trying to pose as a fifth Galilean Moon (or perhaps the moons are trying to pose as stars!). 8″ reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow, which makes it photo on the same scale as the lunar closeups below.

5:19 AM CDT July 10, 2012 (10:19 UT), 8″ homebuilt reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece.

Photos below with 25mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow:
The north end of the Moon at 5:14 AM CDT, including Mare Imbrium (the “Sea of Showers”), and crater Plato prominent in upper center, the Alpine Valley to its lower right:

The south end of the Moon at 5:16 AM CDT, with Clavius and its inner craters even more clear than yesterday, as the afternoon shadows lengthen:


Venus and Jupiter shining in the brightening predawn sky, at 4:46 AM above, and 4:57 AM below:

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge, and don’t let me forget to bring the mosquito repellant next time!!!

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5:58 AM CDT July 9, 2012 (10:58 UT), 25 mm eyepiece (65x magnification).


The south end of the Moon at 6:00 AM CDT. Tycho still stands out, but the ray system is beginning to fade as afternoon advances. The arc of craters within Clavius is even more evident than yesterday. This and the photo below with 25mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow (130x magnification).


6:01 AM CDT. Crater Delambre is nearly dead center in this photo, and just to the upper right of Delambre are two nearly identical craters, nearly adjoining each other, which look about like a pair of goggles. They are craters Ritter and Sabine, and about two or so crater widths right (that is, east) of Sabine is Tranquility Base, the Apollo 11 landing site (but it won’t show up in my photo, no matter how hard you squint!). The Apollo 16 landing site is also within this photo, further to the lower left (southwest).

All with 8″ homebuilt reflector telescope and LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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5:49 AM CDT July 8, 2012 (10:49 UT), 8″ homebuilt reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece.

Libration of Latitude is currently tipping the south end of the Moon decidedly in our direction, which makes it a great time to photograph the Tycho region. Tycho figures prominently just to the right of center in this photo, its ray system still evident in the afternoon Sun. South of it is the giant crater Clavius, one of my perennial favorites. I’m always pleased when I manage to capture the arc of smaller craters within Clavius. 5:53 AM CDT 7-8-12 (10:53 UT), 25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow:

Venus and Jupiter climb a bit higher in the east each morning. Here they are this morning at 4:46 AM CDT, Jupiter above Venus:

I’ve added a new telescope to my collection – an old one, that is, but new to me. At a Salvation Army Thrift Store I found a Bushnell Model 18-1560 refractor, probably from the 1960s or 1970s, with a 50mm objective lens of 600mm focal length, for less than ten dollars. The bracket was broken which attached it to the rickety tripod, so I figured out a way to attach it to a camera tripod instead, and shazam, I’ve got a very compact, light “grab and go” scope good for star parties and the like. here it is next to the Meade 60mm refractor for comparison:

I doubt that I’ll use it much for photography, but here’s an uncropped photo of the Moon from 4:45 AM this morning, just to show you how it does. 50mm refractor, 12mm eyepiece:

All with LG VX8630 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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