Archive for November, 2012

I continue to be clouded out these days, but for those of you who have been watching the Venus-Saturn show in the predawn eastern sky this week, the innermost planet Mercury is also in view before sunrise, closer to the horizon below Venus. Mercury’s appearances are fleeting, and I enjoy the challenge of spotting it. Here’s a photo I took way back on September 26, 2010, at 6:26 AM CDT, with 7×35 binoculars:

Meanwhile, the MESSENGER probe in orbit around Mercury has helped us make a momentous discovery, that there is indeed a substantial amount of water ice in permanently shadowed areas within craters near Mercury’s north and south poles! It’s the biggest discovery on Mercury since Mickey Mouse was found there! Read more about it at Skyandtelescope.com:

Mercury’s Polar Ice Defies the Odds


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As it turned out, I had completely overcast skies this morning, so I missed this morning’s penumbral lunar eclipse, but I’ve seen so many other wonders this year that I won’t complain. A number of other people have uploaded their own eclipse photos here, at spaceweather.com:

Spaceweather.com Realtime Image Gallery

Here’s a line or queue of very purposeful ducks crossing the ice yesterday afternoon:

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Following up on yesterday’s post, here are Saturn and Venus as they appeared this morning at 6:55 AM CST (12:55 UT 11-27-12):

60mm refractor telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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Above: Saturn (left) and Venus (right, brighter), in conjunction at 6:54 AM CST November 26, 2012 (12:54 UT). 7×35 binoculars.

The clouds finally cleared up just in time to view this much-anticipated conjunction, and not a moment too soon! But it was co-old! It’ll actually warm up a bit the rest of this week, if the prediction holds. Tomorrow morning the two planets will still be in conjunction, but with Saturn appearing above Venus instead of to the left. It looks to me like viewers in places like Asia, Europe, and Africa will actually see a closer stage of the conjunction than we will here in the Americas, so if that’s your locale, then be sure to get up and see the conjunction (of course it’s great here in the Americas as well)! I also glimpsed Mercury very briefly, quite close to the horizon while it was still pretty dark. I have high hopes of observing it during this apparition and even documenting its phases.

Below: 6:59 AM CDT (12:59 UT), with 60mm refractor telescope and 25mm eyepiece:

Here’s Saturn magnified 130x with the 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow, at 7:01 AM CDT (13:01 UT):

It’s a week of celestial events, as Wednesday will bring us a penumbral lunar eclipse, that is, a lunar eclipse in which the Moon only passes through the outer, lighter part of the Earth’s shadow and not the central, darker part. In my experience penumbral eclipses don’t show much visible difference, but I’ll be taking a look just the same, if the weather allows. Just as was the case with the lunar eclipses I observed on December 10, 2011 and June 4, 2012, this one will be still in progress when the Moon sets here in central North America. Watch this site for further developments …

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

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I haven’t posted much for a few days, so here’s a big “catch-up:”

Above: Venus shines in the predawn sky at 6:46 AM, November 18, 2012. Though you can’t see it in this photo, Saturn, the ringed jewel of the skies, has reappeared from the far side of the Sun and is a bit to the lower left of Venus. Keep watch these next few mornings, as fainter Saturn and brighter Venus will be closer each morning, and on the mornings of November 26 and 27, 2012, the two planets will be in a spectacularly close conjunction. Don’t miss it!

Here’s a Saturn series, similar in format to my Venus phase updates, beginning with this morning and working back through a few of my best Saturn photos. Note how over time Saturn’s rings are “opening up” as viewed from Earth. Unless otherwise noted, these photos are with the 8″ reflector telescope, 17mm eyepiece, and 2x Barlow:

7:01 AM CST November 20, 2012 (13:01 UT)
Angular diameter 15.49 arc seconds
Distance from Earth 992,918,000 miles (1,598,000,000 km)
11:42 PM CDT June 7, 2012 (04:42 UT June 8, 2012)
Angular diameter 18.15 arc seconds
Distance from Earth 847,415,000 miles (1,363,782,000 km)
4:38 AM CDT April 12, 2012 (09:38 UT)
Angular diameter 18.97 arc seconds
Distance from Earth 810,707,000 miles (1,304,706,000 km)
6:13 AM CST January 8, 2012 (12:13 UT)
Angular diameter 16.82 arc seconds
Distance from Earth 913,348,000 miles (1,471,501,000 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow, scaled to match the others
3:23 AM CDT April 14, 2011 (08:23 UT)
Angular diameter 18.97 arc seconds
Distance from Earth 810,570,000 miles (1,304,487,000 km)

One treat of our current predawn sky this November is the Venus-Saturn show in the Southeast counterbalanced with bright Jupiter in the Northeast. Here’s Jupiter, gleaming far beyond the wires in my backyard, at 6:50 AM, November 18, 2012:

And here are the giant planet and the four Galilean moons. From upper left to lower right: Europa, Io, Ganymede, Jupiter, Callisto:

6:57 AM CST November 18, 2012 (12:57 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, 2x Barlow.

Speaking of Venus, it’s now heading towards the far side of the Sun from us, though it still is a bright, resplendent sight before dawn:

12:05 PM CST, November 19, 2012 (18:05 UT)
Angular diameter 12.25 arc seconds
85.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 126,593,857 miles (203,733,064 km)
1:12 PM CDT, October 12, 2012 (18:12 UT)
Angular diameter 14.69 arc seconds
74.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 105,565,517 miles (169,891,262 km)
2:00 PM CDT, September 21, 2012 (19:00 UT)
Angular diameter 16.83 arc seconds
67.3% illumination
Distance from Earth 92,101,088 miles (148,222,333 km)
8:26 AM CDT, September 10, 2012 (13:26 UT)
Angular diameter 18.36 arc seconds
62.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 84,452,528 miles (135,913,169 km)
10:17 AM CDT, September 4, 2012 (15:17 UT)
Angular diameter 19.31 arc seconds
60.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 80,311,754 miles (129,249,240 km)
1:15 PM CDT, August 21, 2012 (18:15 UT)
Angular diameter 22.02 arc seconds
53.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 70,401,199 miles (113,299,747 km)
7:36 AM CDT, August 13 2012 (12:36 UT)
Angular diameter 24.07 arc seconds
49.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 64,429,600 miles (103,689,390 km)
1:39 PM CDT, August 6, 2012 (18:39 UT)
Angular diameter 26.05 arc seconds
45.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 59,516,628 miles (95,782,727 km)
8:52 AM CDT July 30, 2012 (13:52 UT)
Angular diameter 28.56 arc seconds
40.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 54,298,771 miles (87,385,401 km)
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

Not to be outdone, here’s the waxing crescent Moon at 6:38 PM CST November 18, 2012 (00:38 UT November 19, 2012), 8″ reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece. Note that once again the Sun has risen on Mickey Mouse:

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

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7:35 AM CST November 8, 2012 (13:35 UT), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.

Meanwhile, at 7:52 AM this morning, the daisies are still in bloom. A few other blossoms seem to be just sitting there without the courage (or something) to open, but the “big three” continue to bloom boldly. Don’t you think they’re a nice shade of purple?

LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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6:40 AM CST November 6, 2012 (12:40 UT), 11 hours and 56 minutes before the moment of Last Quarter. When I first got up and peeked outside the sky was gloriously clear, but by the time I was out with the telescope the clouds were coming in again, so this is the best I could do in the few moments remaining, and there were no Jupiter pix. But it was great just to see the Moon again … it doesn’t take me long to start going through withdrawal.

Oh, yes, as usual, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge. Note the strong libration to the right, bringing Grimaldi (the dark spot on the left center) far from the limb.

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