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Archive for the ‘Mars photos’ Category

Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest planets, and these days Jupiter is appearing as a brilliant “morning star” in the east before dawn, whereas Venus is appearing as a bright “evening star” in the west after sunset.

Below: Jupiter and dimmer Mars close together in the predawn sky.0729030523jupitermars7x35
Mars is left center, brighter Jupiter is upper right. 5:23 AM CDT July 29, 2013, 7×35 binoculars.

Beautiful skies like this one keep me getting up before dawn:
0729030551

Below are photos of Mars (currently quite far away), Jupiter, and Venus shown at the same magnification:

0729030534mars25mm Mars at 5:34 AM CDT July 29, 2013 (10:34 UT)
Angular diameter 3.89 arc seconds
97.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 223,525,179 miles (359,728,906 km)
0729030527cjupiter25mm2xb Jupiter and Galilean Moons at 5:27 AM CDT July 29, 2013 (10:27 UT)
Left to right: Jupiter, Europa, Callisto, Io, Ganymede
Jupiter’s angular diameter 32.82 arc seconds
99.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 557,683,749 miles (897,504,995 km)

The following photos are all of Venus. Venus passed around the far side of the Sun (superior conjunction) on March 28, and is now gradually approaching the Earth once again:

0728031915cvenus25mm2xb 7:15 PM CDT July 28, 2013 (00:15 UT July 29, 2013)
Angular diameter 12.37 arc seconds
83.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 125,386,985 miles (201,790,791 km)
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

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It certainly wasn’t the first spacecraft landing on Mars. Indeed, I vividly recall being glued to the TV as Viking 1 landed on Mars, thirty-six years ago. I was eleven. But the Curiosity landing definitely is the biggest Mars landing ever, in more ways than one. Here’s a skyandtelescope.com article. I especially enjoy the photo of Curiosity taken from 200 miles away by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Touchdown! Curiosity Lands in Gale Crater

To celebrate, I’m rerunning arguably my two best Mars photos, though you’ll see why I don’t post many Martian photos. My low-budget cell phone astrophotography doesn’t show much of Mars except that it’s round and perhaps slightly reddish. Jupiter with its planet-sized moons, Saturn’s rings, and Venus’ phases show up much better with my pocket camera. But, here goes:

Mars at 7:38 AM CST January 28, 2012 (13:38 UT), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow.

Perhaps more interesting in a way is this photo from August last year, Mars and the Moon in conjunction:

Here’s the Moon the last three mornings, all with 8″ reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece:


5:31 AM CDT August 5, 2012 (10:31 UT)


6:11 AM CDT August 6, 2012 (11:11 UT)


6:05 AM CDT August 7, 2012 (11:05 UT)

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

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Frost on trees, 7:52 AM, February 6, 2012

I need to take a break from blogging for a few weeks to get some important stuff done, so here are a few more astrophotos for you in the meantime. See you in March! (Feel free to leave comments, I’ll try to respond as I’m able.)


4:20 PM CST 1-28-12 (22:20 UT), 25mm eyepiece


11:25 PM CST 2-1-12 (5:25 UT 2-2-12), with my old 18mm eyepiece, which as you can see has some cloudy patches due to damage, but I keep it in the shed with the telescope so I always can use the telescope in a pinch even if I don’t have my other eyepieces with me.


12:59 AM CST 2-6-12 (6:59 UT), 25mm eyepiece


11:36 PM CST 2-7-12 (5:36 UT 2-8-12), 25mm eyepiece


Mars at 7:38 AM CST 1-28-12 (13:38 UT), 25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow.

All with 8″ reflector telescope and LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view, except the Mars photo won’t get any bigger.

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Waning crescent Moon 7:44 AM CST 11-20-11 (13:44 UT)


Venus at 4:18 PM CST 11-20-11 (22:18 UT). About 139 million miles away, over five times as far away as it will be at the time of the upcoming Venus Transit.

12:20 AM CST 11-21-11 (6:20 UT). From lower right to upper left: Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and (fainter, after a larger gap) Callisto. In the far upper left (really faint, I barely captured it, it appeared much brighter to the eye), a star was in rough alignment and looked so much like a fifth Galilean moon that it weirded me out for a couple of seconds.


Mars at 6:46 AM CST 11-21-11 (12:46 UT).


Saturn has returned to the predawn sky. Hooray! 7:01 AM CST 11-21-11 (13:01 UT).


Waning crescent Moon 7:20 AM CST 11-21-11 (13:20 UT).

8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, except for Saturn with 17mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

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We were greeted by this beautiful sky this morning. Below, the thin waning crescent Moon shines through the painted clouds at 6:21 AM August 27, 2011:


I’ve got a bunch of Moon photos waiting that I’ve taken recently, but I’ll save them for when I have more time. Meanwhile, here’s the Moon in conjunction with Mars on the morning of August 25, 2011:

Finally, here are Jupiter and its four largest Moons, the “Galileans” since they were discovered by Galileo 401 years ago. This week Earth and Jupiter began about 422 million miles apart and closed in to about 414 million miles. At opposition on October 28, 2011, Jupiter will be about 369 million miles away (a safe distance, John!), then begin drawing further away once again.

Except for the binocular shot, all with the usual 8″ reflector telescope and LG VX8360 cell phone camera. All photos clickable for larger view.

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The Moon and “Old Glory”, July 21, 2011, 6:23 AM

After a thirty-year odyssey marked with both triumphs and tragedies, the Space Shuttle program has ended with the successful landing of the final mission of Atlantis To be quite frank, I’m relieved. Ever since we lost not one but two gallant Space shuttle crews, I’ve felt on edge every time I knew another mission was aloft. Hats off to the fine men and women from the USA and many other countries who worked together on this mission and all the Space Shuttle missions of these three decades.

The Dawn spacecraft is now orbiting Vesta! Though you won’t be able to see the spacecraft from your backyard, it isn’t hard to spot Vesta right now, especially with the help of this guide from Sky & Telescope. And a fourth moon has been found orbiting Pluto!

Forty-two years ago today the Apollo 11 astronauts were on their way back home from their triumphant lunar landing on July 20, 1969. And thirty-five years ago today the Viking 1 probe was beginning its epic mission as the first successful lander on Mars, after landing on July 20, 1976

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Viking 2 (and its twin Viking 2 which landed on September 3, 1976), here are two of my first modest photos of Mars, which is steadily becoming more prominent in the predawn sky.

5:19 AM CDT 7-21-11 (10:19 UTC), 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece, on the same scale as my typical photos of the whole Moon, just to let you know how small it still looks right now. It’s currently about two hundred million miles from Earth, but will be a bit over 62,600,000 miles away when it reaches opposition on March 3, 2012.

Mars, 5:23 AM CDT 7-20-11 (10:23 UTC), 8″ reflector, 17mm eyepiece, 2x Barlow (thus yielding about 191x magnification) At least you can see that it’s round! I’m hoping that maybe when it gets closer and brighter that its reddish hue will show up in my photos.

This year’s season of predawn Jupiter observation is up and running:


This interesting formation of Jupiter and the Galilean Moons occurred at 5:01 AM CDT 6-28-11 (10:01 UTC). L to R: Callisto, Io, Ganymede, Jupiter, Europa.

31 minutes later at 5:32 AM 6-28-11, the brightening sky enabled me to capture a hint of Jupiter’s two major dark cloud bands, and a couple of the Galileans may still be glimpsed as well. This and above with 8″ reflector and 17mm eyepiece.

5:28 AM CDT 7-20-11 (10:28 UTC), 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece. L to R: Callisto (faint, far left), Jupiter, Io, Ganymede, Europa.

The following two photos were both taken with 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece, and 2x Barlow (about 130x magnification), and illustrate just what difference a few minutes can make in the revolution of the Galilean Moons:

5:35 AM 7-21-11 (10:35 UTC). L to R: Callisto, Io, Jupiter, Ganymede. At this time Europa was just completing a transit of Jupiter, and doesn’t show up in my photo.

Only four minutes later at 5:39 AM CDT, Europa has emerged just enough to appear as a dot still almost “attached” to Jupiter’s left side (South is at top).

Finally, a few recent Moon photos to round things up. Photos of the entire Moon are with the 8″ reflector and 25mm eyepiece. Closeups are with the 2x Barlow added:


Closeup of waning crescent Moon at 5:12 AM CDT 6-28-11 (10:12 UTC).

5:14 AM CDT 6-28-11 (10:14 UTC)


9:27 PM 7-3-11 (2:27 UTC 7-4-11)


5:42 AM CDT 7-20-11 (10:42 UTC).

5:52 AM CDT 7-21-11 (10:52 UTC).

5:58 AM CDT 7-22-11 (10:58 UTC).

6:00 AM CDT 7-22-11 (11:00 UTC). Plato is toward the top, Copernicus on lower left.

6:03 AM CDT 7-22-11 (11:03 UTC). I’m pleased with how well Clavius’ five inner craters show up here.

All with my usual LG VX8360 cell phone camera. All photos clickable, large ones will get larger yet.

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