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Archive for the ‘Venus Phases’ Category

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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This daisy bloom was a pleasant surprise on our deck a week ago on October 22. Not many flowers bloom in Minnesota in October! More blooms have appeared since then, but this was the biggest and prettiest.


Last Thursday morning the 25th was very blustery, though nothing like what people out east are currently experiencing with Hurricane Sandy (if you’re affected, you’re in my prayers). These seagulls were flying into a strong headwind which made them practically stationary above the ground.

Meanwhile, Venus continues to recede from Earth as it races ahead in its faster orbit closer to the Sun. As of October 30, 2012, it is about 116 million miles from Earth (187 million km), and about 80% of the side facing Earth is illuminated, not conspicuously different from the top photo below, taken on October 12. It continues to beam in the eastern sky before dawn, balanced by bright Jupiter, which currently is in the western sky before sunrise. The next notable sight involving Venus will be a very close conjunction with Saturn, visible before dawn in the southeast on November 26 and 27, 2012.

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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Venus is now the same distance from Earth as the Earth is from the Sun:

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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Not only is it great fun to watch Jupiter’s four Galilean Moons as they orbit, it’s also a reenactment of one of the most pivotal discoveries of early modern astronomy. Along with the phases of Venus, they were one of the first bits of unassailable evidence that not all celestial objects had Earth-centered orbits. At times only a few minutes can make a noticeable difference in the configuration of these four large, bright moons, and that was the case yesterday morning. In the following series of photos, one can see conspicuous changes in the span of only 36 minutes, especially with Io and Ganymede to Jupiter’s right:

6:00 AM CDT September 4, 2012 (11:00 UT). I oriented these photos with north at the top, which I usually don’t do with planetary photos. From left to right we see Callisto, Europa, Jupiter, then Ganymede (lower) and Io (upper). In the next few photos you see Ganymede orbiting to the right, as it has just passed between Earth and Jupiter (it had transited Jupiter six hours earlier), whereas speedy Io was orbiting to the left, and was eclipsed and then occulted by Jupiter three hours afterward:


6:19 AM CDT (11:19 UT)


6:23 AM CDT (11:23 UT)


6:31 AM CDT (11:31 UT)


6:36 AM CDT (11:36 UT). You may also have noticed the transition from deep twilight to a bright sky. Sunrise at my location was eleven minutes after the last photo. By the way, Jupiter’s distance from Earth at the time of this photo series was about 462,230,000 miles, and getting closer.

Venus and Jupiter continue to dominate the predawn sky, even more so than this photo suggests. Looking southwest, with Venus to the lower left and Jupiter in the upper right, 6:10 AM CDT, September 2, 2012:

A visual treat is coming up in the predawn sky on Saturday, September 8, especially for North American observers, as the Last Quarter Moon will be in close conjunction with Jupiter.

As I mentioned, the changing phases and apparent size of Venus were also a pivotal discovery of early telescopic astronomy, momentous indeed in the history of scientific thought. The great ancient astronomer Ptolemy had correctly predicted that Venus would appear as a crescent, but incorrectly supposed that it would always be a crescent, since he believed that Venus was always between the Earth and the Sun. But Venus appears largest during its crescent phase and its apparent size wanes as it waxes towards the full phase, which is exactly what we would expect if Venus’ motion is Sun-centered rather than Earth-centered.

Venus has attained the gibbous phase, and soon will be as far from us as the Earth is from the Sun:

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

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

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As I prepared to photograph Venus yesterday, this female Downy Woodpecker was happily hunting for tasty bugs in a nearby telephone pole. I had seen another woodpecker (her mate?) near her on the pole earlier. 60mm refractor telescope with 25mm eyepiece, 1:04 PM August 21, 2012:

Venus is now over 50% illuminated from our point of view, and from week to week there’s no longer such a dramatic difference in its phase and apparent size:

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

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

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Alas, I have to miss it because of work (I already took off work for the Venus Transit, a day well-spent), but if you get the chance and you’re in the right part of the planet, be sure to observe today’s occultation of Venus, in which the planet Venus will be “occulted” (hidden) behind the Moon for about an hour. Details here, via Skyandtelescope.com:

August 13th’s Occultation of Venus

Here’s Venus at 7:36 this morning (12:36 UT 8-13-12). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, 2x Barlow, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. I’ll put it into a “Venus Phase Update” later on, but you can see that it’s at about the “half moon” stage right now.

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Venus and Jupiter continue to linger brilliantly in the predawn sky. Here they are at 5:27 this morning. Jupiter is fainter to the upper right of Venus, towards the tree:

I never tire of watching Jupiter’s four Galilean Moons as they orbit. It’s the easiest way to see “live” what a planetary system looks like from the outside:

Above: 5:17 AM CDT July 23, 2012 (10:17 UT). L-R: Callisto, Ganymede, Io, Jupiter, Europa.
Below: 5:33 AM CDT August 1, 2012 (10:33 UT). L-R: Ganymede, Io, Europa, Jupiter, Callisto.
Both with 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, and 2x Barlow.

My lunar photography has been a bit sparse as of late, but here are three from the last half of July:

Above: Waning crescent Moon at 5:32 AM CDT July 16, 2012 (10:32 UT).
Below: Waxing crescent Moon at 9:25 PM CDT July 21, 2012 (02:25 UT 7-22-12). Both with 8″ reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece.


Waxing gibbous Moon at 2:17 AM CDT July 30, 2012 (07:17 UT), 60mm refractor telescope with 17mm eyepiece.

Venus is now just over twice as far away from Earth as it was at the time of the transit:

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

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

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