Tag Archives: Stargazing

Venus and Jupiter Conjunction: Three Views

Venus and Jupiter Conjunction June 30, 2015

On June 30, 2015, Venus and Jupiter lined up very closely in the night sky as seen from Earth, just 0.3 degrees apart — closer than the diameter of the full moon!

The day of the conjunction was muggy and cloudy, and I really didn’t expect to see them at all. To my surprise and relief, it cleared up and cooled off after nightfall.

You really don’t notice how much brighter Venus is than Jupiter until they’re right next to each other. Jupiter is much bigger, so it reflects a lot more sunlight, but it’s also a lot farther away.

Also, that conventional wisdom about how stars twinkle, but planets don’t? Not true. In turbulent air, planets absolutely twinkle.

Venus and Jupiter two days after the conjunction

Two nights later on July 2, I walked outside facing west. The sky near the horizon was still orange, but the two brightest planets were clearly visible against the deepening blue.

And just to show you how fast Venus moves across the sky, here’s the view 10 days before the conjunction, on June 20:

The moon, Venus and Jupiter over Mimi's Cafe

I didn’t have a tripod handy that night, so I used the top of the car, which conveniently lined up with Jupiter and the chimney.

Venus and Mars are all right tonight

Venus and Mars

My tripod, on the other hand, seems not to have been as steady as I thought. Or I jostled it a tiny bit, enough to register on Venus but not the much dimmer satellite dish.

Speaking of dimmer, though….wow, nothing like a conjunction to remind you just how much brighter Venus is than, well anything else in the night sky except the moon.

Venus and Mercury Above the Trees (UPDATED 2x)

Venus and Mercury

I walked out of the office building this evening and just stopped. There, framed by the treetops along the street and the awning and wall of the next building over, was clearly Venus, which I hadn’t seen in months (since the last time it was visible in the evening), and below it a pinprick that, unless I’m mistaken, was Mercury (which I’ve only ever seen on a handful of occasions). It’s certainly in the right place, and I waited to see if either light would move (there’s an airport literally across the street) before deciding that they were both planets.

A few minutes earlier, Mercury would have been too faint. A few minutes later, it would have been below the trees. Not long after that, Venus would have been too low to see as well.

Update! The next two nights were too cloudy to see anything, but Friday evening I was able to spot them again! You can really see how much Mercury has moved relative to Venus in just three days.

Venus and Mercury 2

Update 2! And here’s the view the following Tuesday, one week after the first shot. I had to move to the left a few feet since they were behind the building now, which is why the light pole is visible this time. In retrospect, I wish I’d snapped it in all three shots, because that way I’d be able to make sure I was presenting them all at the same zoom level. I’ve been eyeballing it, and I think it’s close enough to get the idea across.

Venus and Mercury 3

Supermoon Rising Through Clouds

Supermoon July

Last night’s “supermoon” rising through light clouds. Spotted, oddly enough, while walking past a Supercuts.

It wasn’t quite as cool as a week ago, when I was driving home late at night and watched the first-quarter moon setting like a giant orange slice near the horizon. But I didn’t have my camera, and wasn’t sure about stopping somewhere unfamiliar at midnight to take photos.

As it happened, last night I did have my camera in the car. I took a few shots bracketing the clouds and the moon face. I combined them with Luminance HDR, mostly to see if I could. It’s not fantastic, but it’s better than my phone would have managed (though it actually takes better photos in broad daylight than my camera does).

Times like this make me wish I had a DSLR camera, but I have to be honest: Chances are I wouldn’t have had it with me.

Speaking of HDR, my brain decided that it needed to be pronounced as a word instead of initials. Three guesses as to what vowels it decided to add!