In case you missed the Venus-Moon close encounter

Last Saturday evening, if you happened to look outside and had a clear view there is no way you could miss the Venus-Moon close encounter in the dark blue sky. But just in case it was cloudy, or you weren’t paying attention here it is.

Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018

Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018

For those curious on the camera setting, the above is cropped from a single frame at 33mm f/4.5 1/30sec and ISO800 with Canon 80D.

Moving up to 85mm gives you the image below, also at 1/30sec and ISO800.  Both images were hand-held from a bedroom window. Could a tripod have helped? Sure, but I figured I could do just fine , especially with image stabilization enabled on the lens.

Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018

Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018

To put a bit of perspective on the distance of these two heavenly bodies and their apparent size in the sky I’ve added a bit of information on the above image. While Venus may be nearly 4 times larger in diameter, it looks quite small next to the Moon in the sky.

Moon and Venus on May 17th

Came home from my piano lesson (yes you can still learn a new instrument past 40) and the sight of a 2-day old Moon and Venus in the dusk sky was stunning. Unfortunately by the time I got home to grab the camera, the sky had darken quite a bit, so I lost my opportunity for some color in the photo.

Venus 6 degrees from the Moon (May 17, 2018) - Benoit Guertin

Venus 6 degrees from the Moon (May 17, 2018) – Benoit Guertin

While I did take more close-up photos, I find adding the rooftop in the foreground helps establish scale.

Notice the Earthshine, it was easily picked up to naked eye.

Canon 80D
85mm F/8
ISO3200 (1/15sec)

This Weekend: 4 Planets in Plain Sight

If you are able to get out of bed early before sunrise and the sky is clear, you can catch a view of our three closest planets, and if you include Earth that makes 4.  Mercury was at the greatest elongation on September 12th (furthest from the Sun when viewed from Earth) which makes it a good time to spot without the glare of the Sun.  But it happens that Mars and Venus are also on that same side of the Sun, making a chanced planetary alignment.

The sky map below [click for larger] shows the position of Mercury, Mars and Venus for the morning of the 16 to the 19 of September.  Bright star Regulus and our Moon are also there to make this a worth-while event, especially on Monday the 18th.

September_AlignmentMars and Mercury will be closest on the 16th, while the 18th will probably be the most photogenic as the Moon will be a thin crescent in the middle of this alignment.

Tomorrow Evening: Moon, Mars and Venus

Great photo opportunity tomorrow evening, January 31st, with a thin crescent Moon in a close formation with Mars and Venus.  As the sky darkens simply look between South-West and West and you won’t miss them.  However don’t wait too late, by 9pm they will have disappeared below the horizon.

Early Evening Sky (7pm) - Look WSW for this close formation

Early Evening Sky (7pm) – Look WSW for this close formation

The Moon will be a thin crescent.  Here it is as photographed of the Moon tonight at 5:40pm just a little less than 3 days old.

Crescent Moon - 30-JAN-2017 (5:40pm)

Crescent Moon – 30-JAN-2017 (5:40pm)

No high-resolution photo for this one.  Took it quickly through an open window simply by hand-holding the telescope, and using Venus to quickly find focus through the camera view-finder.

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon XTi (1/50s at ISO400)
Registax6 to align, stack and wavelet on the best 3 frames (out of a dozen)

The Moon, Mars and Venus

It’s not often that the Moon finds itself between two planets nicely lined up and within a 12 degree field of view.  Just yesterday at around the same time, the Moon was located below Venus.  The image below is a two second exposure at ISO 800 with 53mm lens at f/5.6 on a tripod. I cropped the image to remove a street lamp and light pillars from other light sources further in the distance.

02-Jan-2017: The crescent Moon between Mars and Venus

02-Jan-2017: The crescent Moon between Mars and Venus

The toughest part was actually finding a spot around my block where there was less glare from street lights or annoying power and utility lines in view.  Luckily I found a spot with two extinguished street lamps and setup in between.

A little earlier I quickly snapped the image below from the bedroom window on the 2nd floor.  The sky wasn’t dark yet, and as the camera was hand-held, 1/4sec was the lowest I could go.  Nevertheless with the rooftops in the foreground, it provides for a sense of scale and location in the sky.  The orange-red horizon from the setting sun is a nice touch.

Moon with Venus and Mars in the evening sky

Moon with Venus and Mars in the evening sky


Venus and Crescent Moon

After three days of cloud cover and a good 20cm of snow, it was nice to see a clear and crisp sky throughout the day and into the evening.  With the sun set and the sky still dark blue a crescent Moon and Venus made for a fine pair in the south-west sky for the first evening of 2017.

New Years 2017 Moon and Venus

New Years 2017 Moon and Venus

The Moon will continue to travel towards Mars, located higher up and to the left (East) with a good photo opportunity on the 2nd (tomorrow) with the Moon between both planets.  For the rest of January, Venus will gently move closer to Mars to within 6 degrees at the end of the month.

Photo Details:
Canon XTi (450D)
17mm F4 (1/10sec ISO400)
inset: 85mm F5.6 (1/10sec ISO800)

Easily Locate Neptune on December 31st

December 31st will be your opportunity to easily locate and observe Neptune with a telescope as it will be within 1/3 degree of Mars low in the western part of the Sky.  Mars will present a reddish magnitude 1 disk while Neptune will be much smaller, essentially a dimmer magnitude 7.8 dot.  Large telescopes should reveal the blueish hue of Neptune when placed slightly out of focus.

Neptune and Mars 1/3 degree - December 31

Neptune and Mars 1/3 degree – December 31 (1 degree circle)

In the image above I’ve marked magnitude 7.9 star just outside the 1 degree circle to assist in the orientation.

However don’t wait too late in the evening, best may be shortly after 7pm once the Moon is below the horizon.  Starting from the horizon you’ll able to easily locate bright Venus and about 10 degrees above will be Mars and Neptune.  Bright stars Fomalhaut and Altair will be located east and west along the horizon.

Neptune Mars and Venus setting in the West - December 31

Neptune Mars and Venus setting in the West – December 31 (7pm)