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Random Night Sky Happenings

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vikkyvik 28 Jan 15, 19:21Post
I've gotten into the habit of checking Stellarium most nights in case there's any cool conjunctions or whatever going on up there, so figured I'd post the ones that don't deserve their own thread in here.

So, without further ado, I bring you the first (and possibly last, depending on my level of laziness) installment of "random night sky happenings":

For the next few nights, Venus, Mars and Neptune will all be within ~10 degrees vertically of each other in the western sky soon after sunset. Venus and Mars are plenty visible, and Neptune ought to be visible with binoculars or cameras (it's somewhere around magnitude 7 to 8 ). Venus and Neptune will pass within a couple degrees horizontally of each other soon - I think that happens on February 1st.

This edition of "random night sky happenings" has been brought to you by the planet Pluto, 1930-2006. We will never forget you and your relatively-insignificant gravitational contribution to our solar system.

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Queso (netAirspace ATC Tower Chief & Founding Member) 28 Jan 15, 20:31Post
I was watching Mercury a few nights ago, it was near Venus just after sunset. If it's still visible it would make a nice scene having 4 planets fairly close.
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vikkyvik 28 Jan 15, 23:13Post
Did that last week :))

Image

From bottom to top: Mercury and Venus low on the horizon, and Mars and a very faint Neptune up top.
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 28 Jan 15, 23:36Post
What about Uranus? :))

Sadly, I had a great dark view of the sky a few weeks ago, but I had left my camera behind... {facepalm}
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
Queso (netAirspace ATC Tower Chief & Founding Member) 29 Jan 15, 02:39Post
Great picture, Vik. Yeah, that's practically identical to the layout I saw.
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vikkyvik 29 Jan 15, 04:04Post
AndesSMF wrote:What about Uranus?


Actually, I didn't realize this, but Uranus will be about 30 degrees above Mars in the next few days. So certainly possible to capture 4 planets in a single shot again.

Mercury is unfortunately within a few degrees of the Sun, so no chance to capture 5 planets right now.

Queso wrote:Great picture, Vik. Yeah, that's practically identical to the layout I saw.


Thanks! It was a neat sight.

EDIT: and just checked, and on Feb 1, Venus and Neptune will be just about a degree apart horizontally.

For reference, Venus is climbing, while Neptune is descending, and Mars is moving more-or-less horizontally.

So continuing this particular show, on Feb 21, Venus and Mars will be within half-a-degree of each other.

But best yet, on the day before, Feb 20, Venus, Mars, and a very crescent Moon will all be within about two diagonal degrees. This is what I'm talking about:

Image

So that's certainly something to look forward to. I just got unreasonably excited about it.
vikkyvik 04 Feb 15, 16:44Post
Sorry, I didn't realize this was happening till last night. Actually not that cool anyway. But Jupiter and the Moon were about 5 degrees apart horizontally last night.

This is an HDR showing the Moon + halo, and Jupiter and 4 moons (though you can only see 3 in the resized version):

Image
JeffSFO (Photo Quality Screener & Founding Member) 04 Feb 15, 20:44Post
Nice render with the moons, Vik. The last few years have been really good for conjunctions between the Moon and Jupiter. Back in January of 2013 Jupiter was within .5 degrees and I was able to get a shot (without the moons). Will post it here if you want.

vikkyvik wrote:Sorry, I didn't realize this was happening till last night. Actually not that cool anyway. But Jupiter and the Moon were about 5 degrees apart horizontally last night.

This is an HDR showing the Moon + halo, and Jupiter and 4 moons (though you can only see 3 in the resized version):

Image
vikkyvik 04 Feb 15, 20:58Post
JeffSFO wrote:Nice render with the moons, Vik. The last few years have been really good for conjunctions between the Moon and Jupiter. Back in January of 2013 Jupiter was within .5 degrees and I was able to get a shot (without the moons). Will post it here if you want.


Thanks, and of course I want!

I actually got shots of it back then too, but only 2 of Jupiter's moons were visible. And you're absolutely right, I think I've shot 2 or 3 Jupiter + Moon conjunctions in the last few years (honestly, I don't count last night as a conjunction; they weren't that close).
JeffSFO (Photo Quality Screener & Founding Member) 05 Feb 15, 07:28Post
vikkyvik wrote:
JeffSFO wrote:Nice render with the moons, Vik. The last few years have been really good for conjunctions between the Moon and Jupiter. Back in January of 2013 Jupiter was within .5 degrees and I was able to get a shot (without the moons). Will post it here if you want.


Thanks, and of course I want!

I actually got shots of it back then too, but only 2 of Jupiter's moons were visible. And you're absolutely right, I think I've shot 2 or 3 Jupiter + Moon conjunctions in the last few years (honestly, I don't count last night as a conjunction; they weren't that close).


No problem. I didn't take a separate shot to expose for the Galilean moons but at the time I think I was just happy to grab a few shots of such a close pairing:


Image
vikkyvik 10 Feb 15, 15:30Post
JeffSFO wrote:No problem. I didn't take a separate shot to expose for the Galilean moons but at the time I think I was just happy to grab a few shots of such a close pairing:


Nice - I got a similar shot during that conjunction.

Mars and Venus are slowly approaching each other. Uranus is also visible toward the top of the frame:

Image
vikkyvik 20 Feb 15, 15:56Post
Reminder: tonight, 2/20/2015, Venus, Mars, and the Moon will be a-conjunctin' in the western sky after sunset.

Not sure if I'll have clear skies here, so someone else take a photo!
vikkyvik 21 Feb 15, 05:30Post
No luck for me. Oh well, all is not lost - tomorrow evening, Venus and Mars will be less than a degree apart in the western sky after sunset, and the crescent Moon and Uranus will be about two vertical degrees apart, about 15 degrees above Venus and Mars.

Will the weather cooperate? No idea.
Lucas (netAirspace ATC & Founding Member) 21 Feb 15, 07:04Post
vikkyvik wrote:No luck for me. Oh well, all is not lost - tomorrow evening, Venus and Mars will be less than a degree apart in the western sky after sunset, and the crescent Moon and Uranus will be about two vertical degrees apart, about 15 degrees above Venus and Mars.

Will the weather cooperate? No idea.


Cold here, icy, snowy, cloud cover. Stopped to get a pic where it was nice along my 270-mile drive tonight, but wind was too much.
Queso (netAirspace ATC Tower Chief & Founding Member) 22 Feb 15, 03:16Post
We've had a high overcast the last two nights. :(
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JeffSFO (Photo Quality Screener & Founding Member) 22 Feb 15, 04:18Post
I saw the great Mars & Venus conjunction but I didn't get home in time to get a shot. However, I pointed it out to friends as it was visible from downtown SF and they were happy I did so.

Thanks for the info, Vik. {thumbsup}
vikkyvik 22 Feb 15, 06:08Post
JeffSFO wrote:I saw the great Mars & Venus conjunction


Me too. But it was partially cloudy and hazy, so didn't get out the camera.

Still, pretty cool to see - the closest conjunction I can recall seeing.

JeffSFO wrote:Thanks for the info, Vik.


No problem. I'll try to post other stuff as I see it coming up.

By the way, Venus and Mars will still be quite close together tomorrow night.
vikkyvik 25 Feb 15, 03:27Post
Nice surprise tonight - was outside looking west at Venus and Mars above the building across the street, just pondering life, when the ISS suddenly appeared over the building, and arced from west to south-southeast (I only saw it for about half its overflight before it disappeared behind my building).

I was amazed at how bright it was - between magnitude -2 and -3. Considerably brighter than Mars, and a bit dimmer than Venus.

Given that a lot of takeoffs from LAX take a similar course through my field of view, I looked it up online to be sure, and yep, that was the station.
JeffSFO (Photo Quality Screener & Founding Member) 25 Feb 15, 09:42Post
vikkyvik wrote:Nice surprise tonight - was outside looking west at Venus and Mars above the building across the street, just pondering life, when the ISS suddenly appeared over the building, and arced from west to south-southeast (I only saw it for about half its overflight before it disappeared behind my building).

I was amazed at how bright it was - between magnitude -2 and -3. Considerably brighter than Mars, and a bit dimmer than Venus.

Given that a lot of takeoffs from LAX take a similar course through my field of view, I looked it up online to be sure, and yep, that was the station.


Good stuff, Vik.

Back in the summer of 2009 while visiting friends up at Lake Tahoe, I was taking pics from the eastern shoreline at twilight when the ISS appeared from the northwest, rapidly traversing the width of the lake before disappearing behind the mountains on the east-southeastern side. It was so bright that at first I thought it was a 747 but then realized it was the ISS. Unfortunately, my gear wasn't configured for a quick shot of it but that was the best viewing (out of many) that I've had and my recollection is that besides the sun, moon, and a couple of meteors, that's the brightest object from space that I've ever seen.

Regardless, I had a similar experience to you when I was out walking in my neighborhood one early winter evening a few years back when I spotted the ISS by chance. It was pretty low in the sky, just above some rooftops and trees but still obscured at times as well. It could have easily passed for inbound traffic to SFO approaching from the northwest but there was something different about it because it was bright, made no noise, and there were no strobes or navigation lights, and it always maintains the same heading at a constant velocity. Confirmed it once I got home.

Speaking of the ISS, when are you going to provide us with some shots of it in solar transit? This guy got some great shots of the ISS docked with Endeavor using a 5D MKII body all the way back in 2009:

http://www.astrophoto.fr/iss_endeavour_transit.html

You're way behind, Vik! You've got to catch up! ;-) :))
vikkyvik 25 Feb 15, 16:05Post
JeffSFO wrote:my recollection is that besides the sun, moon, and a couple of meteors, that's the brightest object from space that I've ever seen.


Yeah, it is ridiculously bright.

JeffSFO wrote:and it always maintains the same heading at a constant velocity.


That's what always clues me in to bright satellites if I'm not sure (dim satellites are much easier to identify as satellites). Something about the speed at which they move across the sky is just....different from an airplane. Not entirely sure what it is.

JeffSFO wrote:Speaking of the ISS, when are you going to provide us with some shots of it in solar transit?


If I had to guess, I'd say.....not anytime soon. Really need a telescope for that, I think. I can't look at the link you posted at work - did the guy use lenses or a scope?

Crossing the moon might be doable one of these days, though. I'll have to keep an eye out. Of course, a telescope there too would be good, but I have less of an issue pointing my camera/lens at the Moon for a long time than at the Sun.
vikkyvik 17 Mar 15, 14:49Post
ShanwickOceanic (netAirspace FAA) 17 Mar 15, 19:35Post
Aurora is meant to be epic tonight. It's all over the sky but a bit anaemic... will go out later and look again.
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:
For it is the number of a man; and its number is One hundred threescore and twelve.
mhodgson (ATC & Photo Quality Screener & Founding Member) 17 Mar 15, 19:37Post
Supposedly there's a decent chance we'll see it in Manchester!
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ShanwickOceanic (netAirspace FAA) 17 Mar 15, 19:40Post
You'll need to be somewhere dark, I'd have thought...

Here, they were visible overhead even before it was properly dark, but they're surprisingly weak. At least GF (who's lived in Finland all of her 34 years) can finally say she saw them... I'll definitely be going out again later. Might be able to stay more than 10 minutes this time {sarcastic}
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:
For it is the number of a man; and its number is One hundred threescore and twelve.
Zak (netAirspace FAA) 17 Mar 15, 22:22Post
ShanwickOceanic wrote:At least GF (who's lived in Finland all of her 34 years) can finally say she saw them...

Reminds me of my personal aurora sighting. I was in Finland during late summer. Woke up around midnight, strange light outside. Got out, and watched about an hour of pure amazement. If you'd ask me today what was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, I'd name that night without thinking twice.

Next morning, my Finnish hosts significantly doubted what I had seen the night before. Aurora, in Southern Finland, in summer? They suspected that I had only dreamt about it.

Next day, the local newspaper had the story on the title page. Had been the strongest aurora in quite some time. Now my hosts were mad with me, that I hadn't woken them up. Turns out neither of them had ever seen a proper aurora, while I didn't wake them, assuming they get it every other night. :))
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
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