Jewels In The Sunset, June 30th (Conjunction)

Approximately 0.3° separation. For reference, the sun and moon average around 0.5° in apparent diameter, so either would cover both Venus and Jupiter if they happened to be in the right spot tonight. (Now THAT would be a rare event!) You can see how over the last eleven days (June 19th, June 20th, June 21st, June 22nd, June 25th, and June 29th) they’ve gotten closer and closer.

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(Image: Weather Channel app)

Of course, Murphy rules. Starting about 14:00 it was getting cloudy and by 17:00 it was raining.

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Here’s that “usual” view to the west from our front yard at 17:55. I was not happy.

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By 20:00 it had started to clear a bit. I started to have hope.

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By 20:40 there were just a few thin, high clouds over most of the western sky. There were our jewels!

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Where last night Jupiter was at “the 11:00 position” compared to Venus, tonight they’ve passed each other and Jupiter is in “the 1:00 position.”

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The pictures don’t do it justice. It was beautiful, two bright jewels side by side in the darkening twilight.

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As it got darker, the clouds started to move back in a bit, but Venus and Jupiter also looked that much brighter against a dark background.

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Zoomed in with the 300mm lens, you can’t see the crescent shape of Venus, but you can see the Galilean moons of Jupiter. (And a funky, ghostly lens flare from Venus, which does in fact show the crescent shape.)

I pulled the small telescope out, the two planets fitting easily into the field of view. In the scope, the thin crescent shape of Venus was obvious, Jupiter showed as an oblate sphere with several bands visible, and the four Galilean moons were very clearly visible. It was spectacular.

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Fitting the camera to the small scope again proved problematic. Focus is part of the problem, exposure is another. While I played around with both and took a lot of photos at different exposures and different focus points, I never hit that sweet spot. This image was the closest I came. There is enough detail on Venus (lower left) to see a bit of the crescent, and if you blow the picture up to full size, you can see just a hint of the Galilean moons. Most noticeable is the color difference – Venus is bright white, while Jupiter shows some pastel color.

The Long-Suffering Wife came out to take a look, and the Youngest Daughter took a look before heading back home. (Jessie did not look, being ever so Bohemian with that “been-there, done-that” attitude.) Then, just 45 minutes after it started, a good two hours before Venus and Jupiter would actually set, the clouds started rolling back in and it all vanished.

I’m glad that the Fates parted the clouds long enough for me to get a glimpse tonight. It was magnificent!

If you didn’t see it tonight, keep watching! The two will start to pull apart from each other, but they’ll still be bright in the west after sundown for weeks to come. There will be another grouping when the young moon moves back into the evening sky in about three weeks. Venus and Jupiter will get back together in the pre-dawn morning sky in October, being separated by only 1° on October 26, 2015. Next year we’ll do it again, and on August 27, 2016 Jupiter and Venus will be separated by less than 0.1°, a third of their current separation.

Keep watching the skies! (And be patient if it’s cloudy.)

 

 

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