Category Archives: Space

Venus & Pleiades

I mentioned a few days ago while sharing pictures of the Moon and Venus that the Pleiades (an open cluster of bright, blue stars, easily visible to the naked eye) were nearby and Venus would be getting closer to them.

It’s happening over the next few nights and tonight’s clear (-ish) here so I decided to see what I could see with the big lens.

(As always, I urge you ignore the sensational headlines online no matter how tempting it might be to distract yourselves from news of the virus and the panic and our governmental ineptitude and the growing body count. This conjunction of Venus & the Pleiades is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – it happens about every eight years. And it’s not something you have to see TONIGHT or you’ll miss it – it will take place over the next week or two, so relax if it’s cloudy tonight and you missed it.)

With the telephoto lens and a tripod mounted camera, you tend to start getting “trailing” in longer exposures. This is caused by the Earth moving (and no, not in the “good” way!) and the camera not. So even at the widest field of view, after about a four second exposure you’ll get trails. But it’s easy to see the extremely bright Venus and the core of “The Seven Sisters.”

(As always, click on the images to see them full screen sized, they’ll look much better and you’ll see more detail.)

If you let the exposure go to out to twenty-five seconds you’ll see a LOT of stars – but they’re moving and trailing. And that’s some random satellite crossing the upper right quarter of the field.

Zoom in about half way and the trailing gets worse, so anything over two seconds starts to show trails

And if you go out to twenty-five seconds, Venus starts to look like a really bright comet as it smears across the image.

Finally, zoom all the way out to 300 mm and crop the image to get a nice shot of the core.

Let’s see what I can play with tomorrow night or Saturday if it’s clear! (And Los Angeles folks, there are some fantastic ISS passes coming up on the weekend!)

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You Know Who Else Doesn’t Care About COVID-19?

I’ve pointed out that the birds, bees, bunnies, and blossoms don’t really give a rat’s ass about COVID-19, no matter how much we’re stressing. (And believe me, we’re stressing, but still feeling okay here, hope that you’re doing the same!)

You know who else doesn’t care? If you need something beautiful and some perspective, go out tonight (if you’re on the West Coast and it’s early enough) or tomorrow or the next day and look for the crescent Moon and Venus and the Pleiades and Orion and Taurus and all of the other spectacular objects in the evening sky.

These were taken about twenty-five minutes ago:

Four day old Moon and Venus. This is a 1/400 sec exposure and you can see a bit of detail on the Moon. Longer exposures show Venus better, but the Moon’s details wash out pretty quickly from overexposure.

Another 1/400 second exposure, zoomed in all the way with the 300mm lens. Again, some detail on the moon.

But if we take a much longer exposure, 4 seconds, thinking to bring out the palm trees across the street, we get something special:

Click on the image to see it full-sized. Look in the upper right. Those are the Pleiades, M45, an open cluster of young, hot, blue stars.

If you’ve got a clear sky in the next couple of weeks, go out and take a look. The Moon will be moving, but the Pleiades (and Orion off to the left, and Taurus up higher above the Pleiades) will all be clearly visible to the naked eye. If you’ve got a pair of binoculars, they’ll all be spectacular!


Keep your physical distancing. It’s helping to slow down the inevitable spread of the virus.

Wash your hands. It’s a HUGE help to improve your odds of not getting the virus.

And go look up at the wonders above us. It will remind you of why you want to come out the other side from this crisis.

This too shall pass.

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Filed under Astronomy, CoronaVirus, Photography, Space

No ISS Pass Tonight Again

It was solid overcast for the second night in a row (the pretty picture above is from a few days ago, it was MUCH cloudier tonight) so again we were unable to view the really tasty ISS pass that was going overhead.

Our next play at the Ahmanson got cancelled due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Our next concert at the Disney got cancelled due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Working from home is a disconcerting change which I could live without. It doesn’t help that, with our office (and city, and state) now completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workload and stress and deadlines have shut up.

I wanted to download and start playing Doom Eternal, but I find that my five-year-old computer, which works just FINE for what I use it for 99.9999% of the time, has a five-year-old graphics card that won’t even start to keep up with what’s needed for a new game. (Bad words were said.)

Yet we soldier on.

One foot in front of the other.

The only way out is through.

Truly – what are the other options? I’m open to suggestion.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Space, Weather

Uranus

Want to see it? Do you have clear skies and a pair of binoculars any evening in the next week or so?

I went out and saw it tonight. The next few nights probably will be cloudy here in SoCal, but you might get luckier.

An hour or so after sunset, go outside and look to the west. You’ll easily see Venus, it’s the brightest thing in the sky except for the Sun, Moon, and sometimes the ISS. It’s so bright that you can literally read a newspaper by it.

Raise the binoculars and put Venus on the far right side of the field of view.

(Image from Star Walk app)

Look at this image from the Star Walk app. We’re zoomed in here and the objects’ positions are similar to what I saw through binoculars. Their size is ***NOT***. The app is showing icons for the planets. They’ll both appear as pinpoints. Venus will be really, REALLY bright. Uranus will be about as bright as the other stars shown. Let’s look at the patterns and locations and positions relative to each other – it’s a map app, not photo realistic.

Got it?

Annotated image – this is your cheat sheet. (Remember, pinpoints, not icons!)

Okay, so through my slightly hazy & seriously light polluted sky I saw Venus on the right, three stars in a triangle (labeled 1 to 3 in the annotated image), and if I moved over to the left just a bit there were two slightly brighter stars (labeled A & B).

Got it?

  1. Venus on the right
  2. Triangle of much dimmer stars to the left (Uranus is the one on the upper left of the triangle)
  3. To make sure, just look a bit to the left and you’ll see two brighter stars

Uranus and Venus are moving a bit each night. They’ll be the closest tomorrow night, but they’ll be close for days and days.

Got binoculars? Got clear skies? Go see Uranus.

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Venus & Luna At Dusk

There it is! I mentioned last night that I could see the one-day old crescent moon just barely above the horizon. Tonight it had climbed a bit and was easily visible with Venus.

About forty minutes later, after I had gotten my haircut, it was fully dark, but the moon was still above the hills and billboards. If you zoom in, even with this cheezy iPhone picture (which, let’s admit, has a pretty amazing camera in it as much as I might make jest), you can see the outline of the almost New Moon illuminated by Earthshine.

For the record, NO ONE in the shopping center was admiring the sight. and EVERYONE was wondering who the geek with the nice haircut was taking pictures of the sky while standing in traffic.

We know the answer to that one, don’t we?

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Venus At Dusk

I didn’t notice it until I was in the car, on the freeway, and couldn’t take pictures, but just barely above the horizon, in a notch between two hills, was the teeniest, tiniest little sliver of a moon.

Stunning!

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A Tough Time Of Year

Fifty-three years ago tonight, these three men lost their lives in an inferno atop a Saturn rocket.

(Image: NASA)

Tomorrow’s the 34th anniversary of our losing Challenger.

Seventeen years ago Saturday, February 1st, we lost Columbia.

Even if I don’t initially remember, there’s something buried deep in my brain that remembers and knows. Then I see some comment and it’s, “Oh. Yeah. That.”

And yet…

We’ve still got folks living on ISS every day for over twenty years. We’ve got folks, men and women, who have lived in space for almost a year at a time so that we can see what happens to the body on a trip to Mars. We’re still out there doing EVAs and keeping ISS running.

(Image: NASA)

We remember.

But we keep pressing on.

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