Sunday, August 28, 2016

Venus-Jupiter conjunction

2065.  That is the number running around in my head this morning...or to be clear, the year 2065.  In 2065, should I still be kicking and screaming, I'll be in my 96th year here on the 3rd rock from the Sun...and that is the next time that Earth, Venus, and Jupiter will be lined up as closely as they are now.  Below, is a picture I took from the roof of our home last night of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky just after sunset.  You will need to click to enlarge it to appreciate the planets near center.

Click to enlarge and see the planets near center!

I arrived home later than anticipated and barely had time to climb up to the roof and take pictures of the conjunction- and for the life of me could not seem to get a decent exposure quickly.  Of course when I came back into the house it was then that I discovered I had left my circular polarizing filter on the lens.  Very good for landscape, not so good in low light!

Venus is the brighter planet above and to the left of Jupiter.  Last night these planets were separated in our sky by less than the diameter of our full moon!  Keep in mind that these planets are not actually near each other in space-  after all Venus (the 2nd planet) is inside our orbit to the Sun and Jupiter (the 5th planet) much further outside our orbit.  It is just that from Earth, looking out on a line to Jupiter, we see Venus in its orbit right next to that line.

So, 2065 until we experience such similar geometry...if I'm around, I hope we have limited artificial lighting enough to see the alignment...and if not, perhaps my family members will have opportunities to see an Earth - Jupiter conjunction from Mars!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Perseid Meteor Shower

This week saw the Earth swing through the debris trail left by comet Swift-Tuttle, producing the annual Perseid meteor shower.  Prognosticators and Astronomers alike were suggesting that due to perturbations of the comet by Jupiter, we would be plowing through a particularly denser area of the debris stream and that we would experience an active shower compared to many years.  Predictions were for upwards of 200 meteors an hour, and I believe these were accurate.

I packed up my camera and friend Travis, and we headed up the Mount Lemmon Highway to the Geology Vista pullout at about 9 PM on Thursday evening...we were joined by the entire meteor shower watching community of Tucson, who apparently had the same idea...the pullouts on the highway were all full by 10 PM!  I set up may Canon 6D with a 14 mm Rokinon lens at f/2.8 and took 60 second exposures for several hours.  I obtained about 10 exposures with meteors and below is a crop of one of them, with the brightest Perseid I captured.   (Be sure to note the Andromeda Galaxy, below the left edge of the Perseid).

Despite being at nearly 7000 ft in elevation and looking to the northeast (away from the glow of Tucson), you can see a lot of scattered light in the lower portion of image...the bulk of this is from the constant parade of traffic on the highway as well as cars that would pull into Geology Vista, leaving their headlights on, despite the lot being full and filled with obvious meteor watchers.

Finally, a quick bit of clarification on space, these objects are called 'meteoroids' (like asteroids)...what differentiates them from asteroids is simply their small size.  They are called 'meteors' only while plowing through our atmosphere and burning up.  So a meteor is actually the bright streak we see, or what is commonly referred to as a shooting star.  Should a piece of one of these actually survive the trip through the atmosphere and land on the ground, we then have a 'meteorite.'  So, in space - meteoroid; burning up in atmosphere - meteor; safely on the ground - meteorite!

Finally, lots of excuses for not blogging much anymore, but the most honest one is lack of continues to be busy and fulfilling and when I have down time, I seem to spend it relaxing and not at the computer.