Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Photos of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter Conjunction August 23

Jupiter, moon and M44 Beehive Cluster rising yesterday, August 23.  A short while later Venus joined them, below Jupiter.
The Internet, mobile phones and social media can provide some interesting opportunities at times.  I learned about a close Venus - Jupiter conjunction coming up on August 18 from the SkyWeek+ app from +Sky & Telescope.  I looked up more information, and found an excellent planning guide by +Universe Today.  I shot the August 18 conjunction, only to have Universe today include it moments later in their write-up on the event!  I looked up more articles, discovering a mention in an +EarthSky article of the moon joining them in the sky on the morning  August 23.  But there would be a nice practice day August 22, which I shot.  As it turned out, EarthSky included my Aug 18 Venus - Jupiter image in an excellent planning guide to the August 23 event.

Venus, Jupiter, moon and Beehive Cluster in conjunction 
I checked my app The Photographer's Ephemeris to confirm a good composition for the moon rise angle at Mono Lake.  I then checked the StarWalk app and determined that the last of the three celestial bodies rising on the 23rd,Venus, would be rising at 4:53 at Mono Lake.  So I arrived onsite yesterday at around 4:30, I was moving my cameras into position around 4:45, and I was just getting my exposures settings set as the moon rose next to Jupiter and its moons (above).  Venus was the next to arrive (right), and its light was colored bright red in the atmosphere choked with smoke from fires in the American West.

Apparently no other photographers had planned to shoot here, although one car did pull in and leave its headlights on briefly, providing some unplanned light painting on the tufa-strewn shoreline.  The sky gradually brightened as twilight "blue hour" progressed, and the view of the moon became more clear and it tone more white as it rose above the densest slice of atmosphere.  Venus increased in apparent brightness as it rose, and hints of the approaching sunrise could be seen on the horizon.


Venus, Jupiter and moon during blue hour
As the planets and moon rose together, I had to zoom out to a wider 70 mm focal length to fit them in comfortably.  Incresed color in the sky was offset by the relative fading of the planets as the sky brightened.

Later this week we'll have this sort of opportunity all over again as the crescent moon yields to the new moon, then becomes a crescent again as it switches to the night sky, and moves close to Mars and Saturn.  I'll talk more on that in a following post here on my blog, and I'll post updates on Twitter (@jeffsullphoto) as well.

The moon, Jupiter and Venus as dawn approaches on August 23
To the right is one of my last shots of the moon with Jupiter and Venus last Saturday as the sky continued to brighten.

Update June 2017: My photo has been published as the lead photo in an article in the August 2017 Sky and Telescope Magazine by Don Olson. A description of Don's investigation into a poem by Lord Byron appears on the Texas State university Web site, along with a copy of this photo:
'Celestial Sleuth' identifies Lord Byron's stellar inspiration www.txstate.edu/news/news_releases/news_archive/2017/June...