Thursday, August 21, 2014

Venus Jupiter Conjunction August 18 to Add Moon August 23

Venus plus Jupiter with four of its moons before dawn August 18
Venus - Jupiter Aug 18
The Venus -  Jupiter Conjunction was a rare event to catch Monday morning before dawn, as they slowly rose above the horizon as dawn approached.  It's always great to be out in the early morning, as many animals are active and others start to stir.  Two great horned owls gently called back and forth.  Black bears have been in our neighborhood at night lately gorging on peaches, and plums, blackberries and apples are starting to add to their buffet as well.  A group of coyotes were howling in the small orchard down the street, no doubt harassing a bear getting in the way of their hunt for rabbits and quail.  It was nice to have some moonlight for illumination, so I'd be able to see a bear approaching if I heard one leaving the orchard in my direction.  I kept a flashlight nearby to alert any bears to my presence, to avoid an awkward encounter.  Being so well fed our bears are large.  They're not overtly aggressive and they'll generally run away from people, but it's still a good idea not to startle one at close range.
As the week progresses Venus and Saturn remain close all this week, with the crescent moon arriving in their vicinity on the mornings of August 22, 23 and 24. Their closest encounter will be on Saturday the 23rd, with the two planets and the moon forming a triangle before dawn, 7 degrees on each side.

Update Friday morning, August 22:  The moon lined up with Venus and Jupiter this morning.  The moon will drop next to Venus and Jupiter tomorrow morning before dawn, to form a triangle.  Venus rose today at 4:53, so for best results, start looking by 5 am.  Where I plan to shoot tomorrow, all three celestial bodies should be above the horizon by 5:10 or so.  The times will be similar for other mid northern latitudes, with small adjustments for your position on the earth and in your time zone.

Plan for an interesting composition for the conjunction tomorrow using any of these four astronomy apps:

Tutorial on Moon Photography Planning  

The rest of the story:

As I shot Venus and Jupiter this morning there were large, fresh bear prints on the ground, and half of an apple that the bear carried 1/2 mile but couldn't finish.  The bears start arriving late at night this time of year, but as they compete for fruit in neighborhood fruit trees, they start to come earlier and earlier.

This large bear climbed up a neighbor's tree last year when we arrived to take his picture.  He growled at me at first, but stopped when that tactic didn't result in our departure.  On this night, our neighbor had called us at 8 pm to tell us that there was a huge bear which "looks like a bison", his back scraping the branches of the apple trees.  He definitely was well fed, and is probably back for more feasting this year.