The late February full Moon presented an opportunity to photograph the Moon rising between the dramatic Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple in Grand Canyon.
Moonrise was about a half-hour before sunset. This meant that the distant walls of the canyon would still be illuminated by late afternoon Sun. On the other hand, the eastern horizon was still pretty bright as the Moon rose from behind Wotans Throne. So bright, in fact, that it was difficult to see the Moon. As a result, I got better results about 15 minutes later as the Sun moved lower and the Moon moved higher in the sky.
The second shot was taken just a minute or two before sunset and only the uppermost portions of the canyon rim remain illuminated by the sun. In addition, Earth’s shadow can be seen just above the horizon.
Bonus shot: While waiting for the Moon to rise I took photographs of hikers ascending the South Kaibab Trail just below and above Ooh-Aah Point.
The planets Mars and Uranus will at their closest in the evening sky on 20 January 2021. Unfortunately, the Moon will also be very close to these two planets which could make it difficult to see Uranus. Mars, however, is bright enough to be easily viewed even with the Moon. Currently, Mars has a magnitude of 0.16 while Uranus is considerably dimmer at magnitude 5.76 — making Mars ~175 times brighter than Uranus.
I chose to shoot the two planets a few days early to avoid any issues with the Moon and clouds from an approaching winter storm. Besides, the appearance a few days either side of the date of conjunction would not look too much different.
A few weeks ago Jupiter and Saturn passed very close to each other during the Great Conjunction of 2020. Jupiter and Saturn are now pulling away from each other and are lower in the southwestern sky—but they have been joined by Mercury resulting in a planetary triplet viewable in the twilight.
This is a composite of three images taken over successive nights (09–11 January 2021) that shows the relative motions of the planets Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn in the southwestern sky. The images have been aligned using Saturn as an anchor point.
From this composite, one sees small daily motions of Jupiter as it continues to move eastward away from Saturn—which had their Great Conjunction on 21 December 2020. Mercury exhibits large daily eastward motions as it races toward its greatest eastward elongation on 24 January 2021.
On 21 December 2020, Jupiter and Saturn passed a tenth of a degree from each other in what is known as a Great Conjunction. Great Conjunctions are not rare and occur every 20 years. But the apparent separation between the two planets varies with each event and this one was the third closest in over 800 years (1226 and 1623 were closer) but only one of these was visible; the other was lost in the bright glare of twilight.
The images shown here used a 300mm telephoto lens—which is barely sufficient to resolve the rings of Saturn. The rings can be seen as making Saturn appear oval shaped.
The first image is from 1803 MST on 21 December 2020, just a few hours after closest approach. The second image has labels for the brightest moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Below is an image showing the daily movement of Jupiter relative to Saturn. It is also easy to see the motions of Jupiter’s four largest moons as they appear in different locations for each of the three Jupiter positions.
The planets Jupiter and Saturn are drawing closer to each other in the evening sky with each passing day and will be at their closest on December 21st. In the meantime, the crescent Moon moved through the same part of the sky making a nice triplet in the evening twilight.
Here are views from two nights of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.