Bright Objects in the Sky

The past few days have offered several opportunities for photographing objects in the sky.

Mercury and Venus in evening twilight.
Mercury and Venus in evening twilight.

Mercury (Magnitude –0.2) and Venus (Magnitude –3.9) are very low in the evening twilight right now and a bit difficult to see with the unaided eye—but a camera can do a better job at picking out the small but bright planets. The two planets are separated by about 7°.

Jupiter and the Moon in close proximity.
Jupiter and the Moon in close proximity.

At the same time, Jupiter (Magnitude –2.0) and the Moon made a close pass last night with about 2.5° of separation. These, of course, were much easier to see.

ISS passes in front of the Sun.
ISS passes in front of the Sun.

And, a few days ago, the International Space Station (ISS) flew in front of the Sun as seen from my house. I didn’t even have to travel—just set up the camera in the driveway. The entire flyby takes less than one second. Warning! A proper solar filter is required. I use a filter made by Kendrick Astro Instruments.

Bright Objects in the Night Sky—May 2018

The past two weeks have offered several opportunities for photographing the moon in the evening sky. Beginning on May 16, we had a crescent Moon with just 3.7% of the disk illuminated by the sun. During the months of May, June, and July, the thin crescent Moon lines up with the long axis of Upper Lake Mary. This results in nice reflections of the Moon on the waters of the lake—but only if there is little or no wind. The first two images were taken in the early evening with some reflections over portions of the lake. The image also shows the unlit part of the crescent Moon illuminated with Earthshine, also known as Da Vinci Glow. Yes, that Leonardo Da Vinci. Quite an amazing bit of scientific deduction on his part.

A thin crescent Moon above Lake Mary.
A thin crescent Moon above Lake Mary.
Crescent Moon with reflections on Lake Mary.
Crescent Moon with reflections on Lake Mary.

The following evening the Moon was located near the planet Venus. Capturing both of these objects and getting reflections in the water was a bit more difficult as they were higher in the sky.

Moon and Venus above Lake Mary.
Moon and Venus above Lake Mary.

Next up was the day-before-the-full-Moon in Sedona. Using The Photographers Ephemeris it’s not very difficult to determine at what time and in which location to find the Moon rising between the spires of Cathedral Rock. I’ve done this shot before but never get tired of traveling to Sedona to see it happen again. Not surprisingly, I often run into other photographers and friends with the same idea so it becomes a bit of a social gathering as well.

Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
A couple watches the Moon rise from Cathedral Rock.
A couple watches the Moon rise from Cathedral Rock.

The first image shows the Moon having just risen into the left gap. The second image is a crop and closeup of the Moon. The third was taken several minutes later after adjusting my position a bit to capture the Moon in the middle gap. A couple can be seen in silhouette gazing at the rising Moon.

The International Space Station cross the sky.
The International Space Station cross the sky.
The ISS and OA-9 Cygnus move across the sky.
The ISS and OA-9 Cygnus move across the sky.

Finally, there was a transit of the International Space Station (ISS) and the resupply ship OA-9 Cygnus—both moving near the North Star. The transit is a 5-minute sequence of images while the star trails is a 30-minute sequence. The second image shows the bright ISS with the faint OA-9 Cygnus following behind. A day later, the OA-9 docked with the ISS.

Objects in the Night Sky 2017 — II

The past few weeks have offered a few interesting objects in the night sky + one daytime event.

Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák has been an easily photographed comet—albeit not a very bright one—in the northern sky. The first image below was taken during the interval 2103–2153 MST 15 April 2017 and is comet-centric which shows its motion amongst the stars over that period. The second image was captured during the interval 2117–2221 MST 16 April 2017.

Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák.
Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák.

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Bright Objects in the Night Sky

It’s been a productive few days for taking nighttime images of bright objects in the night sky including planets, stars and satellites.

On June 1, 2014, a check of the ephemeris for satellite passages noted that the International Space Station (ISS) would pass very close to Polaris (i.e., the “North Star”) at 2204 MST, followed by an Iridium flare at 2231 MST. I set up the camera to take 30s exposures from 2202-2232 MST so I could get a set of star trails with the ISS arcing across the northern sky. Two satellite flares can be seen in the lower right — the one I was expecting plus a bonus flare.

 

Star trails with the International Space Station.
Star trails with the International Space Station.

 

Venus and Iridium flare.
Venus and Iridium flare.

A few days later, on June 5, 2014, for just a few seconds the planet Venus (mag. -4.0) was only the second brightest object (rather than the brightest) in the eastern twilight sky as an Iridium flare brightened to magnitude -5.7.

International Space Station above the San Francisco Peaks

The International Space Station (ISS) flies overhead every day. Not all passes are visible because some occur during the day and others occur while the ISS is in the Earth’s shadow. The most interesting passes are those that occur low to the horizon and then enter the Earth shadow.

ISS flying above the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona.
ISS flying above the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona.

During the evening of 21 April, the ISS rose in the northwest just below the constellation Cassiopeia then moved above the San Francisco Peaks. Finally, as it moved to the northeast it faded in brightness as it entered Earth’s shadow.