The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

The Crescent Moon, Mars and Mercury

Mercury is starting to climb up in the western sky for a pretty good appearance and tonight the crescent Moon joined Mars in the vicinity. I managed to get a few shots. I expected Mercury to be difficult to see low in the sky, but it was much easier to find than the higher Mars. In these shots, Mars is to the the right and just below the Moon. Mercury is below Mars and just a little to the right. There are a couple of planes drifting through this part of the sky so don’t be fooled by them!



April 20, 2015 Posted by | Astrophotography, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Pretty Pictures | Leave a comment

The Crescent Moon and Uranus

I like taking unusual pictures sometimes. They aren’t always the most spectacular shots, but they show off unusual conjunctions that may happen fairly often but are rarely photographed.

Tonight’s shot that falls into that category is the Moon and Uranus. I didn’t think I was going to get a chance at this on as it was raining in the early part of the evening. By chance I happened to be outside around 9pm and it had cleared so I grabbed the camera and went for it. The following shot was taken with my Canon60D, EF 75-300mm lens at 220mm and f/5.6, 0.5 second exposure at ISO3200. I fired up Stellarium to verify which of the fainter objects was Uranus and put a little line pointing to it (and it took forever since my computer with Lightroom and Photoshop had a hard drive crash and I am currently waiting for replacement parts I had to use alternate photo processing programs…don’t worry…a good backup exists!)


In October, we will have a totally eclipsed Moon very close to the planet Uranus. I look forward to capturing this pair at that time, clouds willing!


February 4, 2014 Posted by | Astrophotography, Conjunctions, Moon, Uranus | | Leave a comment

Venus and the Moon

Venus just had its greatest separation from the Sun a few days ago. Hence it stays up a long time after sunset. However, since the ecliptic makes a very shallow angle with respect to the horizon, it is relatively low in the southwest after sunset.

Last night, it was joined by the crescent Moon.

IMG_1728Tonight the Moon will makes it closest approach to Venus for this month so it will definitely be worth checking out.

Another challenge is to see Venus during the day. I blogged about this before (and have posted pics of Venus and the Moon during the day). One of the important things when searching for Venus during the day is to avoid looking at the Sun. Remember I said Venus is about as far from the Sun as it gets? Well, that makes this a very good time to try. I still recommend standing where the Sun is behind a building but you can see the crescent Moon. Find the Moon and look nearby for Venus. The chart below shows for about 1:30pm today in Tucson.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 10.41.53 AM

And of course you can take pics! I have seen people capture Venus during the day with point and shoot cameras so you don’t need fancy equipemnet!

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Conjunctions, Moon, Venus | , | Leave a comment

Disney Pictures

I visited Walt Disney World in Florida last weekend for the Tower of Terror 10 Mile Run. I went to the parks and had to take pictures of the crescent Moon/Venus pairing in the western sky after susnet.

Sunday night I was at Epcot so used Spaceship Earth as the foreground object. 

IMG_0324 IMG_0330I had to use a wide angle lens to get both of them as they were pretty spread out. I did the ghost image effect of myself in the second pic using a wireless remote.

Monday night they were closer together and I went to the Magic Kingdom to find a place where I could get the castle in the foreground.

IMG_0377 IMG_0389Another chance to catch this pair will happen in early November (but I won’t be a Disney next time!


October 9, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Moon, Venus | , | Leave a comment

Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is the full Moon that occurs closes to the vernal equinox. Depending on how you count for you time zones, its either the 18th or the 19th. In my time zone, the time of the full Moon is slightly closer to the evening of the 18th so I am counting tonight. With that, here are a few pics of the Harvest Moon rising in Tucson.

IMG_9282 IMG_9289 IMG_9271

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Moon | | 1 Comment

Super Moon, Sunset and the ISS

Lots going on tonight. First, a couple of shots of the so called “Super Moon”, not that you can really tell much difference unless you have photos of other Moons to compare.

Next up, sunset tonight. Click through to see the little green flashes evolve as the Sun sets.

Finally, the ISS pass tonight from Tucson.

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Atmospheric Physics, ISS, Moon, Sunset | , , , | Leave a comment

The Moon Joins the Mercury-Mars Party

Although closest approach between Mercury and Mars was Friday night, the show is still going on and the Moon is joining the party. But before I get to that, sunset was particularly nice tonight. There were several nice flashes starting with green and even including blue and purple. Interestingly enough, last year on almost exactly this same date, I got wonderful pics of multicolored flashes as well. Wondering if there is something about this mountain that makes it particularly conducive to producing this phenomena. Click to see larger versions and look close for the colors.





After sunset, I was actually more interested in seeing the crescent Moon tonight. I knew it could be a challenge since new Moon occurred earlier today (12:22am MST) so the Moon would be less than 19 hours pas new. I finally spotted the Moon at about 6:43pm putting the Moon 18 hours and 21 minutes past new. At this time less than 1% of the Moon was illuminated.I probably could have found it a few minutes earlier, but I was looking a little too far south for it…I found it a little farther north than I was expecting (that will teach me to look up its azimuth before I go observing!) Here is a close up of the very young crescent Moon with a plane flying by.


As I said, Mercury and Mars are still fairly close together so I turned my attention to them. My real goal was to see if I could get Mercury, Mars and the crescent Moon. The Moon was rapidly setting at that time and I barely got it. Mercury is the brighter one toward the top and Mars is slightly beneath it. I got a plane in this one as well. The Moon is lower in the sky and its light is passing through more atmosphere so it doesn’t show up as well. Look to the lower right of the bright plane, just above the horizon. You have to look very close.


Tomorrow night the Moon will be much higher in the sky and easier to see. The Moon will be above and to the right of Mercury and about 3.8% illuminated, much easier to see. Mars will be the toughest of the three to pick out against the twilight sky, so have patience but don’t wait too long or they will set behind the western horizon before you see them!

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Atmospheric Physics, Conjunctions, Green Flash, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Sunset | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moon-Jupiter Conjunction Photos

Okay, I blogged about the close pairing of the Moon and Jupiter so here are some photos. The first one I got about 3:00 in the afternoon, but I prefer this one I took about 3:30pm.


Jupiter is to the lower left of the Moon. I went out for sunset as well. This is the first time I photographed sunset with my new Canon 60D. Wow! A bit different than my old camera! Shoots a lot faster and the sensitivity is different. Managed to get the differences sorted out in time to get a green flash. I am sure I will get better as I practice with this camera.


As soon as the Sun set, I turned to the Moon and Jupiter.


About 8:00pm, I went back out and got this shot. The exposure was short to bring out details on the Moon. You can see the Montes Jura chain extending into the dark side of the Moon (upper left part of the Moon).


And I took one more with the Moon overexposed to bring out the Galilean Moons. Ganymede is to the left of Jupiter and Io and Callisto to the right. Europa was transiting in front of Jupiter at the time and not visible.


I hope you got to see the conjunction. Another one will happen on February 18th, but it won’t be quite as close as this one.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Atmospheric Physics, Conjunctions, Green Flash, Moon | , | 1 Comment

Jupiter and the Moon Have a VERY Close Encounter

On January 21st, 2013, Jupiter and the Moon will have a very close encounter in the evening sky. Using the angle measure tool in Stellarium, it looks like closest approach will put them only about 28 arc minutes apart, or about one Moon diameter. This closest approach occurs about 8pm MST on January 21st. Timing is important since the Moon moves fairly quickly across the sky (about its diameter every hour) so you may see the Moon farther from Jupiter if you look several hours before or after closest approach. Fortunately for most of North America, this occurs at a reasonable time to observe in the evening.

As a bonus, you can also see the Pleaides and the bright star Aldeberan nearby. Here is a finding chart.


I went outside tonight for a little preview. Some high thing clouds were rolling through so the Moonlight scattered a bit more than I might like, but I got a little preview shot.


I was zoomed in a little too far to catch Aldeberan but you can clearly see the Moon, Jupiter and the Pleiades. Tomorrow night the Moon will have moved much closer to Jupiter.

Since I have a new camera (I got a Canon 60D) I decided to zoom in on Jupiter and see what I could get. I knew that I could get all four Moons easily with my old camera but with a higher resolution (18MP vs 10MP) I thought I might get a better shot. I think I did.


All four Moons are clearly visible, two to the lower left and two to the upper right (they all lie roughly on the same line). Everything is just a little more crisp with the new camera.

I am hoping for clear skies tomorrow night. If I have them, look for pics!

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Conjunctions, Jupiter, Moon, Observing | | Leave a comment

Venus and the Moon at Dawn

I just got a Canon 60D and so I had a little extra motivation to get up this morning to photograph Venus and the Moon (that and I am trying to shift my sleeping schedule for the Disney Marathon Sunday). I am glad I did. They were a lovely pair this morning and I was happy to take my first astrophotos with a new camera.

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Venus is nearing the end of its morning appearance and will be passing behind the Sun on March 28th and moving into the evening sky a few weeks after that. So early risers should enjoy Venus now before it gets too low to observe.

January 10, 2013 Posted by | Astrophotography, Conjunctions, Moon, Venus | | Leave a comment