Posts Tagged ‘beautiful’

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon, Cosmic Ballet in February and March 2012.

February 21, 2012

For those who have been paying attention to the sky over the past few months, you will have seen Venus crawl out of the evening twilight, and Jupiter sink towards it.  These two VERY naked eye planets (both outshine even the brightest stars) are now only about 15 degrees apart (about the spread of your fingers held out at arms length), with that value set to shrink to about 3 degrees over the next 3 weeks.  Get the popcorn is ‘cos its gonna be a fantastic show!

The ballet is highlighted in the sequence below.

Venus Jupiter conjunction of 2012 (click to enlarge)

A) t= 0.  Jupiter and Venus hang in the evening sky.  Venus, by far the brighter of the two lies below Jupiter, and the pair are separated by about 15 degrees.  For reference, the Moon and Sun are about half a degree in diameter, and your outstretched fingers at arms length are about 15 degrees in angular size.

B) t= 5days.  The moons orbit takes it out of the solar glare and by the 26th it resides between Venus and Jupiter.  This will be a spectacular sight for those who get to see it, with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th brightest objects so close together in the sky.  The angular distance between the two planets has now closed to about 10 degrees.  Most of this apparent motion of Jupiter is due to the Earth moving around the Sun, while with Venus, about half of the apparent motion comes from this planet orbiting the Sun.

C) t~21 days. The Venus, Jupiter conjunction of 2012.  The two most spectacularly bright planets appear at their closest  (~3 degrees).

D) t~33days.  The Moon has now made a complete orbit since it last visited these planets.  When it last did, Jupiter was the higher, and Venus the lower.  The second time the moon visits these planets the order is reversed!  Venus the beguiling bright is now the higher of the two objects!  The objects are again separated by about 10 degrees.

For those who want to see what this looks like in animation form, take a look!  Download the  free solar system visualization software Celestia (http://www.shatters.net/celestia/)

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Monday 25th July (WHOLE SKY time lapse!)

July 26, 2011

Monday 25th July, up after dawn and rolled into LA.  Traffic is a nightmare!  Picked up the fixed camcorder by 9ish and headed over to a mcdonalds for wifi.    Caught up with blog n emails.  Notably I’ve now got a buddy in Hawaii who’s ready to give the global timelapse thing a go.  He sounds like he really knows what he’s doing and certainly has much better kit than me.  However I still needed a location to head to.  I checked out the clear sky forecasts and they were excellent in the Sierra Nevada valley.  Packup up and headed out, charging batteries on the way.  This is always the absolute nightmare of astro-on-the-road is when you are spending so much time out of doors in the hard sunlight, your body really syncs up with the sun in a powerful way.  Almost to the point where, sun goes down and you go to sleep, and yeah it’s REALLY hard to fight against that to stay up all night doing stuff.  On the way out of LA I stopped by and saw Lisa, who had lent me a couch during TAM.  Then the drive out to the North.   Again the traffic was a nightmare.  Got to Ridgecrest in late afternoon passing enroute something that looked like an observatory, but I now believe to be military radar of some sort.  It looks a good site.  Lots of roads leading off into the desert near the top of a mountain, purportedly for dirt bikers, but whatever, looked like my polite surburban 2wd low clearance could handle it.  Picked up the largest coffee I could find, and headed out into the desert.  In the end I hardly had to go that far off the road and was there for a fantastically dark sunset.  However there was wind, 10-20 mph wind.  Firstly thats the kiss of death if you are trying to point a telescope at a point source, and secondly there was a small amount of dust with it.  Now that was great for the lasers, meant you could see them easily, however its a killer for shutter mechanisms, drives gears etc.  I decided I would stand off on setting up the scope till the wind died down.  The wind didn’t die down, not even a little.  However the sky was superb with the milky way forming a glowing arch from horizon to horizon.  Started messing around with the cameras.  Even if I can’t do any astro, I’ve got some stuff to field test.  Most notably the 4mm ‘180 degree lens’.  Gave good piccies of the Milkyway and after a while I decided to laser my name into a mountain, just for yuks.  After that, I spent a wonderfully pleasant night, with the cool desert wind blowing steadily through my car, all the time with my head poked out of the window, watching the stars slowly spin above my head.  Jupiter rose fast and high, and the late cresent moon somewhat after it.  The next morning I was quite happy with the results!

Sunday July 10th (The Old Friend)

July 12, 2011

Up relatively late, well after sunrise, and rolled on down the road to Montrose.  Montrose was a place where I had a spot of bother a few years earlier where driving in the late dusk, only to have a giant truck tire materialize out of the dark where the lights didn’t penetrate.  I didn’t even have time to react, and plowed straight through it.  My only thought at the time was ‘Im going to luck to survive this’ as there was the massive thunk and the car jumped from the impact.  Maybe a second later, and much to my own surprise I still had the steering wheel in my hand and was in control of the car.  In disbelief I carefully slowed down and eased the car to the side of the road, watching in the rear mirror as at least one other pair of headlights swerved and jumped as they hit the truck tire among the smoke of locked wheels burning rubber.  Another guy also  stopped, as visibly shaken as myself, and we chattered for half an hour, telling each other over and over our frighteningly similar stories while comparing the damage to our vehicles.  Mine had fared much worse and was visibly leaking coolant.  That was bad, real bad.  Without coolant the car will overheat and destroy the engine in fairly short order, and I was still 50 miles outside Mostrose.  The guy who had shared my fate with the truck tire decided escort me to Montrose, just to make sure I made it, and get me to a radiator place.  I made it only to find out the next morning there was no real chance of getting it fixed in Montrose.  Further I had realised early on the AC was fracked, although I didn’t find out till later the AC radiator is in front of the engine radiator, and so had taken the brunt of it.  This had clearly caused the AC coolant to evaporate.  Eventually had to drive, very carefully to Colorado Spring to get the car fixed.

However this time all I was up for was to find a coffee shop to upload some stuff.  Spent the day preparing talks, and uploading things like the Phelps interview.  Rolled out in late afternoon towards Durango, and enroute I saw a sight!  An Old Friend from way back, Mount Sneffles.

Sneffles isn’t just one of Colorado’s 14 000 footers, its impressive.  Indeed when I first saw it, my first thought is, I have GOT to climb that thing!  Two days later I did 🙂 and it’s still one of my most fond memories of the West.  You really do feel on top of the world on that mountain, almost on a pillar with the ground dropping away on every side.  Looking down on one side to the jagged ridges of the Sneffles range, and on the other over the gentle hills to other distance mountain ranges of the Rockies.  The hike shattered me though.  You really need a 4×4 with high clearance to make it up to the trailhead (Yankee Boy Basin), and my polite, under-powered, and heavily laiden Little Blue NYer barely made it up the two wheel drive portion of the dirt road (and even that was incredibly hairy and touch and go!).  Still, one of the reasons I’ve been kitting the aerial video rigs up with HD cameras etc, and trying to get stuff sorted for remote piloting even at this obscene altitude is to fly from the top of Sneffles.  However while I hope to get up Sneffles before the end of this year, the time is not now.  I have a conference to prepare for and the I have to get my ass over to TAM (The Amazing Meeting) by saturday 😦 .