Thursday, August 21, 2014

Close Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, August 18, 2014

I've been waking up earlier for work with my longer commute from Noblesville, this made it easy to spot the progression of Venus and Jupiter in the sky at 6:08am. On August 16 I saw bright Venus to the upper right of fainter Jupiter, and on August 18 they had switched positions with Jupiter slightly to the right of Venus. It was rather hazy, and I'm glad I saw the pair at all in the yellow pre-dawn glow.

venus and jupiter august 18 conjunction
Single exposure, T5i, f/4.5, 1.6 sec, ISO 400, 135mm

From our perspective, the two were less than 1/2° apart (17 arcminutes according to Stellarium, but at those distances who knows how precise that is). I believe it's the closest conjunction I've seen. Another good one was the Mercury/Mars conjunction in February 2013 that was 22 arcminutes according to Stellarium.

venus and jupiter august 18 conjunction
Single exposure, T5i, f/5.6, 0.8 sec, ISO 1600, 300mm

venus and jupiter august 18 conjunction
Single exposure, T5i, f/4.5, 1.6 sec, ISO 400, 135mm

jupiter venus conjunction august 2014
Single exposure, T5i, f/5.6, 3.2 sec, ISO 400, 55mm

I didn't realize it at the time, but upon closer inspection you can actually make out 3 of Jupiter's moons in my image at 300mm. With the moons to show a little scale, you can tell just how close together the two bodies appear to be! If you read the labels backwards you get a photo of "Jupiter Moons Venus"...

jupiter moons venus

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Venus and Jupiter Morning Conjunction, August 2014

Venus and Jupiter are moving toward each other (from our perspective) and will be very close 45 minutes before sunrise on August 18, 2014 (less than 1/2˚ separation). The pair will rise to the East, so if you want to look for them, find a location with an unobstructed view of the horizon.

We are supposed to have clouds the next few days, but here is Venus (brighter) and Jupiter on August 15 at 6:09am.

venus and jupiter conjunction in the morning
Single exposure, T5i, ISO 400, 55mm, f/5.6, 3.2 sec
Update: I was able to catch the super close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter a few days later on August 18.

Nice Perseid Meteor Capture and Perseid Candidate Analysis

I knew the Perseid meteor shower was coming up, but frankly because of the recent Supermoon I wasn't giving it much thought. On August 12 I was taking Katie out in the middle of the night and inspecting my recently planted linden tree to see if it was improving. While I was looking up I noticed a quick meteor flash high in the sky to the north.

The next night, the night of August 13, I looked at my Scope Nights app to see if it would be clear - but the icon was red so I mentally planned on not going out that night. It wasn't until I took Katie out again that night that I noticed the sky was perfectly clear with a bright moon high to the south. I looked at the app again and noticed that the forecast was for clear skies but that the icon was red because of the moonlight.

In any case, I decided that a clear sky to the north (which happened to be the best direction for observing the Perseids) was worth a shot setting my camera out to try to capture something. I set my camera up on the back patio so it hopefully wouldn't get stolen (we're building a fence soon).

I woke up in a hurry for work, but eagerly put my memory card into my computer and began sifting through the 555 photos. I found a handful of meteor candidates, and two very clear very bright meteor streaks!

bright perseid meteor
Close crop from larger image, T5i, ISO 800, 18mm, f/4, 15 sec, contrast in Photoshop

bright perseid meteors
2 frames aligned, T5i, ISO 800, 18mm, f/4, 15 sec, contrast in Photoshop

These two bright meteors have a javelin shape and irregular colors, they did not have trails on the frames before or after (ruling out many satellites), and the best evidence is that they are pointing to the anticipated radiant point. These are the real thing! Because they happened in two consecutive frames, we know they lit up within 30 seconds of each other - this makes them great tools for backtracking to the radiant point.

identify perseid meteor candidate
Single frame with T5i, ISO 800, 18mm, f/4, 15 sec, contrast in Photoshop

Now let's look at a candidate Perseid meteor - a faint streak of light that we're not so sure about. It could be a satellite, or another meteor unrelated to the Perseids. How can we find out? First, I look to see if there are any lines in the frames before or after. If this 15 second exposure is of a satellite, there should be a continuation of the path in the adjacent frames - but there isn't. Ok, it might be a meteor, but is it a Perseid? Let's look at the paths.

identify perseid meteor candidate
3 frames aligned, T5i, ISO 800, 18mm, f/4, 15 sec, contrast in Photoshop

Here's the candidate overlayed onto the confirmed meteor photo. Notice how the paths of the two bright meteors meet right where we expected the radiant to be. This candidate appears to be originating from the same point - so it's very possible that this is also a faint Perseid.

identify perseid meteor candidate
Single frame with T5i, ISO 800, 18mm, f/4, 15 sec, contrast in Photoshop

Now what about this little guy? A faint streak in the sky with no trails in the frames before or after. Sounds like a meteor - but is it a Perseid? It is certainly in Perseus, but the angle of the origin is a little off. It should look like it's flying out of the radiant point, but instead it looks more like it's cutting across Perseus. I'm not sure sure about this one - It's in the right general orientation but not quite.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Connect Four: Saturn Moon Mars Spica Alignment

Chris and I were taking an evening walk around the neighborhood when we saw this alignment of 4 bright objects, starting with Saturn in the top left connecting through the moon to Mars and Spica further to the bottom right.

saturn moon mars spica alignment
Canon T5i, ISO 400, 33mm, f/5.6, 5 sec, edited in iPhoto

saturn moon mars spica alignment

iPhoto Trying to Tag the Man in the Moon as a Recognized Face

I was going through my iPhoto library and noticed that the application was trying to tag the moon as a recognized face. The face came up as "unnamed" but must have look enough like a face to trigger the face identification tool. 

It reminded me of a recent episode of Big Picture Science, in which Greg Borenstein discusses how facial recognition technology uses algorithms to identify faces, and sometimes sees digital pareidolia. 

Screenshot of iPhoto trying to tag a face in the Moon

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