Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Astronomical Disappointment

When going out to observe, I've forgotten key pieces of gear, had transportation issues, and had equipment problems that have prevented observing. But rarely, does it seem, that you get clouded out here! True, it is cloudy occasionally, but you can generally wait a day or two and get out to look at that comet or collect a night under the stars.

This morning, however, waking up early to observe the lunar occultation of Venus, There was a thick cloud exactly where the crescent Moon slowly moved over the smaller crescent Venus in the dawn sky. In the picture at left, the thickest part of the cloud is where the moon was located. By the time a clear spot finally passed over, Venus was already hidden behind the Moon's disk (right image). If I was located a couple miles to the west, it might have been a great image!

Believing that when life deals you lemons, make some lemonade - I walked over to neighbor Jack's yard to check on some cacti I was shooting yesterday to see if the blooms had opened - they had! These normally diminutive-looking cacti had some huge flower buds, and opened to nearly 5 inches diameter during the night. Most native cacti open during the day and an individual flower only lasts that one day. I shot a sequence of it yesterday afternoon, hoping to make an animated gif of it opening, but other than the buds slowly tracking the sun, they made no attempt to open, though it was obvious that after returning from dinner last night, it would be a morning debut. I shot another sequence this morning, to see if the other buds would open, but again, little or no daytime activity. Like astronomers, they must be mostly active at night!

So walking home after collecting the gear from Jack's yard, I went looking for the Moon in a cloud gap and was able to spot Venus next to it, now some distance to the west (the moon moves about it's diameter in an hour). I grabbed my little Meade scope and was able to grab a shot before being swallowed by clouds again - be sure to click the image to enlarge it and see the little crescent of Venus. You can also immediately notice how much brighter the clouds of Venus are than the dirt of the Moon. I'll look on the 'net to see if i can find a good occultation pic to post later...

1 comment:

Shannon and Alex said...

Sigh. I'm so glad to have you for my uncle so I can learn all this stuff.