Coming back home from work, I was disheartened by the buildup of high thin clouds to the west. Mercury is putting on a great show in the evening, and as an amateur astronomer, I'd always rather it be perfectly clear. But as I've said before, clear sunsets are a little boring, and sure enough, we had a beauty as the sun hit the horizon. Of course, at that "first" sunset, the sky was too bright to see diminutive Mercury, but 40 minute or so later, we had a "second" sunset - the thin clouds that were still around were showing all the beautiful subtle colors from earlier, now needing a longer exposure. Of course, that is what was needed for the innermost planet too. At left is a 2.5 second exposure with the 17-85mm kit lens set to 73mm focal length at F/6.3. Tough to see in the small image, clicking on it will load a full-screen size and Mercury as well as a few stars pop out.
Those stars hold my interest as on Friday night (31 January), Mercury is at greatest elongation from the sun. In addition, the very thin crescent Moon will be a few degrees away, and for a bonus, the most distant planet Neptune will also be a bit above Mercury in the same narrow frame! Now it was almost 11 months ago I caught Comet PanSTARRS and the Moon next to Uranus. In the picture above, if you look at the full-size image, the 5.5 magnitude 38 Aquarii (about as bright as Uranus) is a little above Mercury's 11 o'clock position. Neptune is fainter still and might be a tough catch, though I'm going to give it the college try. Check here to see if I succeed!
EDIT: A pretty sunset tonight (Friday, 31 January), but way too socked in with clouds to try for the triple conjunction. Though the moon won't be nearby the next few days, I may still try for the Mercury/Neptune conjunction...
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Credit where credit is due...
All photos are by Dean and Melinda Ketelsen - even the really cool astrophotography ones. Granted, some pics have come from the Internet...such as pictures of actors, or of Miss Tohono O'odham, etc. However, the astronomy pics, as well as the bird pics are all original - compliments of Dean, and sometimes Melinda too! Layout, editing, and continual tweaking (I think they call that "desk top publishing"), well, that would be the work of "I know I can make this better" Melinda!