Sunday, January 4, 2015

An Alignment Scout Trip!

I'll bet you thought with the solstice sunset alignment with Kitt Peak 10 days ago that that stuff would be over for the season, but you would be wrong!  Again, based on my daily astronomical on-line reading, I "discovered" that in a week or so Mercury and Venus would have a lovely close conjunction in a week or so.  Knowing that Venus is in about the right spot to catch it behind Kitt Peak (again!) from the Mount Lemmon Highway, it was time to hit the road for another sunset!  Also, it is about the last field trip I'll be taking with the ole' Ford '88 van with the smashed-in rear end.  I take it and sign it over to the insurance company Wednesday...

Anyway, I made it out to "Bad Dog" over look (Babad Do'ag  for sticklers...) at about milepost 3 on the Mount Lemmon Highway just in time to catch the sunset.  Shown at left, it went down about 2 degrees south of where it needs to intersect the Observatory.  According to my calculations, for those who might want to observe the alignment of the sunset w/Kitt Peak at this lower location, rather than the one near MP9, Friday the 16th is the day to be at the "Bad Dog" overlook.  It moves much more every day than near start of Winter, so you only get the one chance on this side of solstice.

But I didn't come today for the sunset, only to get there before it got dark to get setup!  BTW, with snow atop Mount Lemmon, the highway was packed with cars heading down.  Luckily I had this lower overlook mostly to myself most of my 80 minutes there.  Venus popped out shortly after sunset, and about 10 minutes later, Mercury was spotted below the brighter planet.  Still a few degrees apart, by this next weekend they are less than a degree apart.  Waiting for it get dark enough to have it stand out from the sky and get a little lower with Tucson's city lights as well, it is shown at left.  That is Venus above and Mercury mostly below it and a little to the right.  I waited another 10 minutes to catch it just before Mercury set behind the Quinlan Mountains.  While the sky is darker, the rising Full Moon behind me helps light up the "A" of "A" Mountain, and in fact, the telescopes atop Kitt Peak have the pale illumination due to the moon.  In the next few days, Mercury will rise up nearly to the height of Venus and both will move to the right a couple degrees, so should be a pretty pair directly above the Observatory.  Perhaps I'll see you there!

I also had time to take a 5-frame mosaic of the pretty lights of Tucson with Kitt Peak in the background.  Down-sampled here to the 1600 pixel-wide maximum, you can't see a lot of the details of the original mosaic, but you can perhaps see why I do them to keep the details of the original files...  I also took a time-lapse of the twilight including the swiftly moving clouds...  Perhaps I'll be doing something with that soon.  I guess I'm just easily entertained!

1 comment:

John Dolby said...

Thanks, Dean! Got clouded out on Christmas Eve, so it was nice to have another opportunity. The Babad Do'ag site gives Kitt Peak a very slightly larger footprint but I managed to get one exposure that caught the full span from solar tower to 4-meter. Your prediction was spot on for the 16th.