Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Road Trip And More Alignments!

After the sad passing of Pixel, and with no medical appointments for a few days, we decided to hit the nearest beach to Tucson and visit our friend Margie in Puerto PeƱasco, Mexico last weekend. The 220 miles takes less than 5 hours with a couple stops for snacks and bathroom breaks, and the beach and Sea of Cortez is a nice break from the dry desert of Arizona. 

You may recall from my post way last week that in the western sky there was a very nice alignment of Mars, Venus and the Moon. That was on Friday night... Arriving late on Saturday afternoon, I headed down to the shore to catch the sunset and hopefully the next alignment phase.

Suffering from considerable clouds in the above post, I was hoping for better weather. Unfortunately, with a massive Winter weather system stretching across the southern parts of the country, our visit was marred by heavy winds, but variable clouds. The sunset, shown here, was quite spectacular. Of course, the only way to get a spectacular sunset is with clouds, but I'm always hopeful for clear spots... At left is part of a 5-frame mosaic showing the most colorful part of the sunset. The sun actually set behind the highest peaks of the mountains on the Baja peninsula, seen just between the sea and clouds. They are better seen in the nearly-full resolution image at right taken with a longer 100mm lens. Taken about 10 minutes later than the mosaic above, it shows the last light of the "second sunset" as the last bit of sun hit the distant clouds. The mountains, across the Sea of Cortez, are about 130 miles away.

The clouds played havoc a bit with imaging the alignment. First nearly the entire western sky was nearly hidden, but eventually they moved to the east, exposing first the planets, at their closest tonight, and the moon a little later... At left is the close pairing of Venus and Mars in the dim twilight (a 10 second exposure, taken 45 minutes after the sunset pics), with the Moon still partly hidden in clouds. Clicking on the full-size image shows there are lots of stars visible, so at right I've made an annotated version identifying the nearest objects to the pair. Note also that in the nearly 50 minutes since the twilight picture above, the tide was going out and is exposing the rocky bottom of my beachside location! A shrimp boat is also seen as a streak as it heads to port in the 10 second exposure.

What I really wanted to get was the 4th object in the solar system alignment! As shown in my Zodiacal Light post a week and a half ago, planet Uranus should be in the mix too! And sure enough, it was right next to the Moon. I had given up on catching it from the beach, and I was late for dinner - the girls were likely wondering where I was since I had left a good 90 minutes before. Just about the time I reached Margie's, the clouds finally cleared the Moon, and I took the image at left with kit lens and the on-camera flash for a bit of illumination on the palm tree across from Margie's house. The 6 second exposure shows the primary planetary pair and over-exposed moon, but right below it, the little greenish dot is the planet Uranus - a 4-way conjunction! I've included another annotated version at right to point it out.

We're back in Tucson now, and without internet in Mexico there was no way to post from there.  But I took over 400 images, so suspect I'll have another post or two to show you our Mexico adventure...

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