Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Continuing Conjunction

The last couple weeks, I've been posting about the approaching planetary conjunction, then close approach while in Mexico.  With so many parties involved (Venus, Mars, Uranus), the conjunction continues as their motions reposition them in the sky.  Tonight I took a break from TV viewing and shot another perspective.  Mars' slower motion can't keep up with Venus' sprint away from the sun, so is now far below Venus.  And much more distant Uranus, 10 degrees above Venus just 10 days ago, was passed yesterday and is now below.  The shot at left shows it in a 4 second exposure with an 85mmm lens against my neighbor's palm trees.  I'm hoping the palm fronds make our friends reading from colder northern and eastern parts of the country feel a little warmer.

A few of you might well ask how I keep track of where things are.  Well, certainly the brighter planets have a characteristic "look", and they move slowly enough that from week-to-week or even month-to-month they can easily be tracked.  Uranus and Neptune I don't even try to keep track of, and I need to look up their position when seeking them.  Fortunately, there are tools!  The most helpful one I use is the sky map feature on "heavens-above".  After entering your location on the earth, a full-sky map can be generated.  When clicking on an area of interest, an enlarged image such as shown at left appears, with the date and time set to whenever you want or anticipate making an observation.  With this as a guide, Uranus was simple to pick out of the nearly equally-bright background stars.

Of course, this is when I ask you to spot the 4th planet in the top images in the post.  Before you squint too hard, you should know the palm trees are on planet Earth, and should clearly count when taking a multiple-planet conjunction image!

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