Earlier tonight I thanked Mary for locking herself out of her truck, and I wasn't being sarcastic. Her call ended up being a great stroke of luck for me when it came to catching tonight's Jupiter-Venus-Moon conjunction....(continued)
The call came as I was working in the studio. Mary wasn't far away, having stopped at our local gas station on her way home from a chiropractic appointment. Fortunately, she'd made her extra set of truck keys easily accessible, and soon after her call I hopped into my car and tooled the short distance to unlock her door. She proceeded to head home while I took a jog to the supermarket, now that I was on the road.
It was still light outside in late afternoon. I could see the crescent moon, but the planets hadn't peeked out yet. By the time I'd finished my shopping I could see the trio. My tripod was still at home, but I had my camera with me and took this shot freehand on the Auto setting:
Auto gave me a 1/30-second exposure at f/4.5. Venus is near bottom center. Jupiter is above and to the right of Venus.
When I got home minutes later I pulled my groceries out of the car. Mary put the food away as I raced for my tripod and set up on the driveway, clicking shot after shot on Manual while fiddling with aperture size and shutter speed. Four seconds is my camera's longest exposure time. Its aperture ranges from f/2.8 (wide-angle) and f/4.5 (telephoto) to f/8.
I wanted to catch the Moon's Earthshine (see this shot for an explanation of Earthshine) without making its crescent into a blob, and did pretty well for the most part. The shot at the top of this entry used a 3"2-second exposure at f/8.
The one below used a 4-second exposure at f/5.
I took this shot from the road by my house. Note the clouds on the horizon here. They completely covered the sky within a half hour of this shot. Note also that my neighbor's holiday lights aren't shining yet. Thanks to Mary's mishap I was out taking pictures earlier than I had planned.
How lucky is that? Here's the shot I took of the trio, with my roof in the foreground, using a 4-second exposure at f/5:
Here's a shot taken from that same location a half-hour later, with its balance altered so that I got something other than solid black on my screen:
That's Mary's silhouette on the driveway. I shone a flashlight on her to get my camera to focus, then asked her to hold still for the 4-second exposure. And about three hours after that shot, the sky opened up into a steady downpour.
According to the Abrams Planetarium Night Sky Notes, Venus and Jupiter are 2 degrees apart. "The three brightest objects in the night sky are within 4 degrees for this spectacular gathering." See this article at Space.com for more info.
I'd been keeping my fingers crossed that I could catch tonight's show, especially because the night of November 30 was a literal wash-out:
I took this balance-altered shot from my front porch, standing underneath the overhang during a steady drizzle.
Today I was heartened to get a message asking for permission (granted) to use several of my earlier shots in Ravi Dixit's article, "Smiling Moon of Hope Shines down on Mumbai," over at NowPublic. Reporting from Mumbai, Dixit writes, "It seems that the moon aided by the two planets are trying to give a message of hope and assuaging the injuries that the entire population of this bruised city suffered in the last few days." Indeed, when west of the planets, the crescent Moon appears in Dixit's photo as a smiling mouth and the planets appear as eyes. In the shots I took tonight, the Moon has moved east of the planets.
My shots took the lemon of a locked truck and made lemonade, but that doesn't compare with the power of Dixit's message.
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