Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Planetary Dance Steps

The Moon, Venus, and Jupiter 1

I've continued to follow the Dance of the Planets, because I think it's cool the way Jupiter and Venus are slowly moving apart and changing angles to each other. The night following the triple conjunction, the Moon moved on toward different starry pastures. I took this shot from the road beside my house on December 2. Jupiter is almost directly to the right of and slightly above brighter Venus. You need to squint to see it here, but it's more visible in the large view.

More shots follow, including a conjunction series that shows the movement of the planets over time...(continued)

Jupiter and Venus will be within 5 degrees of each other through December 5. Says the Abrams Planetarium Night Sky Notes, "Jupiter is 2.6 degrees to the upper right of Venus. The Moon is more than 13 degrees to the upper left of the pair of bright planets. Look to the southwest an hour after sunset. The distance between Venus and Jupiter is now increasing. Each night, the two will be a little farther apart."

Here's a closer look at the three. The longer exposure brings out a bit of the Moon's Earthshine.

The Moon, Venus, and Jupiter 2

Here's how they looked above my house:

The Moon, Venus, and Jupiter 3

In Earthshine, the moon reflects light from two different sources. The thin crescent, such as that shown at left, is light reflected from the sun. In the image on the right, the larger, dimmer illumination, in which one can see some hint of the mares ("seas"), is reflected from the Earth, which itself is reflecting sunlight onto the moon. Hence the term "Earthshine." That dimmer illuminated part of the moon is doubly-reflected light.

Moon and Earthshine

I took the image at left at 5:51 PM ET, using a 1/40-second exposure at f/8. The image at right, taken 5 minutes later, uses a 4-second exposure at f/4.5.

That was on Tuesday night. The Moon's crescent had grown a bit by Wednesday.

Moon and Earthshine, 3 Dec. 2008

I took the image on the left at 5:44 PM ET, using a 1/30-second exposure at f/8. The image on the right, taken at 6:13 PM ET, uses a 4-second exposure at f/8.

The Moon's also put more distance between itself and the planets.

Moon, Venus, and Jupiter, 3 Dec. 2008

The planets are now 3.2 degrees apart. Note that while Jupiter was to the right and slightly above Venus on December 2, it has moved slightly below Venus on December 3.

Here's the series of dance steps, beginning on November 25 and continuing up through December 3.

Conjunction Series

Click here for the large view, here for full size. November 30 is missing on account of rain. Below each shot is the date and (where I know it) the apparent distance between Jupiter and Venus. You can see Venus start at around the 5 o'clock position if Jupiter were the center of a clock face, and then swing clockwise and closer to Jupiter, passing the 6, 7, 8, and just past the 9 o'clock position on December 3, by which time the distance between them has begun to increase. They'll be 4 degrees apart on December 4.

Says the Abrams site, "Even though the two planets look close to each other, the pair are very far from each other in space. Venus is about 92 million miles from the Earth. Jupiter is almost six times farther away from Earth at 542 million miles....Over the next few weeks, watch Venus climb higher in the sky while Jupiter drops lower. By the end of the year, Venus and Jupiter will be almost 30 degrees apart."

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