Postcard from the Universe – The Moon and Mercury

A very thin Moon could be seen last night. Only 1.1 days old the Moon was only 1.6% illuminated, a thin crescent indeed. A few degrees away was Mercury. I did get a couple photos with a telephoto lens before the clouds moved in and obscured the view…

Moon and Mercury
A very thin, 1.1 day old Moon and the planet Mercury low in the sunset

Green Flash

It was a beautiful evening as I drove home from work. The clear air allowing appreciation of all five volcanoes that loom over South Kohala. Indeed, the horizon was completely clear, the island of Kaho╩╗olwe visible over 60 miles away.

As I drove I noted the Sun beginning to settle into the distant horizon. At the wheel I couldn’t look long enough to be certain, but I thought I saw an Etruscan vase effect as the solar disk made first contact with the horizon. Curiosity peaked, I pulled over to properly watch the end of sunset. A pleasant surprise rewarded my view, a decent green flash was apparent as the last glimmer vanished.

Better yet, the camera caught the effect as well. Of the dozens of sunsets I have stopped and watched, this was the best green flash seen yet from such a high elevation. Still, it was modest compared to a couple flashes I have seen from sea level. I can only wonder how good this evening’s flash was as seen from the shoreline, 2,000 feet below.

Green Flash
A modest green flash as seen from the Mamalahoa Highway outside Waimea, 1 Dec 2011

Mercury in the Sunset

Mercury
A crescent Mercury, 16Apr2010
Earlier this month, as Mercury was slipping back into the glare of the Sun, I had an opportunity to shoot some webcam material of the planet in hopes of getting an image of the crescent shape. The resulting image does not look like much, but I have to think it really isn’t all that bad.

The photo does represent Mercury fairly well, at least the normal view you get in a telescope. As the innermost planet does not get very far from the Sun, it is typically seen quite low on the horizon. This leads to poor views seen through a great deal of atmospheric distortion.

What the photo does not show is the chromatic distortion, this was corrected during processing of the photo. The atmosphere will also break up the color, refracting the light when an object is low on the horizon. The processing software allows realigning the color planes, correcting much of the effect.