Venus and Jupiter

The two brightest planets in the sky will join up for a dance spanning several days starting this evening. Looking up tonight you will see the pair about 5° apart, with the dimmer Jupiter above Venus. Over the next few days they will slide closer, arriving at their closest approach on March 13th, with about 3&deg separation. The pair will remain close for several evenings, on the 14th the distance will have widened to just over 3° and on the 15th the separation will be 3.5°. This is the last dance of the February-March planetary alignment, after this the dancers will go their separate ways.

Venus and Jupiter

Tonight the two brightest planets in the sky will be almost exactly 3° apart. Jupiter will be shining at a brilliant -2.1 magnitude, even that will be outshone by Venus at an even more brilliant -4.3 magnitude. At 3° separation the pair will fit together in the field of a pair of binoculars or a rich-field telescope. If you miss tonight the pair will remain close for several nights, only 3°11′ apart tomorrow night, and 3°34′ apart on March 15th.

Take a look, it will be hard to miss these two brilliant planets high in the evening sky.

Finding Venus in the Daytime

It is possible to see planets in the daytime. Both Jupiter and Venus are bright enough to see fairly easily in full daylight if conditions are right. You need to know where and how to look, but once glimpsed they are fairly easily seen. It is the knowing how that makes it possible. Try these simple hints…

  • Try when the planets are far from the glare of the Sun, in the first hours after dawn or last hours of the day are best.
  • Clean air is necessary. If the air is hazy, dusty or smoggy it will hide the planets from view, particularly when near the Sun. There will just be too much solar glare to pick out the planet. For the same reason try when the planet is high in the sky and you are looking through much less air.
  • The human eye will relax and defocus if there is nothing to focus on. This happens when looking at a plain expanse of blue sky. You could be looking right at the planet and not see it. A few puffy clouds around, or better yet, the Moon, will give the eye something to focus on, allowing the planet to be easily seen.
  • Put the Sun out of sight to reduce glare. Simply position yourself in the shadow of a tree or building to get a better view.
  • Pick a day when the Moon is near the object you are looking for, it will provide a simple signpost to the correct location.

It is this last hint that can be particularly useful today. Venus is about 4° degrees south of the Moon this afternoon. If you can find the Moon in the late afternoon check just below it and to the left for Venus. The planet will be about a eight lunar diameters away from the Moon, seen as a bright star-like object. Tomorrow it will be Jupiter’s turn, and you can try again to see a planet in the daytime.

Have a try.

A Line of Bright Planets in the Evening

A nice lineup of three bright planets will be forming in the sunset over the next couple weeks. There will be three bright planets, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, and a faint planet in the lineup, Uranus. Together they will nicely outline the ecliptic in the evening sky.

Tonight you can see this lineup taking shape, looking low, just above the glare of the setting Sun you might pick out Mercury. It is only 10° from the sun this evening, but getting higher each day. High above, Venus and Jupiter can not be missed, Venus at about 40° elevation at sunset, with Jupiter even higher at 60° elevation. Venus shines much brighter than Jupiter at about -4.2 magnitude while Jupter is only -2.3 magnitude. Uranus is hiding about halfway between Mercury and Venus at a mere 5.9 magnitude.

Over the next two weeks Mercury will climb higher, reaching maximum elongation on March 5th. At the same time Jupiter and Venus will draw closer, having a separation of about 9° on the 5th. The pair will be closest on March 13th, at about 3° separation. As March slips by, Mercury will drop back into the Sun’s glare and Jupiter and Venus will separate once again. Still, the bright pair dominating the evening sky through much of the month.

While the lineup is still prominent, the Moon will swing through the alignment from February 22nd to the 27th. On February 22nd a 1.8% illuminated Moon will pair up with Mercury, just 6° away. On the 24th and 25th the Moon will sidle up to Venus, under 5° away on the 25th. On the 26th the Moon will be near Jupiter, with under 4° away and 25% illuminated.

One last dance of the alignment will occur on March 25th when a crescent Moon will join Jupiter and Venus. The planets will be about 10° apart with a 11% illuminated Moon in between them. A very nice trio indeed.

Late February and much of March will be a nice show for sky watchers. Make a point to get out and look!

Postcard from the Universe – Jupiter and Moons

A nice image of Jupiter with the moons (left to right) Europa, Ganymede and Io. Taken early Sunday morning from Hale Pohaku. Conditions were quite nice, both for photography and simply observing by eyeball through the telescopes set up.

The telescope used is not mine, but belongs to fellow club member, Maureen. We had just collimated the ‘scope, aligning the optics for optimum performance. I wondered just how good the performance might be. The answer? Pretty good!

I used the Canon 60D to shoot the video. The ‘scope was a Celestron 9.25″SCT operating at f/10. The camera has a 640×420 cropped video mode that is ideal for this sort of use. Shooting at 60fps it generates very high quality video.

The frame is a stack of 900 frames selected from well over 1500 frames in the source video. The result is quite pleasing, particularly the moons. Three of the four large Jovian moons are visible. They appear as disks, with the larger Ganymede notably bigger than the smaller Io. The disk of Jupiter shows good color and cloud formations. Overall the result is excellent and shows the promise of using the DSLR to shoot planetary video. I will be experimenting with this method and expect even better results in the future.

Jupiter and the moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (left-right)