Old Moon Waning

It’s been a season of crescents. A crescent Sun in eclipse. A crescent Venus before and after transit. But this is the more familiar Moon.

I caught the waning crescent Moon rising before the dawn on Saturday, June 16, after an all-night shooting session amid the summer twilight. As dawn was breaking, the Moon rose in the east and drifted through clouds near the horizon.

Here, the glow of Earthshine lighting up the dark night side of the Moon  appears just a little brighter than the twilight sky.

This is an “old Moon,” as at this phase the Moon is three days before new, at age 26 days. At new moon, the Moon is “reborn” and appears anew as a crescent in the evening sky.

— Alan, June 16, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Venus: 6 Degrees of Separation

This was my first look at Venus following Tuesday’s transit. Here, it’s just six degrees west of the Sun as a thin crescent in the afternoon sky. It was a beautiful sight in the eyepiece, far enough away from the Sun to not be in its glare but close enough to still appear as a razor-thin backlit crescent.

Each day now Venus is widening the gap between it and the Sun, shortly to become a brilliant morning star in the eastern sky before dawn through the rest of June, July and August.

I shot these images in broad daylight through a 130mm f/6 refractor. The big image is a full-frame shot with the Canon 60Da and a 2X Barlow lens, for an effective focal length of about 1500mm. The inset is a single frame grabbed from a 30-frame-per-second movie shot with the Canon in its Movie Crop mode, which yields a high-magnification view suitable for planet shooting, but only 640 x 480 pixels. But this mode is certainly ideal for capturing planets, though none ever appear as large as Venus is here. This is an uncommon instance of Venus as close and as large as any planet gets.

— Alan, June 9, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Transit of Venus: From One Cloudy Planet to Another

The day looked hopeless with not a chance of clear skies. But a small hole opened, revealing Venus on the Sun.

I had seen this sight before, in 2004 from Egypt. But my first reaction upon seeing it again, albeit briefly, was [Expletive Deleted]!!! No photos really provide the visual impression of just how enormous Venus appears on the Sun. We’re used to sunspots (and there were lots today) and some quite large. But nothing we ever see on the Sun matches the size of Venus. The eyepiece impression is of something much larger than the photos show. It’s like Moon illusion at work on the Sun.

It had been hopelessly cloudy all day in Calgary. Interpretive obligations over at the science centre (where we showed the NASA webcast from Hawaii), I hit the highway in search of a clear hole … and found one northeast of the city, one at first that seemed to be wide and stable. I stopped, looked with the filtered naked eye, then drove on seeking slightly less cloud, getting greedy! I should have stopped sooner. By the time I did stop  and hurriedly set up the little 80mm refractor telescope, I had about 30 seconds for a great clean view, then switched to the camera. By the time I got it set, clouds were coming out of nowhere and thickening fast. I couldn’t shoot through the solar filter. This is a filterless shot, at 1/8000th second! Clouds provided the natural filtration. Fine! At least I got the camera focused, for a crisp view of Venus next to the clusters of sunspots, something no one alive has seen — in 2004 the Sun was virtually spotless.

So, not a view or photo under the best of conditions, but an experience I am happy to settle for. Now, I just want clear skies in Australia for November’s total solar eclipse. Please!!

— Alan, June 5, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


A Prairie Partial Eclipse

This was the kind of eclipse chasing I like — just to the end of my driveway … to shoot the partial eclipse of the Moon before dawn on June 4.

While the car is all packed with gear for a possible flight or cross-country chase to clear skies to catch the Venus transit tomorrow, the lunar eclipse required no travel at all. Not that I was going to make too much effort at 4 am!

While some clouds got in the way, a clear hole opened up at the right time, with the remaining clouds adding a photogenic touch. I’m hoping to be as lucky for the transit!

This was just a partial lunar eclipse, with only 37 percent of the Moon immersed in the Earth’s umbral shadow at mid-eclipse, shortly after this image was taken. Even so, some of the reddening of the shadowed portion of the Moon’s disk does show up here.

I shot this from southern Alberta with a Canon 60Da and an 18-200mm lens at 115mm to frame the Moon and prairie landscape.

— Alan, June 4, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Somewhere … Over the Rainbow

This wonderful rainbow lasted only a few minutes, as most do, shining in the brief interval when sunlight and raindrops are at their combined best.

I captured this rainbow off the back deck, on June 2, as a storm receded to the east and the Sun broke through in the west, ideal circumstances for catching a rainbow, at least photographically.

This was a classic bow, showing the inner main bow and the fainter outer secondary bow with colours reversed. The sky is bright inside the the inner bow from scattered light from the raindrops, and darker between the two bows where there is an absence of scattered light, a phenomenon called Alexander’s Dark Band after the ancient Greek astronomer who first described it.

I used a Canon 60Da and 10-22mm lens for this, at 10mm for wide-angle coverage of almost the entire rainbow.

— Alan, June 3, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


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