Venus and Jupiter now appear as a brilliant “double star” in the evening sky.
This was the scene last night, Sunday, June 28, as the two brightest planets in the sky appeared close to each other in the evening twilight.
I shot the scene from the eastern shore of Little Fish Lake at a Provincial Park in southern Alberta bordering on the Handhills Conservation Area which preserves northern native prairie grasses and an abundance of bird and wildlife species.
The planetary conjunction culminates on June 30, when they will appear very close to each other (less than a Moon diameter apart), creating the best evening conjunction of 2015.
Look west on June 30 after sunset to see a brilliant “double star” in the dusk.
They’ve been building to this conjunction all month. On Tuesday, June 30 Venus and Jupiter appear at their closest in a stunning pairing in the evening twilight.
That night the two worlds – the two brightest planets in the sky – appear just 20 arc minutes apart.
That’s 1/3rd of a degree and is less than a Moon diameter. That’s so close you’ll be able to fit both planets into a high-magnification telescope field. However, it’s not so close that you won’t still be able to resolve the two worlds with your unaided eyes as separate objects shining in the twilight. In the chart above the circle is a binocular field.
Their proximity is merely an illusion. Venus and Jupiter lie along the same line of sight to us, but in fact are 825 million kilometres apart in space.
If Tuesday looks to be cloudy, good consolation nights are June 29 and July1 – Canada Day! – when Venus and Jupiter will be separated by 40 arc minutes – double their separation on June 30, but still very impressive.
The last time we saw Venus and Jupiter close together in the evening sky was in mid-March 2012, when I shot the photo above. But at that time they passed a wide 3 degrees apart. This week they are just a fraction of a degree apart.
They’ll meet again later this year, but in the morning sky, on October 25, when Venus and Jupiter pass one degree from each other.
On June 22 I shot the great all-sky aurora with three cameras all shooting time-lapse frames. Here’s the result!
The rapidly moving and astonishing patterns of the aurora are ideal for time-lapse photography. Except for a total eclipse of the Sun, nothing else in the sky changes with such dramatic and jaw-dropping intensity.
For the June 22 outbreak of Northern Lights across the sky, I shot some 2,200 frames, and assembled them into the time-lapse compilation here.
One sequence records the entire sky and the complete development of the display, from when it first appeared in twilight about 11:15 p.m., to when it faded into a diffuse glow across the sky by 1:15 a.m. I shot that sequence with an 8mm fish-eye lens, to capture a scene suitable for projection in a digital planetarium theatre.
I shot the other sequences with 15mm and 24mm lenses. All total, the 3-minute movie comes from about 50 gigabytes of images.
Aurora watchers were on alert! Look up after sunset on June 22 and the sky should be alive with dancing lights.
And the predictions were right.
I headed out to a nearby lake in preparation for seeing and shooting the show. And as soon as the sky got dark enough the Lights were there, despite the bright solstice twilight.
The display reached up to the zenith, as seen in my fish-eye images, like the one below. I shot with three cameras, all shooting time-lapses, with the fish-eye camera recording the scene suitable for projection in a digital planetarium.
However, it was apparent we here in western Canada were seeing the end of the display that had been going on for hours during an intense geomagnetic storm. The aurora was most intense early in the evening, with a minor outburst about 11:30 to 11:45 pm MDT.
The aurora then subsided in structure and turned into a more chaotic pulsating display, typical of the end of a sub-storm.
However, an attraction of this display was its juxtaposition over another storm, an earthly one, flashing lightning to the northwest of me.
By 1 a.m. MDT the display, while still widespread over a large area of the northern sky, had turned into a diffuse glow.
But 60 gigabytes of images later, I headed home. The time-lapse compilation will come later!
The summer solstice sky was filled with twilight glows, planets, and dancing Northern Lights.
What a magical night this was. The evening started with the beautiful sight of the waxing crescent Moon lined up to the left of the star Regulus, and the planets Jupiter and Venus (the brightest of the trio), all set in the late evening twilight.
They are all reflected in the calm waters of a prairie lake.
I shot the above photo about 11 p.m., as late a twilight as we’ll get. From here on, after solstice, the Sun sets sooner and the sky darkens earlier.
Later, about 12:30 a.m., as predicted by aurora apps and alert services, a display of Northern Lights appeared on cue to the north. It was never very bright to the eye, but the camera nicely picks up the wonderful colours of a solstice aurora.
At this time of year the tall curtains reaching up into space catch the sunlight, with blue tints adding to the usual reds fringing the curtain tops, creating subtle shades of magenta and purple.
The display made for a photogenic subject reflected in the lake waters.
The three brightest objects in the night sky gathered into a tidy triangle in the twilight.
On Friday night, June 19, I chased around my area of southern Alberta, seeking clear skies to capture the grouping of the waxing crescent Moon with Venus and Jupiter.
My first choice was the Crawling Valley reservoir and lake, to capture the scene over the water. I got there in time to get into position on the east side of the lake, and grab some shots.
This was the result, but note the clouds! They were moving in quickly and soon formed a dramatic storm front. By the time I got back to the car and changed lenses, I was just able to grab the panorama below before the clouds engulfed the sky, and the winds were telling me to leave!
I drove west toward home, taking a new highway and route back, and finding myself back into clear skies, as the storm headed east. I stopped by the only interesting foreground element I could find to make a composition, the fence, and grabbed the lead photo.
Both it, and the second image, are “HDR” stacks of five exposures, to preserve detail in the dark foreground and bright sky.
It was a productive evening under the big sky of the prairies.
The stars circle the bright northern sky at solstice time over the Alberta Badlands.
I spent the evening and well into the night on Monday shooting at a favourite spot, Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta. The result of about an hour of shooting around midnight is the circumpolar star trail composite at top.
It shows the stars spinning about Polaris, while the northern horizon is rimmed with the bright glow of all-night twilight.
Particularly bright in the northwest are noctilucent clouds low on the horizon. These are high-altitude clouds near the edge of space catching the sunlight streaming over the pole at this time of year.
They are a phenomenon unique to the weeks around solstice, and for our latitudes on the Canadian Prairies.
The close-up shot above shows their intricate wave-like formation and pearly colour. They faded though the night as the Sun set for the clouds. But they returned in the pre-dawn light.
If you live at mid-northern latitudes, keep an eye out for these clouds of solstice over the next month. It’s now their peak season.