Venus Meets the Seven Sisters

The goddess of love meets the daughters of Atlas — it isn’t often we get to see such a sight!

This is brilliant Venus shining amid the stars of the Pleiades, on the evening of Tuesday, April 3, 2012, with Venus as close to the Seven Sisters star cluster as I can ever remember seeing.

Venus last passed near the Pleiades in April 2004 (though not as closely as it did tonight), and will again in April 2020, reflecting the 8-year periodicity of Venus’s return to the same place in the sky. Thus the 8-year interval between the June 2004 transit of Venus and the one this June in 2012.

I took this through a 92mm aperture refractor, but added the classic spikes of light (which you would normally get only when shooting through a Newtonian reflector telescope) by taping some wire in front of the lens. It’s a technique that’s strictly for show. Some high cloud moving in, supposedly in advance of a big spring snowstorm, added the glow around Venus.

This was one of many superlative Venus events this year. Enjoy the sight of Venus now that it is as high as it ever gets in our northern hemisphere evening sky. We won’t see it quite as good as this again until 2020.

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

The Wow Sky of Winter

The winter sky contains a lot of bright stars but none so bright as Venus and Jupiter now in the west.

This wide-angle shot takes in the evening sky from the duo of planets in the west (right) to Sirius shining brightly in the south (left), with Orion in between. Above and to the right of Orion sit the two big naked eye star clusters of winter: the scattered Hyades and the compact Pleiades.

This was the picture-perfect scene last Tuesday night when I shot other frames of just the planets over the house in the foothills of the Rockies near Bragg Creek, Alberta. This is the wider scene, bathed in the deep blue of twilight.

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


Conjunction over Calgary

For my continuing series of Venus-Jupiter conjunction shots, on Wednesday night I stayed in Calgary and shot the planets over the city skyline.

Here Venus and Jupiter shine in the clear evening twilight over the downtown core of the city, now dominated by the new Bow tower. I  didn’t have to venture far for this shot, as the best vantage point and angle for framing the planets over the city was the top of Tom Campbell Hill, right beside the TELUS Spark science centre where I work.

We’ll see if the clear nights continue. But it’s been a good run all this week. The last few blogs show the results from each night’s shooting since Saturday.

— Alan, March 14, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Mountains, Clouds and Planets, Oh My!

In another in my series of Venus & Jupiter nightscapes, I present this scenic portrait of the planets over a picture-perfect house in the foothills.

This was Tuesday, March 13 with the two planets at closest conjunction. I drove out to a favourite spot of mine, just south of Bragg Creek southwest of Calgary. The clouds hanging over the Rockies parted well enough to reveal the planet pair in the deep twilight and add other colours to the sky.

It was a stunning scene, one I’m sure the residents of the house were completely unaware of. The lights give that away. Wonderful scenery can be appreciated by night and by day.

— Alan, March 13, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Tilting at the Sky (with Venus & Jupiter)

Venus and Jupiter are the planets that just keep on giving! What a photogenic pairing they are proving to be this month.

Here they are behind one of the icons of the prairies, an old water pump windmill, made it would seem by the Flint and Walling Mfg. Co of Kendallville, Indiana, USA, probably in the 1930s or 40s. My area of southern Alberta was once considered too dry for agriculture and it was only irrigation that made the land livable. Individual farm pumps of the dustbowl era were replaced by a mega-project system of canals and reservoirs to water what is effectively a desert. And a windswept one. A blustery Chinook wind was blowing this night.

The pair of planets is at right, tonight in about as close a conjunction as they will get, about 3° apart. The Pleiades and Hyades star clusters in Taurus poke through the clouds at top. The night was quite hazy but the clouds added the yellow colour from Calgary streetlights in the distance. Natural twilight added the blues and purples. Car headlights lit the foreground.

— Alan, March 12, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Bridging Earth and Sky (Off to Venus and Jupiter)

This was the scene Sunday night, March 11, as Venus edged up to Jupiter in the evening twilight.

To capture the nightscape I hunted around for a spot along the Bow River near home and settled for a site on the banks of the river at the point called Blackfoot Crossing, the traditional heart of the Siksika First Nation land. Here, the Bow River runs north-south for a stretch and the highway crosses the river heading west into the evening twilight, as if off into the sky to meet Venus and Jupiter in conjunction.

I waited until a passing car added the streak of tail lights, heading off into the sunset and starry sky. Nightscapes like this are often best taken when the sky is fairly dark but a longer exposure still brings out the remaining colours of twilight, as well as fainter stars, to make an image enhanced from what the eye might have seen.

— Alan, March 11, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Venus and Jupiter Converge

Venus and Jupiter are getting closer! To each other that is.

This was the scene Saturday night, March 10, two days before Venus (on the right here) and Jupiter reach their close conjunction in the evening twilight sky. I’m amazed how high the pair of objects are at sunset, with Venus much higher in the sky than it normally appears. We haven’t seen Venus as well as this since 2004.

This is a scenic prairie nightscape, with some ramshackle buildings from a 1940s vintage farmstead near my house serving as a foreground setting for the sky scene above. Headlights from a passing car provided some handy and warm illumination to contrast with the cold blue above.

— Alan, March 10, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer