Double “Star” in the Dusk

Venus and Jupiter on June 28, 2015 approaching a close conjunction two nights later, as seen over the water of Little Fish Lake Provincial Park, Alberta in the evening twilight. Venus is the brighter of the pair. This is an HDR stack of 3 exposures with the Canon 60Da and 16-35mm lens. The long exposure blurs the ripples and waves on the water.

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.

Venus and Jupiter on June 28, 2015 approaching a close conjunction two nights later, as seen over the water of Little Fish Lake Provincial Park, Alberta in the evening twilight. Venus is the brighter of the pair. Some subtle crepuscular rays from cloud shadows are at right. This is an HDR stack of 3 exposures with the Canon 60Da and 16-35mm lens.
Venus and Jupiter on June 28, 2015 approaching a close conjunction two nights later, as seen over the water of Little Fish Lake Provincial Park, Alberta in the evening twilight. Venus is the brighter of the pair. Some subtle crepuscular rays from cloud shadows are at right. This is an HDR stack of 3 exposures with the Canon 60Da and 16-35mm lens.

More details are in my previous blog post. 

– Alan, June 29, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer /

Heads Up! The Great Evening Conjunction of 2015

June 30 Jupiter & Venus

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.

Venus and Jupiter behind old farm water pump windmill, taken March 12, 2012 near home on Glenmore Trail road east of Langdon. Car headlights provide the illumination. Taken with a Canon 5D MkII at ISO 400 and 16-35mm lens at f/4 and 26mm for 20 seconds. A mixture of twilight and light pollution on thin cluds provided the sky colours. Pleiades and Hyades also visible.

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.

– Alan, June 28, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer /

Reflections of Solstice Planets and Northern Lights

The evening planets of Venus (right) and Jupiter (left), to the right of the waxing crescent Moon on the evening of summer sosltice, June 21, 2015. The star Regulus is to the upper right of the Moon, between Jupiter and the Moon. The view is overlooking Crawling Lake in southern Alberta. This is an HDR stack of 5 exposures to retain detail in the bright twilight sky and the dark foreground.

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.

An aurora display on the evening of summer solstice, June 21, 2015, overlooking Crawling Valley Reservoir in southern Alberta. This is one frame of 360 shot as part of a time-lapse, each frame being 15 seconds at f/2.5 with the 24mm lens, and with the Canon 6D at ISO 3200.

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.

– Alan, June 22, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer / 

A Twilight Triangle of Worlds

The waxing crescent Moon below Venus and fainter Jupiter above, with the three worlds forming a triangle in the twilight, on the evening of June 19, 2015, from a site north of Bassano, Alberta. This is an HDR stack of 5 exposures to retain detail in the dark foreground and bright twilight sky. This is with the 50mm lens and Canon 6D.

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.

The waxing crescent Moon below Venus and dimmer Jupiter above, all over Crawling Lake Reservoir, in southern Alberta, on June 19, 2015. This is a 5-exposure HDR stack to preserve deatails in the dark foreground and bright sky. Shortly after I took this shot clouds from an approaching storm front obscured the planets and the sky.

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!

A wicker looking storm front moving in quickly over the Crawling Lake Reservoir in southern Alberta. I had just a few minutes to get set up for this after shooting the gathering of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter in the evening twilight from a nearby spot. Then clouds soon covered the planets. By the time I got back to the car to change lenses the storm front was almost on top of me. I grabbed segments for this panorama using a 24mm lens and Canon 6D. While the outflow winds really picked up, the storm didn’t amount to much and cleared off shortly after as it moved to the east from the northwest.

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.

– Alan, June 20, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer /

Venus and Jupiter Converging

Venus (right) and Jupiter (centre), on June 12, 2015, as they are converging toward a close conjunction on June 30, 2015. The star Regulus is at left, left of the windmill. Photographed from an old farm yard north of Vulcan, Alberta. This is an HDR-stack of 3 exposures to record detail in the ground and sky. Shot with the Canon 60Da and 16-35mm lens.

Each night, Venus and Jupiter are converging closer, heading toward conjunction on June 30.

This was Venus (right) and Jupiter (centre) with Regulus at left, in a cloudy twilight sky on Friday, June 12, as Venus and Jupiter converge toward their close conjunction in the evening sky on June 30.

Be sure to watch each night as the two brightest planets in the sky creep closer and closer together. Mark June 19 and 20 on your calendar, as that’s when the waxing crescent Moon will join the duo.

I shot this from near Vulcan, Alberta, after delivering an evening program at the Trek Centre in Vulcan as a guest speaker. Clouds prevented us from seeing anything in the sky at the public event, but on my way home skies cleared enough to reveal the two bright planets in the twilight.

I stopped at an abandoned farmyard I had scouted out earlier in the evening, to serve as a photogenic backdrop.

This is a high dynamic range stack of three bracketed exposures, one stop apart, to record detail in both the dark foreground as well as in the bright sky.

— Alan, June 13, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer /

September Dawn

Here was the scene on September 12, with Venus and the Moon in conjunction in the dawn sky.

Orion stands above the trees, and at top is Jupiter amid the stars of Taurus. The star Sirius is just rising below Orion. And both the Moon, here overexposed of necessity, and Venus shine together below the clump of stars called the Beehive star cluster in Cancer. This was quite a celestial panorama in the morning twilight.

This is a stack of two 2-minute exposures taken just as dawn’s light was breaking, so I get the Milky Way and even a touch of Zodiacal Light in the scene, as well as the colours of twilight. Pity I can’t avoid the lens flares!

– Alan, September 12, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Planetary Dawn

This was the stunning scene in the dawn sky last Sunday — Venus, the Moon and Jupiter lined up above the Rockies.

Orion is just climbing over the line of mountains at right, while the stars of Taurus shine just to the right of Jupiter at top. I shot this at the end of a productive dusk-t0-dawn night of Perseid meteor photography. Being rewarded with a scene like this is always a great way to cap a night of astronomy.

— Alan, August 15, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Perseid Meteors and Planets over a Mountain Lake

It was quite a night, and a wonderful dawn. This was the scene at the end of a night of falling stars.

A trio of Perseid meteors zips down at left, while at right a trio of solar system worlds rises into the pre-dawn sky. The overexposed waning Moon is flanked by Jupiter above and Venus below. Jupiter shines near the Hyades star cluster and below the Pleiades cluster.

I took this shot (it is actually a composite of three shots, each with its own meteor) on the morning of Sunday, August 12 on the peak night of the annual Perseid meteor shower, widely publicized this year due to the lack of a Moon for most of the night, and the convenience of falling on a weekend. The scene is looking east over Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Alberta, one of the few places in this part of the Rockies you can look east to a reasonably unobstructed sky.

Notice the glitter path on the water from not only the Moon but also Venus.

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

Dawn’s Early Lights II

Here’s a wider shot of the Moon-Jupiter-Venus gathering at dawn on July 14.

The clouds parted nicely for a clear view of the sky where it needed to be clear (a rare occurrence!) while adding their colour to the pre-dawn scene. I like cooperative clouds. Let’s see if they behave for tomorrow morning’s closer conjunction.

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


Dawn’s Early Lights

Venus and Jupiter are reprising their mutual meetings of earlier this spring, but now in the pre-dawn summer sky.

This was the scene at 4 a.m. from home on July 14, with the waning crescent Moon, here overexposed, above Jupiter and Venus at dawn. Next to Venus is the star Aldebaran and the stars of the Hyades star cluster in Taurus. Above the Moon is the Pleiades star cluster.

On July 15, the Moon will appear between Venus and Jupiter for one of the best conjunctions of 2012.

— Alan, July 14, 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


The Marvellous Mid-March Sky

We have a marvellous sky above us these nights, with an array of brilliant beacons in the evening sky.

This wide-angle scene captures the western and southern sky. To the west at right shine Venus and Jupiter. To the south at centre stands Orion. His famous Belt points up to Taurus and the Pleiades star cluster. His Belt points down to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, the Dog Star in Canis Major. Above, at top left, is the other Dog Star, Procyon, in Canis Major.

The last vestige of twilight tints the sky deep blue. But some of the red nebulas in and around Orion are beginning to show up as the sky darkens on a late winter night.

I shot this Saturday night, March 10, on the last evening of Standard Time. Now, I and all astronomers have to wait up another hour to see and shoot the wonders of the night sky. Astronomers hate Daylight Saving Time.

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

Planet Trio in the West

Look west this week (the first week of March) and you’ll see three planets in a line across the evening sky.

Mercury is lowest in the sky, visible here just above the clouds on the western horizon. It’s bright but easy to miss. To find it, draw a line between Venus and Jupiter and extend the line down and to the right. This week Mercury is putting on its best evening appearance for the year for northern latitudes. You won’t see it higher or brighter than this in 2012.

Farther up the sky is Venus and Jupiter. They are standout objects. As they approach each other over the next week more and more people will suddenly pay attention to them and wonder what they are.

This was the view Sunday night, March 4. The next night a change in the weather brought heavy snow and a blizzard across the Prairies. But clear skies have returned, so enjoy the planets!

— Alan, March 6, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

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