Astrophotos: Occultation of Saturn

Observers in Australia and New Zealand had a special treat this week: watching Saturn disappear behind the Moon during an event called an occultation. (You can read all the details of how and why this happens here in our preview article.) Catching an event like this with a camera is tricky… the bright Moon can wash out the comparatively tiny (from our vantage point) planet Saturn. But here, several astrophotographers had success. Above is a nice view from Silveryway on Flickr.

See an animation of the event below from astroblogger Ian Musgrave:

An animated gif of the occulation of Saturn by the Moon on May 14, 2014. Credit and copyright: Ian Musgrave.

Ian Musgrave from Australia used a 4″ Newtonian telescope, with a “Point and Shoot” Canon IXUS attached with inifinty to infinity focussing, 3xZoom, and a 25mm eye piece. You can see his entire set of images on his website here.

Widefield view of the occultation of Saturn on May 14, 2014. Credit and copyright: Ian Musgrave.
Widefield view of the occultation of Saturn on May 14, 2014. Credit and copyright: Ian Musgrave.

Peter Lake, also from Australia not only took images of the event, but also did a live Hangout on G+.

“Live hangouts and driving a telescope live is a tricky business,” Peter wrote on his website. “I lost focus playing around trying to improve the image due to the thin cloud.” He added that the night sky wasn’t ideal that evening. “The full moon was shining through thin clouds, washing out a bit of the detail.”

Saturn getting ready to head behind the Moon. Credit and copyright: Peter Lake.
Saturn getting ready to head behind the Moon. Credit and copyright: Peter Lake.

You can watch a replay of Peter’s Hangout below:

Saturn and the Moon diffusion. The clouds drifted across the sky, Saturn and the Moon shone bright, the view from the UK. Credit and copyright: Sarah and Simon Fisher.
Saturn and the Moon diffusion. The clouds drifted across the sky, Saturn and the Moon shone bright, the view from the UK. Credit and copyright: Sarah and Simon Fisher.

Sarah and Simon Fisher from the UK captured this “diffused” view of Saturn close the Moon on the evening of May 13, 2014.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Spectacular Views of Venus and the “Decrescent” Moon Worldwide

Did you see it? Earlier this week, we wrote about the spectacular conjunction of the planet Venus and the waning crescent Moon this week, which culminated in a fine occultation of the planet by our large natural satellite on Wednesday morning. The footprint of the occultation crossed northern Africa in the predawn hours to greet daytime observers across southern Asia. And although the pass was a near miss for many, viewers worldwide were treated to a fine photogenic pairing of Venus and the Moon.

Credit: SculptorLil
An “aircraft/Moon/Venus tri-conjunction” captured February 26th from London, UK. Credit: Sculptor Lil

This was a highlight event of the 2014 dawn apparition of Venus, and some great pics have been pouring in to us here at Universe Today via Twitter, Google+ and our Flickr pool. We also learned a new word this week while immersed in astronomical research: a decrescent Moon.  We first thought this was a typo when we came across it, but discovered that it stands for a waning crescent Moon going from Last Quarter phase to New. Hey, it’s got a great ring to it, and its less characters than “waning crescent” and thus comes ready Tweet-able.

Credit: Gadi Eidelheit
Venus and the Moon in the predawn sky captured from Israel. Credit: Gadi Eidelheit @gadieid

Some great video sequences have emerged as well, including this fine grazing sequence of a daytime crescent Venus brushing past the crescent Moon taken by Shahrin Ahmad:

Shahrin journeyed to the northern tip of Peninsular Malaysia to the town of Perlis near near the Thai border to capture the graze. “It was a really close event,” he noted. “Today, the clouds began to appear and posed some real tense moments during the occultation.”

And although many weren’t fortunate enough to be in the path of the occultation, many observers worldwide captured some very photogenic scenes of the conjunction between the Moon and Venus as the pair rose this morning, including this great video sequence from  Ryan Durnall:

And clear skies greeted a series of early morning astronomers worldwide, who shared these amazing images with us:

Brad Timerson
This morning’s conjunction as imaged from Newark, New York. Credit- Brad Timerson @btimerson
Venus and the Moon the day prior to the occultation, shot by Ken Lord from Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Credit- Ken Lord.
Venus and the Moon the day prior to the occultation, shot by Ken Lord from Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Credit- Ken Lord.
The Moon approaching Venus on February 25th as seen from Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Tom Wildoner.
The Moon approaching Venus on February 25th as seen from Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Tom Wildoner.
Venus and the Moon rising through the fog: Credit: Joanie Boloney @jstabila
Venus and the Moon rising through the fog: Credit: Joanie Boloney @jstabila

John Chumack was also up early this morning and was able to capture this fine image of the pair rising above the University of Dayton’s PAC Center:

Credit: John Chumack, www.galacticimages.com
Venus and the Moon as seen from Dayton, Ohio. Credit: John Chumack, www.galacticimages.com

“All I had available was a point and shoot camera (not even mine!)” Chumack told Universe Today. “I’m surprised it came out okay, considering all the ambient light on Campus!!!” Chumack used a Fujifilm Finepix S1000 point and shoot camera, and went sans tripod, doing a 2″ exposure with the camera perched atop a trash can. The results of this ad hoc setup look great!

Astrophotographer Giuseppe Petricca based in Pisa, Italy north of the occultation path also grabbed this outstanding closeup image of the crescent pair:

Credit: Giuseppe Petricca
Taken using a Nikon Coolpix P90 Bridge camera on a tripod mount. Credit: Giuseppe Petricca

“This morning was awesome!” Petricca told Universe Today. “The weather forecast showed a compact high layer of clouds, but there were enough gaps between them that allowed me to see the conjunction in a lot of different moments.”

You can compare and contrast the twin crescents of Venus and the Moon evident in the above image. “You can easily see the phase of the Planet Venus and a lot of details on the lunar surface, despite the high clouds that partially blocked the view sometimes!” Petricca noted.

And finally, I give you our own humble entry, a  conjunction over suburbia snapped pre-caffeination:

DSC_0584   We think its great that you can sometimes catch a memorable glimpse of the celestial even from your own doorstep.

And when is the next occultation of a planet by the Moon? That would be next month, when Saturn is occulted by the waxing gibbous Moon for South Africa and Brazil after sunset on March 21st, 2014. We’re in the midst of a cycle of occultations of the ringed planet by the Moon, occurring every lunation through the final one this year on October 25th.

The next occultation of Venus occurs on October 23rd 2014, but is only one degree from the Sun and is unobservable. The next observable event occurs on July 19th 2015 for northern Australia in the daytime, and for a remote stretch of the South Pacific at dusk.

And its still not too late to spy Venus in the daytime today, using the nearby Moon as a guide. Here’s a handy simulation to aid you in your quest generated for mid-noon, February 26th:

stellarium
The orientation of the Moon and Venus at ~17:00UT, including a five degree Telrad bullseye. Created by the author using Stellarium.

And finally here’s handy chart of maps of occultations of Venus by the Moon for the current decade, just click to enlarge:

Occult 4.0
Occultations of Venus by the Moon from 2011-2020. Created using Occult 4.0.

Enjoy!