This Beautiful Photo of Galaxy NGC 3981 was Taken by the Most Powerful Telescope in the World for no Scientific Reason at all. Just Because it’s Pretty

The world’s most powerful telescopes have a lot of work to do. They’re tasked with helping us unravel the mysteries of the universe, like dark matter and dark energy. They’re burdened with helping us find other habitable worlds that might host life. And they’re busy with a multitude of other tasks, like documenting the end of a star’s life, or keeping an eye on meteors that get too close to Earth.

But sometimes, they have to take a break.
Continue reading “This Beautiful Photo of Galaxy NGC 3981 was Taken by the Most Powerful Telescope in the World for no Scientific Reason at all. Just Because it’s Pretty”

Incredible Solar Eclipse Images From Our Readers

Holy moly, that was awesome! Incredible, fantastic, amazing…there just aren’t the words to describe what it is like to experience totality. While I’m trying to come down to Earth and figure out how to explain how wonderful this was, enjoy the beautiful images captured by our readers from across the US and those from across the world who traveled to capture one of nature’s most spectacular events: a total solar eclipse.

The images from those seeing partial eclipses are wonderful, as well, and we’ll keep adding them as they come in (update, we just got some from Europe too). Great job everyone!

Eclipse panorama. Got some cool Baily’s Beads and that prominence is nuts! Shot at 2000mm on an old Celestron 8in telescope! Credit and copyright: Kenneth Brandon.
2017 Solar Eclipse from Clayton GA, USA.
Celestron C8 Telescope on CGEM. Canon T3i (Modified IR enhanced), Solar Filter. Credit and copyright: Michael Bee.
The August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse over the Grand Tetons as seen from the Teton Valley in Idaho, near Driggs. ..This is from a 700-frame time-lapse and is of second contact just as the diamond ring is ending and the dark shadow of the Moon is approaching from the west at right, darkening the sky at right, and beginning to touch the Sun. The peaks of the Tetons are not yet in the umbral shadow and are still lit by the partially eclipsed Sun. ..With the Canon 6D and 14mm SP Rokinon lens at f/2.5 for 1/10 second at ISO 100. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.
Total Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017 as seen from Tellico Plains, Tennessee. New City Expedition, photo by Igor Kuskovsky.
Total Solar Eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017, as seen from Charleston, South Carolina. Credit and copyright: Jason Major
Partial Eclipse montage from Charlottesville, Virginia. Credit and copyright: David Murr.
Partial Solar Eclipse August 21st 2017, as seen from Fullerton California USA. Sky: Partially Cloudy. Telescope: Nexstar 102 SLT Refractor, Camera: Fujifilm X-T1 @ Prime Focus. Credit and copyright: Jimmy CD.
From the total solar eclipse as seen in Columbia, Missouri, on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit and copyright: Wildhaven Creative.
Total Eclipse from Shaw Air Force Base (August 21, 2017). It was magical. Credit and copyright: Michael Seeley.

Partial solar eclipse, seen from the west coast of France, August 21, 2017. Credit and copyright: Frank Tyrlik.

Great American Eclipse, 21-08-2017. Silver Falls Oregon 10:17-10:19 local time. Raw straight out of the camera. 65mm Refractor / Canon 700D. Credit and copyright: Alexandra Hart.

Gorgeous Images of the August 2017 Partial Lunar Eclipse

Just to get you in the mood for the upcoming total solar eclipse — now less than two weeks away — our Solar System put on a little eclipse display of the lunar kind on August 7. The full Moon passed through part of the Earth’s umbral shadow, and the timing made this partial lunar eclipse visible in parts of Europe and Africa.

Thanks to our friends around the world who posted in Universe Today’s Flickr page, we’ve got images to share! Enjoy the views! Click on all the images to see larger versions of them on Flickr. The lead image link is here.

And for those of you in the path of the August 21 solar eclipse, please feel free to share your images on our Flickr page, and we may feature them in an upcoming article.

A composite of images take during the August 2017 lunar eclipse, as see from Kuala Lumpur. Credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad.
Partial lunar eclipse seen from Lausanne’s lakeshore in Switzerland … The Moon had just moved up from behind the Tour d’Aï Peaks. Credit and copyright: Hicham Dennaoui.
Partial Eclipse of Moon over the Church of Our Lady of the Bell in Casarano, Sicily, Italy. Single photo taken with a Konus 80/400 telescope and Canon 700d camera. Credit and copyright: Gianluca Belgrado.

Eclipsed full moon over the eastern horizon as seen from Treppendorf, Brandenburg, Germany. Credit and copyright: Andreas Schnabel.
Partial lunar eclipse of August 7th 2017, as seen from Bavaria, Germany at around 19:17 UTC. Shot with an EOS 550D mounted to a Meade ETX 70 Telescope. Exposure was 1/125 seconds with ISO 100. Credit and copyright:
Stephan Haverland.
The partial lunar eclipse as see from Czolpino, Pomerania, Poland. Credit and copyright:
Pawel Warchal.
A view of the partial lunar eclipse on August 7, 2017 as seen from Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit and copyright: Leonard Ellul-Mercer.

Here is a video of additional images from Leonard Mercer:

You can watch a reply of a live webcast from the Virtual Telescope Project of the partial lunar eclipse seen from Rome:

November 2016 Super Moon Images from Around the World

Now updated with more great images!

Although there’s been quite a bit of hype about the Super Moon on November 13, 2016, to many, the full Moon tonight may have appeared quite similar to other full Moon’s you’ve seen. Yes, the “super-ness” of this Moon, while noteworthy, is fairly imperceptible. While, as our own David Dickinson noted in his preview article, this full Moon is not only the closest for the year, but the nearest Full Moon for a 80 year plus span. However, the closest full moon of 2017 will be only 0.02% farther away than this one.

But any chance to get the public to look up at the night sky is a good one! And we’ll also take this opportunity to share some of the great images from around the world posted on Universe Today’s Flickr page, as well as on social media. Enjoy!

Here’s a “classic” but gorgeous look at the Moon:

The Moon just before full on November 13, 2016 imaged through cloud from London. Credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson.
The Moon just before full on November 13, 2016 imaged through cloud from London. Credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson.
Supermoon over Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Tim Graham/TJG Photography.
Supermoon over Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Tim Graham/TJG Photography.
Some astrophotographers took this opportunity to take close-ups of the Moon's surface. Pythagoras and Babbage Craters are seen here in this image from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright:  Alun Halsey.
Some astrophotographers took this opportunity to take close-ups of the Moon’s surface. Pythagoras and Babbage Craters are seen here in this image from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright:
Alun Halsey.
The 'Super Moon' over Rome on November 14, 2016. Credit and copyright: Gianluca Masi.
The ‘Super Moon’ over Rome on November 14, 2016. Credit and copyright: Gianluca Masi.
A view of the supermoon as seen from Lahore, Pakistan, with color added for contrast. Credit and copyright: Roshaan Bukhari.
A view of the supermoon as seen from Lahore, Pakistan, with color added for contrast. Credit and copyright: Roshaan Bukhari.
Moon and clouds as seen from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Sculptor Lil on Flickr.
Moon and clouds as seen from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Sculptor Lil on Flickr.

Pale Moon rising, as seen from North Bedfordshire, UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Dawn Sunrise on Flickr.
Pale Moon rising, as seen from North Bedfordshire, UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Dawn Sunrise on Flickr.

Noted NASA photographer Bill Ingalls is in Russia for the next launch of astronauts to the International Space Station. He took this image from Baikonur, Kazakhstan and also provided some tips on photographing the Moon.

And former astronaut Clayton Anderson shared this images from Houson, Texas:

Moonrise near Keene, Ontario on November 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Rick Stankiewicz.
Moonrise near Keene, Ontario on November 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Rick Stankiewicz.

A comparison of ‘super’ and ‘mini’ Moons and how they appear in the sky:

A perigee 'Supermoon' versus an apogee 'Minimoon'. Image credit and copyright: Raven Yu.
A perigee ‘Supermoon’ versus an apogee ‘Minimoon’. Image credit and copyright: Raven Yu.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their images, and be sure to check out UT’s Flickr pool for the most recent shots.

Link to the lead image by Owen Llewellyn can be found here.

At ISO 400,000, This 6-Minute Film Shows Why We Love the Night Sky

Obviously, you’ve seen timelapse videos of the night sky because we share them here on Universe Today all the time. But you’ve probably not seen a video like this one before. This one isn’t a timelapse, and you’ll see the night sky in all its splendor, in real time.

“I think this one may be the beginning of something damn interesting,” said filmmaker Ben Canales, who along with cohort John Waller of Uncage The Soul Productions, shot this video with new low-light technology. Using the new Canon MH20f-SH, which has the capability of shooting at 400,000 ISO, they were able to “film in the quiet moments that have been impossible to capture until now.”

“Since 2013, I’ve been tinkering with all sorts of camera/lens/software combinations trying to move beyond a long exposure still to real time video of the stars,” Canales said on Facebook. “Sooner or later, we have to move beyond a frozen photo of the stars to hear, see, feel what it is really like being out there!”

In addition to showcasing this wonderful new low-light shooting, Infinity² really captures the emotional side of amateur astronomy and the beauty of being under the night sky. He took a group of high school students out to witness the Perseid Meteor Shower in Oregon, and the students got together with the Oregon Star Party. Together, they answer the simple question “What do you feel?”

As Canales says, “Something internal and personal draws us out to the night sky.”

Check out more on Uncage The Soul Productions, Canales’ astrophoto website and Facebook.

Still image from the film Infinity ². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.
Still image from the film Infinity². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.
Still image from the film Infinity ². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.
Still image from the film Infinity ². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.

Infinity ² from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

Gorgeous Photos of Earth and the Night Sky: TWAN Photo Contest Winners Announced

The winners of the 7th annual Earth & Sky Photo Contest have been announced, and wow, these images are absolutely stunning! The contest really highlights the beauty of the night sky, and its mission is to spread the message to cut down on light pollution while helping to preserve the last remaining natural night environments and night skies in the world. The contest was organized by The World at Night (TWAN) and other sister organizations.

“The sky above us is an essential part of our nature, a heritage for us and other species on this planet,” said TWAN founder and contest chair, Babak Tafreshi.”The contest main goal is to present the night sky in this broader context that helps preserving the natural night sky by reconnect it with our modern life.”

See more winning photos below:

The second place winner in the ‘Against the Light’ category is Carlo Zanandrea from Italy for "All that Glitters is not Gold" taken in December 2015 showing constellation Orion rising over lights and fog in the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy. Credit and copyright: Carlo Zanandrea.
The second place winner in the ‘Against the Light’ category is Carlo Zanandrea from Italy for “All that Glitters is not Gold” taken in December 2015 showing constellation Orion rising over lights and fog in the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy. Credit and copyright: Carlo Zanandrea.

Just last week, a group of Italian and American scientists unveiled a new global atlas of light pollution, and sadly, they said the results show the Milky Way is “but a faded memory to one-third of humanity and 80 percent of Americans.”

“We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way,” said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos — and it’s been lost.”

These photos from Earth & Sky Contest really display that important connection, with people and places on Earth being a big part of many of the images – the classic definition of “TWAN-style” photography. According to the contest theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” the submitted photos were judged in two categories: “Beauty of The Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.”

“The selected images are those most effective in impressing public on both how important and delicate the starry sky is as an affecting part of our nature, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become,” TWAN said in their press release. “Today, most city skies are virtually devoid of stars. Light pollution (excessive light that scatters to the sky instead of illuminating the ground) not only is a major waste of energy, it also obscures the stars, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.”

"The Photographer" by Nicholas Roemmelt from Austria is the second place winner in the 'Beauty of the Night Sky category, taken in March 2015 in Stockiness, Iceland. Credit and copyright: Nicholas Roemmelt
“The Photographer” by Nicholas Roemmelt from Austria is the second place winner in the ‘Beauty of the Night Sky category, taken in March 2015 in Stockiness, Iceland. Credit and copyright: Nicholas Roemmelt

The winning images were chosen on their “aesthetic merit and technical excellence,” said David Malin of the judging panel, who is well-known pioneer in scientific astrophotography. “We believe they accurately reflect the state of the art in TWAN-style photography. The competition encourages photographers with imagination to push their cameras to their technical limits, and to produce eye-catching images that appear perfectly natural and are aesthetically pleasing.”

This photo, "Viking Lights" by Adam Woodworth from USA, won in the composite section of the ‘Beauty of the Night Sky’  category, where frames of various exposure or focus settings are blended. This image was captured in Newfoundland, Canada in June, 2015. Credit and copyright: Adam Woodworth.
This photo, “Viking Lights” by Adam Woodworth from USA, won in the composite section of the ‘Beauty of the Night Sky’ category, where frames of various exposure or focus settings are blended. This image was captured in Newfoundland, Canada in June, 2015. Credit and copyright: Adam Woodworth.
In the photo sequence submissions, the winner in the Beauty category is "Total Solar Eclipse from Svalbard" by Thanakrit Santikunaporn from Thailand. He captured the eclipse phases every 3 minutes over frozen landscape of Svalbard, Norway on March 20, 2015. Credit and copyright: Thanakrit Santikunaporn.
In the photo sequence submissions, the winner in the Beauty category is “Total Solar Eclipse from Svalbard” by Thanakrit Santikunaporn from Thailand. He captured the eclipse phases every 3 minutes over frozen landscape of Svalbard, Norway on March 20, 2015. Credit and copyright: Thanakrit Santikunaporn.

The contest was open to anyone of any age, anywhere in the world; to both professional and amateur/hobby photographers. It has been an annual event since 2009 (initially for the International Year of Astronomy) by TWAN, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Global Astronomy Month from Astronomers Without Borders. The contest supports efforts of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and other organizations that seek to preserve the night sky.

The images were taken in 57 countries and territories including Algeria, Antarctica, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guam, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Reunion (France), Romania, Russia, Scotland, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Spain, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, and USA.

See all the images and more information about them at TWAN. Click on each image for larger versions. A larger version of the lead image can be found here.

You can see the global atlas of light pollution here, which was created from data from the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite and calibrated by thousands of ground observations.

And here’s a video that includes all the winning images:

Metropolitan Milky Way

JanikAlheit-CPTMilkyPano

This article was written by contributing author Janik Alheit, and is used by permission from the original at PhotographingSpace.com.

When it comes to my style of photography, preparation is a key element in getting the shot I want.

On this specific day, we were actually planning on only shooting the low Atlantic clouds coming into the city of Cape Town. This in itself takes a lot of preparation as we had to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts for weeks using Yr.no, and the conditions are still unpredictable at best even with the latest weather forecasting technology.

We set out with cameras and camping gear with the purpose of setting up camp high up on Table Mountain so as to get a clear view over the city. The hike is extremely challenging at night, especially with a 15kg backpack on your back! We reached our campsite at about 11pm, and then started setting up our cameras for the low clouds predicted to move into the city at about 3am the next morning. For the next 2 hours or so we scouted for the best locations and compositions, and then tried to get a few hours of sleep in before the clouds arrived.

At about 3am I was woken up by fellow photographer Brendon Wainwright. I realised that he had been up all night shooting timelapses, and getting pretty impressive astro shots even though we were in the middle of the city. I noticed that the clouds had rolled in a bit earlier than predicted and had created a thick blanket over the city, which was acting as a natural light pollution filter.

I looked up at the skies and for the first time in my life I was able to see the core of the Milky Way in the middle of the city! This is when everything changed, the mission immediately became an astrophotography mission, as these kind of conditions are extremely rare in the city.

How to Photograph the Milky Way
Learn how to shoot the Milky Way at PhotographingSpace.com!

Composition

After shooting the city and clouds for a while, I turned my focus to the Milky Way. I knew I was only going to have this one opportunity to capture an arching Milky Way over a city covered with clouds, so I had to work fast to get the perfect composition before the clouds changed or faded away.

I set my tripod on top of a large rock that gave me a bit of extra height so that I could get as much of the city lights in the shot as possible. The idea I had in my mind was to shoot a panorama from the center of the city to the Twelve Apostles Mountains in the southwest. This was a pretty large area to cover, plus the Milky Way was pretty much straight above us which meant I had to shoot a massive field of view in order to get both the city and the Milky Way.

The final hurdle was to get myself into the shot, which meant that I had to stand on a 200m high sheer cliff edge! Luckily this was only necessary for one frame in the entire panorama.

Gear and settings

I usually shoot with a Canon 70D with an 18mm f/3.5 lens and a Hahnel Triad 40Lite tripod. This particular night I forgot to bring a spare battery for my Canon and by the time I wanted to shoot this photo, my one battery had already died!

Luckily I had a backup camera with me, an Olympus OMD EM10 mirrorless camera. I had no choice but to use this camera for the shot. The lens on that camera was an Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5 kit lens, which was not ideal, but I just had to make it work.

I think this photo is a testament to the fact that your gear is not nearly as important as your technique and knowledge of your surroundings and your camera.

I started off by shooting the first horizontal line of photos, in landscape orientation, to form the bottom edge of the final stitched photo. From there I ended up shooting 6 rows of 7 photos each in order to capture the whole view I wanted. This gave me 42 photos in total.

For the most part, my settings were 25 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 2000, with the ISO dropped on a few of the pictures where the city light was too bright. I shot all the photos in raw as to get as much data out of each frame as possible.

Editing

Astrophotography is all about the editing techniques.

In this scenario I had to stitch 42 photos into one photo. Normally I would just use the built-in function in Lightroom, but in this case I had to use software called PTGui Pro, which is made for stitching difficult panoramas. This software enables me to choose control points on the overlapping images in order to line up the photos perfectly.

After creating the panorama in PTGui Pro, I exported it as a TIFF file and then imported that file into Lightroom again. Keep in mind that this one file is now 3GB as it is made up of 42 RAW files!

In Lightroom I went through my normal workflow to bring out the detail in the Milky Way by boosting the highlights a bit, adding contrast, a bit of clarity, and bringing out some shadows in the landscape. The most difficult part was to clear up the distortion that was caused by the faint clouds in the sky between individual images. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to blend so many images together perfectly when you have faint clouds in the sky that form and disappear within minutes, but I think I did the best job I could to even out the bad areas.

JanikAlheit-CPTMilkyPano
Photo: Janik Alheit

A special event

After the final touches were made and the photo was complete, I realized that I had captured something really unique. It’s not every day that you see low clouds hanging over the city, and you almost never see the Milky Way so bright above the city, and I managed to capture both in one image!

The response to the image after posting it to my Instagram account was extremely overwhelming. I got people from all over the world wanting to purchase the image and it got shared hundreds of time across all social media.

It just shows you that planning and dedication does pay off!

The Highest-Resolution Image Ever Seen in Astronomy

A jet of material being ejected out of a black hole at the centre of the galaxy BL Lacertae. Image: Dr. Jose L. Gomez

What do you get when you combine 15 radio telescopes on Earth and one in space? You get an enormous “virtual telescope” that is 63,000 miles across. And when you point it at a distant black hole, you get the highest resolution image every seen in astronomy.

Although it looks just like a big green blob, it’s actually an enormously energetic jet of matter streaming out of a black hole. And this black hole is 900 million light years away.

As reported at Popular Science, it required an array of 15 radio telescopes on Earth, and the Russian space telescope Spektr-R, to capture the image. This technique—called interferometry—is like creating a telescope that is 63,000 miles across. The detail it provides is like seeing a 50 cent coin on the Moon.

For perspective, the object in the image is 186 billion miles long, at minimum, and would just barely fit in the Oort Cloud.

The jet at the heart of BL Lacertae, with the Oort Cloud and Alpha Centauri for comparison. Image: Gomez et. al., A Lobanov, NRAO.
The jet at the heart of BL Lacertae, with the Oort Cloud and Alpha Centauri for comparison. Image: Gomez et. al., A Lobanov, NRAO.

Stunning Planetary Trio Pictures from Around the World

Have you seen the views in the morning skies this week, with three planets huddling together at dawn? Just one degree separated planets Jupiter and Venus, with Mars sneaking in nearby. Astrophotographers were out in full force to capture the scene!

Above, the very talented photographer Alan Dyer from Canada captured a stunning image of the planetary trio over Lake Annette, in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. He took several gorgeous shots, and so we’ve added one more of his below, plus dozens of other wonderful shots from our astrophotographer friends around the world. Each of these images are from Universe Today’s Flickr pool, so you can click on each picture to get a larger view on Flickr.

Enjoy these great views, as there won’t be a more compact arrangement of three planets again until January 10, 2021.

A panorama of roughly 120° showing a star- and planet-filled sky in the dawn twilight over Lake Annette in Jasper National Park, Alberta, on the morning of October 25, 2015.   At left, to the east, are the two bright planets, Venus (brightest) and Jupiter in a close conjunction 1° apart (and here almost merging into one glow), plus reddish Mars below them, all in Leo, with the bright star Regulus above them. Right of centre, to the south, is Orion and Canis Major, with the bright star Sirius low in the south. At upper right are the stars of Taurus, including Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. Venus was near greatest elongation on this morning. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.
A panorama of roughly 120° showing a star- and planet-filled sky in the dawn twilight over Lake Annette in Jasper National Park, Alberta, on the morning of October 25, 2015.
At left, to the east, are the two bright planets, Venus (brightest) and Jupiter in a close conjunction 1° apart (and here almost merging into one glow), plus reddish Mars below them, all in Leo, with the bright star Regulus above them. Right of centre, to the south, is Orion and Canis Major, with the bright star Sirius low in the south. At upper right are the stars of Taurus, including Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. Venus was near greatest elongation on this morning. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.
Taken from Coral Towers Observatory in Queensland, Australia on October 28, 2014. Venus is to the right of and slightly below Jupiter and Mars is to the right of and below Venus. The pre-dawn landscape is illuminated by moonlight. Credit and copyright: Joseph Brimacombe.
Taken from Coral Towers Observatory in Queensland, Australia on October 28, 2014. Venus is to the right of and slightly below Jupiter and Mars is to the right of and below Venus. The pre-dawn landscape is illuminated by moonlight. Credit and copyright: Joseph Brimacombe.
Jupiter, Venus, and Mars rise behind the 14,155 foot peak of Mount Democrat in Colorado. Credit and copyright: Patrick Cullis.
Jupiter, Venus, and Mars rise behind the 14,155 foot peak of Mount Democrat in Colorado. Credit and copyright: Patrick Cullis.
Spooky Selfie, Three Planets and a Dead Satellite. The planetary conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars on October 26, 2015, along with the ADEOS II satellite, which died in orbit in 2003 after the solar panels failed. Credit and copyright: Tom Wildoner.
Spooky Selfie, Three Planets and a Dead Satellite. The planetary conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars on October 26, 2015, along with the ADEOS II satellite, which died in orbit in 2003 after the solar panels failed. Credit and copyright: Tom Wildoner.
Planetary conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars as seen from Search Results     Map of Le Puy Saint-Bonnet, 49300 Cholet, France     Le Puy Saint-Bonnet, 49300 Cholet, France     Le Puy-Saint-Bonnet in France on October 26, 2015. Credit and copyright: David de Cueves.
Planetary conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars as seen from Search Results
Map of Le Puy Saint-Bonnet, 49300 Cholet, France
Le Puy Saint-Bonnet, 49300 Cholet, France
Le Puy-Saint-Bonnet in France on October 26, 2015. Credit and copyright: David de Cueves.
Venus, Jupiter and Mars grace the morning skies in France on October 26, 2015. Credit and copyright: Frank Tyrlik.
Venus, Jupiter and Mars grace the morning skies in France on October 26, 2015. Credit and copyright: Frank Tyrlik.

Here’s a timelapse from Damien Weatherley of his planet imaging session from the morning of October 25, 2015:

Astronomy timelapse 25.10.15

Venus, Jupiter & Mars create a close triangle in the eastern sky at dawn! John Chumack captured this image above his backyard Observatory in Dayton, Ohio on 10-26-2015. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Venus, Jupiter & Mars create a close triangle in the eastern sky at dawn! John Chumack captured this image above his backyard Observatory in Dayton, Ohio on 10-26-2015. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
A zoomed out view of the planetary trio from John Chumack's observatory in Dayton, Ohio on October 25, 2015. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
A zoomed out view of the planetary trio from John Chumack’s observatory in Dayton, Ohio on October 25, 2015. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter & Mars on the morning of  Monday Oct. 26, 2015. Credit and copyright: Holly Roberts.
Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter & Mars on the morning of Monday Oct. 26, 2015. Credit and copyright: Holly Roberts.
Jupiter and Venus conjunction on October 25, 2015. They were approximately with a degree and a half of each other. Jupiter's moons are visible. Credit and copyright: Chris Lyons.
Jupiter and Venus conjunction on October 25, 2015. They were approximately with a degree and a half of each other. Jupiter’s moons are visible. Credit and copyright: Chris Lyons.
Venus and the almost invisible Jupiter struggled to shine through the haze on the morning of October 25, 2015, as seen in Malaysia. Credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad.
Venus and the almost invisible Jupiter struggled to shine through the haze on the morning of October 25, 2015, as seen in Malaysia. Credit and copyright:Shahrin Ahmad.
Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the hazy, cloudy morning skies over the UK on October 25, 2015. Credit and copyright: Sarah and Simon Fisher.
Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the hazy, cloudy morning skies over the UK on October 25, 2015. Credit and copyright: Sarah and Simon Fisher.

And here’s just a reminder that this planetary conjunction has been setting up for a while. Here’s a shot from October 10 of the planets as they started moving closer together:

A spooky planetary conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars on October 10, 2015 on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. Credit and copyright: Shaun Reynold.
A spooky planetary conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars on October 10, 2015 on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. Credit and copyright: Shaun Reynold.

Watch Lenticular Clouds Form in the Moonlight

Clouds and moonlight are usually the bane of astronomers and astrophotographers. But on a recent evening at Mount Shasta in northern California, the two combined for a stunning look at usual cloud formations called lenticular clouds.

Fortunately for us, photographer Brad Goldpaint from Goldpaint Photography was on hand to capture the event. His beautiful sunset and moonlit images show these strange UFO-reminscent clouds, and the timelapse video he created provides a great demonstration of just how they form.

See the video and more images below:

A few ingredients are needed for lenticular clouds to form: mountains, stable but moist air, and just the right temperature and dew point.

According to WeatherUnderground, these smoooth, lens-shaped clouds normally develop on the downwind side of a mountain or mountain range when the stable, moist air flows over the obstruction and a series of large oscillating waves waves may form. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lens-like or lenticular clouds. Since the air is stable, the oval clouds can grow quite large appear to be hovering in one place. Hence, the UFO appearance.

In the video, even though the clouds appear to be moving fast, it is a timelapse, so it shows the cloud movement over the entire night, condensed down to 30 seconds. But the video does allow us to see the fluid dynamics or laminar flows in parallel layers that creates the lenticular clouds. Plus, the stars and moonlight add to the beauty of the scene.

Lenticular clouds form at sunset over Mount Shasta in northern California, October r2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.
Lenticular clouds form at sunset over Mount Shasta in northern California, October r2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.
Lenticular clouds form over Mount Shasta in northern  California, October, 2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.
Lenticular clouds form over Mount Shasta in northern California, October, 2015. Credit and copyright: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography.

Thanks to Brad for sharing his great work! See more at his website including his series of astrophotography workshops.