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.
Here’s a timelapse from Damien Weatherley of his planet imaging session from the morning of October 25, 2015:
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:
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.
To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has ever photographed a transit of the International Space Station of the Moon DURING a lunar eclipse. And guess who did it?
Not surprisingly, it was the legendary astrophotographer Thierry Legault.
Usually, Thierry will travel up to thousands of miles to capture unique events like this, but this time, he only had to go 10 miles!
“Even if I caught a cold, I could not miss it,” Thierry told Universe Today in an email. “The Moon was very low on the horizon, only 16 degrees, so the seeing was not very good, but at least the sky was clear.”
Still, a stunning — and singularly unique — view of the “Super Blood Moon” eclipse!
See the video below:
It was a quick pass, with the ISS transit duration lasting a total of 1.7 seconds. Thierry uses CalSky to calculate where he needs to be to best capture an event like this, then studies maps, and has a radio synchronized watch to know very accurately when the transit event will happen.
“For transits I have to calculate the place, and considering the width of the visibility path is usually between 5-10 kilometers, but I have to be close to the center of this path,” Legault explained, “because if I am at the edge, it is just like an eclipse where the transit is shorter and shorter. And the edge of visibility line of the transit lasts very short. So the precision of where I have to be is within one kilometer.”
Here’s the specs: ISS Speed: 25000 km/h (15500 mph). ISS Distance: 1100 km; Moon distance: 357,000 km (320x).
You can see other imagery from around the world of the lunar eclipse here, with images taken by Universe Today readers and staff.
Universe Today’s David Dickinson said he’s been trying to steer people towards trying to capture an ISS transit during a lunar eclipse for quite some time, and concurred that Thierry’s feat is a first. Dave made a video earlier this year to explain how people might photograph it during the April 2015 lunar eclipse, but unfortunately, no astrophotographers had any luck.
Thanks again to Thierry Legault for sharing his incredible work with Universe Today. Check out his website for additional imagery and information.
You can also see some of Legault’s beautiful and sometimes ground-breaking astrophotography here on Universe Today, such as images of the space shuttle or International Space Station crossing the Sun or Moon, or views of spy satellites in orbit.
Cross your eyes and take a look at this image. If you’re lucky, you will be treated to a wonderfully clear 3-D view of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, without the aid of a stereoscope. Or — if you haven’t quite mastered the art of viewing stereo pairs — you might end up with eyestrain.
Prolific astrophotographer Damian Peach took these two shots roughly five minutes apart — which makes them a great candidate for creating a stereo pair.
“Inspired by a suggestion from Dr. Brian May,” Peach told Universe Today via email, “this is the first time I’ve had two excellent quality sets of data so close in time with the GRS right in the centre to attempt this. I completely reprocessed the data for both images to keep a soft natural appearance and to closely match the colour between them as possible.”
Peach also said he measured the size of the GRS at 15,500km in width.
Still trying to view this as a 3-D image? Try this suggestion from Oxford University:
Hold a finger a short distance in front of your eyes and stare at it. In the background you should see two copies of the stereo pair, giving four views altogether. Move your finger away from you until you see the middle two of the four images come together. You should now see just three images in the background. Try to direct your attention slowly toward the middle image without moving your eyes, and it should gradually come into focus.
As our David Dickinson noted in his recent article, a new term is “creeping into the popular astronomical vernacular: that of a ‘Black Moon’.” This is the New Moon version of a Blue Moon, and is either:
A month missing a Full or New Moon… this can only occur in February, as the lunar synodic period from like phase to phase is 29.5 days long. This last occurred in 2014 and will next occur in 2018.
The second New Moon in a month with two. This can happen in any calendar month except February.
And now for the most convoluted definition: the third New Moon in an astronomical season with four.
The February 18th New Moon met the requirements expressed in rule 3. The fourth New Moon of the season falls on March 20th, just 13 hours before the northward equinox on the same date.
But no matter what the occasion, there are always astrophotographers out to grab pictures, and here are some shared with Universe Today via email and on our Flickr page.
With the Moon rising later in the evening this weekend, astrophotographers have taken some spectacular pictures of Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy, which continues shine on! Enjoy a few photos here and check out more in Universe Today’s Flickr page.
Chris Schur from Payson, Arizona took the above image with a 80mm f/4.6 Zeiss APO and a ST10xme ccd camera.
You’ve probably seen images we’ve posted on Universe Today of planes crossing in front of the Sun or the Moon. But how do the photographers manage to capture these events? Hint: it’s not random luck.
“I live under a main flight path out of Heathrow,” said photographer Chris Lyons from the UK who took the image above earlier today, “and can easily spot the planes not long after they take off — if it is clear — from when they are about 100 miles away!”
Chris posts many of his images on Universe Today’s Flickr page, and what is great about Chris’ airplane photos is that he includes a handy infographic about the plane in the shot; the type of plane, its takeoff and destination, and more, garnered from online flight trackers.
Chris told Universe Today that he originally started trying to catch planes passing in front of the Moon.
“It went from snapping them near it when just taking Moon shots to wanting to get closer and have them actually passing it,” he said. “Then I got a Solar filter and tried it with the Sun. It is far more difficult than the Moon, as you cannot look at it for long. I limit my viewing (our eyes are precious) and only look through high rated neutral density filters.”
We’ve also featured images from Sebastien Lebrigand who lives about 70 km outside of Paris, France. Lebrigand is prolific: he takes almost daily images of planes passing in front of the Sun and Moon and posts them on Twitter.
Lebrigand is an amateur astronomer but says he especially enjoys “the rare conjunction of the planes passing by the Sun and the Moon.’
He uses a Canon EOS 60D and a telescope to take his photos the pictures. But his work takes hours of time for analyzing when a potential photo opportunity might occur, setting up equipment, waiting for the exact moment, and then perfecting the images.
Last night was the first time I was able to spot Comet Lovejoy with unaided eyes. The latest images from our readers and dedicated astrophotographers confirm that now is a good time to see the comet, which is reaching maximum brightness at his week. Spaceweather.com reports that many experienced observers say the comet is now shining at magnitude +3.8. With clear, dark skies C/2104 Q2 is easily seen with binoculars.
Enjoy this gallery of recent images, and if you’ve taken an image, consider joining our Flickr pool and submitting it. We may use your image in an upcoming article!
Remember at the end of “Star Trek: First Contact” when Lily looks up to see the Enterprise enter the temporal vortex with a flash of light? Astrophotographer Randy Halverson captured a view very similar to that scene, albeit without time travel or Vulcans standing nearby.
“On July 28th, 2014, I was set up to shoot the Milky Way near Kennebec, South Dakota,” Halverson wrote on his website. “I had looked through some of the stills but didn’t notice anything unusual. [But] in December 2014 I was editing timelapse and when I got to the July 28th sequence I noticed something different on it. At first I thought it was another meteor with persistent train, but I had missed the meteor in between exposures. I had already caught several meteor with persistent trains on timelapse last year, so I was watching for them. Then I looked closer and noticed the flash was dimming and getting brighter. Also, when I zoomed in I could see a satellite or object right before the first flash.”
Halverson did a quick search of launches during that time and found the Air Force had launched a semi-classified trio of satellites into orbit earlier in the evening of July 28th (23:28 UTC, 7:28 EDT) on a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and further research indicated he had captured the engine burn of one of the satellite’s final boost stage.
Just goes to show, you can never tell what you’ll see when you’re looking up!
See the timelapse below:
On board the Delta IV were two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) spacecraft and the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (ANGELS) NanoSatellite. Halverson conferred with a few NASA mission analysts and they all agreed the flash was coming from the ANGELS boost stage firing.
“The first flash you see on the timelapse happened at 1:09am July 29th (camera time) so that also seems to match up with the timing for the final burn the article mentions,” Halverson said.
According to the Spaceflight101 website, the ANGELS nanosatellite is a project of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) and was a secondary payload on Delta IV launched on July 28, 2014. Its purpose was to do a technical demonstration flight several hundred kilometers above the belt of geosynchronous orbit (35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles). The satellite was supposed to “perform an autonomous rendezvous demonstration with the Delta IV upper stage before testing a camera system for the inspection of satellites in high orbits.”
Halverson said he used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Nikon 14-24 lens on an eMotimo TB3 mounted on a Dynamic Perception Stage Zero Dolly.
See more of Randy’s great timelapse and night sky photography work at his website dakotalapse, or Twitter.
Usually, videos that feature aurora are timelapse videos, in order to show the normally slow movements of the Northern and Southern Lights. But here are some incredibly fast-moving aurorae shown in real time, as seen by astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault. He was in Norway last week and said the fast-dancing, shimmering aurora were incredible.
“At moments they were so fast that 25 fps (frames per second) was not too much!” Legault said. “The second evening they were so bright that they appeared while the sky was still blue and I rushed to setup the tripod.”
See two videos below, one short version (8 minutes) and another longer 20-minute version. They are worth watching every minute!
He used Sony A7 video cameras, and said these movies show the true rhythm of the aurora, in addition with twinkling stars and trees moving in the wind.
“In the long version there are even several satellites slowly moving amongst the stars and 2 or 3 elusive shooting stars,” Legault told Universe Today. “Many constellations are visible, especially Cassiopeia with the double cluster, the Big Dipper, Cygnus, Lyra, Gemini.”
He added that the aurorae had an incredible variety of shapes and behaviors.