Sunday, January 11, 2015

Conjunction at Dusk

Venus and Mercury Draw Close

Viewed from my front yard, Venus and Mercury hovered near treetops in the southwest about 25 minutes after sunset on January 9th. The two planets were separated by only 42.5 arc minutes (0.71 degrees) - just slightly more than the width of a full Moon!

Venus is the brighter planet near center in the image below. Dimmer Mercury is close by, offset lower to the right. The first two pictures are a very good representation of how the conjunction appeared to the naked eye. (Click on the images below for the full-sized view.)
It didn't take long for Mercury to set below the trees while my frozen fingers worked camera buttons. These first two pictures were taken with a 55mm lens.
On January 10th the planets had moved even closer together. Now they were only 38.5 arc minutes (0.64 degrees) apart, and I used a telephoto lens set at 200 mm for a magnified view. The sky was very clear - no haze or thin clouds.
The planets sank lower while a jet contrail headed toward the gap between them.
Click on the next image to get a larger view. It looks like I captured evidence of the partial phase of Mercury.
I moved the camera so my last shot would catch the pair sinking into atmospheric murk and setting into the lowest gap in the trees.
This was a particularly nice conjunction and very beautiful in binoculars.

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People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

John Lennon