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Longwood Gardens
November 26, 2015

It's not exactly astronomical, but Longwood Gardens opened its annual Christmas display on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2015. Here's a view of the largest decorated tree inside the conservatory. Taken at 5:50 pm EST with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (handheld) and a Canon 40 mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens (this lens does not have image stabilization). It was exposed 1/30 second at f/2.8, ISO 1250, using the fully automatic mode. Mild adjustments were made with Windows Live Photo Gallery.

 

This picture shows a splendid "Christmas tree" made from a tiered fountain holding various succulent plants and draped strings of lights. Taken at 6:04 pm EST with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (handheld) and a Canon 40 mm f/2.8 STM lens. It was exposed 1/30 second at f/3.2, ISO 400 (fully automatic mode). No adjustments were made.

 

Here's a view of the east entrance to the Conservatory. Taken at 5:43 pm EST with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (handheld) and a Canon 40 mm f/2.8 STM lens. It was exposed 1/30 second at f/2.8, ISO 1000 (fully automatic mode). Mild adjustments were made with Windows Live Photo gallery.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter, Mars and the Moon
November 8, 2015

On November 8, 2015, the 10% illuminated Crescent Moon, showing distinct earthshine, was below the row of three planets, brilliant Venus, dimmer Mars and bright Jupiter (mouseover for labels). Venus is about 11 west of the moon, 2.5 east of Mars and 12 east of Jupiter. Taken at 5:53 am EST (near the middle of nautical twilight) from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 24 to 105 mm f/4L lens set to 47 mm focal length. It was exposed 1 second at f/4, ISO 800.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter, Mars and the Moon
November 7, 2015

On November 7, 2015, the 16% illuminated Crescent Moon joined brilliant Venus and dimmer Mars, forming a compact triangle that was roughly 2 per side. Bright Jupiter was about 10 above the triangle when this picture was captured at 4:49 am EST (mouseover for labels). Taken from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens. It was exposed 2 seconds at f/4, ISO 800. Not seen here, the International Space Station transited the moon at 4:44 am. The transit was observed only with unaided eyes because I was not prepared with binoculars and I did not have the camera ready in time. I also confess to not getting the focus quite right in the pictures taken.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter and Mars
November 3, 2015

On November 3, 2015, at 4:24 am EST, bright Jupiter was 7.3 above brilliant Venus and dimmer Mars was 0.7 above-left of Venus (mouseover for labels). Jupiter is still in Leo, but Venus and Mars have just crossed the border into Virgo. Venus and Mars are at conjunction in geocentric right ascension this morning at 11 am. This image was captured from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens. It was exposed 2 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 1600.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter and Mars
October 30, 2015

Finally, on October 30, 2015, the sky was clear and free of haze, so there were no halos around the planets. At 5:21 am EDT, bright Jupiter  (above) and brilliant Venus (below) were now 353' apart. Dimmer Mars is 150' below-left of Venus (mouseover for labels). This image was captured from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens. It was exposed 2 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter and Mars
October 27, 2015

On October 27, 2015, at 5:12 am EDT, the bright planets Jupiter (above) and Venus (below) were 133' apart. The sky was hazy again, so brilliant Venus and bright Jupiter had halos. Dimmer Mars is 34' from Venus at the 7 o'clock position (mouseover for labels). This image was captured from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens, then lightly cropped. It was exposed 2 seconds at f/4, ISO 800.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter and Mars
October 26, 2015

On October 26, 2015, at 5:20 am EDT, the bright planets Venus and Jupiter were just 15' apart, shortly after their conjunction in geocentric right ascension at 4 am EDT. Venus is now below Jupiter in contrast to the scene pictured on October 24th when Venus was above Jupiter. The sky was lightly cloudy, so brilliant Venus and bright Jupiter had halos again. Dimmer Mars is 327' from Venus at the 7 o'clock position, while  magnitude 4.1 Sigma Leonis is just visible half a degree above Mars (mouseover for labels). Sigma was almost a degree below Mars on October 24th. This image was captured from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera and a Canon 70 to 200 mm f/2.8L zoom lens (on a fixed tripod) set to 200 mm focal length. It was exposed 2 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter and Mars
October 24, 2015

On October 24, 2015, at 4:56 am EDT, the bright planets Venus and Jupiter were just 140' apart, a few minutes before the start of astronomical twilight. The sky was hazy, so brilliant Venus had a distinct halo around it, while bright Jupiter had a lesser halo. Dimmer Mars is 247' from Jupiter at the 7 o'clock position (mouseover for labels). This image was captured from Maple Shade, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera on a fixed tripod and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens (then mildly cropped). It was exposed 2 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 800.

The previous day, October 23rd, was exceptionally clear. While at Laurel Run Park in Delran, NJ, I was able to see both Venus and Jupiter in the same field with my 10x50 binoculars in broad daylight, around 12:30 pm EDT (blocking the sun behind the roof covering a billboard). Venus was bright and silvery while Jupiter was ghostly. Subsequently, I was able to see Venus with unaided eyes -- steadily, not just glimpses.

 

Here's a wider field taken at 5:21 am EDT with a Canon 40 mm f/2.8 STM lens, same camera and exposure as before. This is representative of the naked-eye view, except the halos were not as prominent visually (mouseover for labels). Denebola, Zosma and Chort make up the hindquarters of Leo.

 

 

Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury
October 18, 2015

On October 18, 2015, at 5:55 am EDT, Venus blazed through light clouds, while 6 below-left of it, Jupiter and Mars were just 25 arc minutes apart (mouseover for labels). Taken from Borton Landing Road in Moorestown, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens. Exposed 2 seconds at f/4, ISO 3200.

 

At 6:06 am EDT, Mercury was near the horizon in brightening twilight. At magnitude -0.7, it was not difficult to see with unaided eyes. Taken with the same camera, lens and exposure as the previous image.  

 

 

Four Planets and the Crescent Moon
October 11, 2015

On October 11, 2015, at 6:01 am EDT, four planets and the 2% illuminated crescent moon were lined up in the east before sunrise as viewed from Borton Landing Road in Moorestown, NJ. From top to bottom, under the belly of Leo, Venus, Mars and Jupiter were within an 11 span. Mercury and the Crescent Moon were just above the tree tops in Virgo (mouseover for labels). Taken with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 40 mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens. Exposed 1 second at f/4, ISO 1600. Sunrise will be at 7:06 am. New moon will be at 8:06 pm on October 12th, so the moon was about 38 hours before new.

The picture below is a tighter view of Mercury and the Crescent Moon at 6:05 am EDT. Taken with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera and a Canon 70 to 200 mm f/2.8L zoom lens (on a fixed tripod) set to 200 mm focal length. Exposed 1/2 second at f/4, ISO 1600. The camera position had moved about 30 yards to the right of the location used for the previous picture.

 

 

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Last Update: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 10:12 PM Eastern Time