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Mercury 2019

 

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The Moon and Jupiter
June 17, 2019

The nearly-full Moon and the planet Jupiter were captured on June 17, 2019, at 12:31 am EDT from Maple Shade, NJ, when they were 5.3° apart as Jupiter was crossing the meridian. Full moon would occur four hours later, at 4:31 am on June 17. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame was exposed 1/8 second at f/4, ISO 800, and shows a field 10.3° wide x 6.9° high. Thicker clouds over the brighter moon allowed capturing an easily-seen Jupiter without causing excessive overexposure of the moon in this simple non-processed snapshot. Mouseover for labels.

 

 

Mercury and Mars
June 14, 2019

The planets Mercury and Mars were captured on June 14, 2019, at 9:28 pm EDT from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame was exposed 1/4 second at f/3.5, ISO 1600 then mildly cropped to a field 10.6° wide x 15.8° high. At the time of capture, Mercury was at 7.2° altitude, 295.8° azimuth and 2.5° from Mars. Visually, Mercury was initially spotted with 10x50 binoculars at 9:17 pm (magnitude 0.0, 56% illuminated, 9.1° altitude, 294.2° azimuth), then immediately with unaided eyes. Mercury and Mars are in the constellation Gemini, the Twins. The twin stars Castor and Pollux are at the top of the frame. Mouseover for labels.

 

The planets Mercury and Mars, plus several stars, were captured on June 14, 2019, at 9:44 pm EDT from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Tamron 150 to 600 mm, f/5-6.3 zoom lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame was exposed 1 second at f/5.6, ISO 1600 at 250 mm focal length, then mildly cropped to a field 6.9° wide x 4.6° high. At the time of capture, Mercury was at 4.6° altitude and 298.2° azimuth. Mouseover for labels.

 

 

Mercury
June 11, 2019

The planet Mercury was captured on June 11, 2019, at 9:41 pm EDT from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 70 to 200 mm f/2.8L zoom lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame was exposed 1/2 second at f/2.8, ISO 1600 at 200 mm focal length, then mildly cropped to a 16:9 ratio and a field 8.1° wide x 4.6° high. At the time of capture, Mercury was at 4.3° altitude and 299.4° azimuth. Visually, Mercury was initially spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 9:17 pm (magnitude -0.2, 62% illuminated, 8.3° altitude, 295.8° azimuth), then with unaided eyes at 9:20 pm.

 

 

Observing at Atsion
June 3-4, 2019

On the night of June  3, 2019, the weather was uncharacteristically clear for a new-moon night, so a group of observers gathered at Atsion Field in Wharton State Forest, NJ. Sunset was at 8:22 pm EDT and astronomical twilight ended at 10:21 pm (twilight is lengthened as we approach the solstice on June 21). I arrived about 10:15 pm, after stopping at Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, to spot Mercury (see the separate Mercury 2019 page).

At Atsion, it was chilly for early June (dropping into the 50's by midnight). The sky was cloud-free, but transparency didn't seem terrific. With unaided eyes, I could see my 5th magnitude reference stars for finding the Cat's Eye Nebula in Draco, but M13 in Hercules was not seen convincingly. Around midnight, when it had gained some altitude, the Milky Way was visible from the Summer Triangle down into Sagittarius. Although some dark lanes could be seen, the Milky Way glow was on the weak side. I decided not to set up the scope (I was taking views through Bernie Hosko's 12.5-inch Dob). However, between about 11:30 pm and 12:30 am, I sat down with my 15x56 binoculars and spotted 39 deep sky objects, and several other things, tabulated here (updated 12-June-2019; one object, NGC 6207, was actually observed in the 12.5-inch scope, not the 15x56s).

 

 

Mercury & Venus
April 3, 2019

The planets Mercury and Venus were captured on April 3, 2019, at 6:16 am EDT from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 100 mm f/2.8L macro lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame was exposed 1/80 second at f/2.8, ISO 400 (automatic with a -1 stop override), daylight white balance. Contrast was increased slightly and it was cropped to about 60% of the original linear dimensions for a field about 12° wide x 8° high. Mouseover for labels. Mercury, 5.5° altitude and 102° azimuth at the time, is difficult to see in this image (no localized enhancement was applied), so see the image below, which has been further cropped in the area around Mercury to increase its visibility.

Mercury was initially sighted at 6:08 am EDT with 15x56 binoculars, but it was not prominent and it was not seen with unaided eyes in the brightening twilight (sunrise would be at 6:41 am, 82° azimuth). On the way to Swede Run, Venus was just emerging from the descending cloud bank above the eastern horizon, so sighting Mercury earlier in a darker sky was not feasible. Before leaving Swede Run, Mercury was last viewed at 6:22 am with difficulty in the 15x56s. Although Mercury will exhibit its greatest extension from the sun for 2019 during this elongation (27.7°), it's a poor one for observers at mid-northern latitudes because the angle of the ecliptic with respect to the horizon before sunrise is shallow (about 27° at the time of the picture) causes most of the elongation to be sideways rather than vertical, so there isn't a corresponding increase in altitude above the horizon.

 

This is the same original image as the one above, but cropped to about 25% of the linear dimensions in the area around Mercury to better show it. The field is about 5.2° wide x 3.5° high. Mouseover for a label.

 

 

Asteroids at Carranza
(7) Iris, (2) Pallas and (1) Ceres
April 1, 2019

The asteroid (7) Iris, magnitude 9.4 in Corvus, was captured on April 1, 2019, at 3:23 am EDT from Carranza Field in Wharton State Forest, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame (10.3° wide x 6.9° high) was exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 3800 K white balance. Besides size reduction, it's unprocessed. Mouseover for labels.

Iris was possibly spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 3:08 am EDT, but after reviewing this image later, I realized I should have checked with my 85 mm spotting scope to be certain I wasn't looking at the magnitude 9.1 star, HD 111015, 9½ arc minutes away. See Bob King's article at Sky & Telescope online for information (including finder charts) about spotting (2) Pallas and (7) Iris around their oppositions in early April 2019.

The previous evening, March 31, 2019, I spotted the asteroid (3) Juno, magnitude 9.7 in Orion, with my 85 mm spotting scope at 9:25 pm EDT from my backyard in suburban Maple Shade, NJ, confirming it at 60x. I could not see it with my 15x56s in the light-polluted sky here.

 

The asteroid (2) Pallas, magnitude 7.9 in Boötes, was captured on April 1, 2019, at 3:25 am EDT from Carranza Field in Wharton State Forest, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame (10.3° wide x 6.9° high) was exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 3800 K white balance. Besides size reduction, it's unprocessed. Mouseover for labels. Pallas was spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 3:09 am EDT, about 5° southwest of first-magnitude Arcturus (which is out of the frame).

 

The asteroid (1) Ceres, magnitude 8.1 in Ophiuchus, was captured on April 1, 2019, at 3:26 am EDT from Carranza Field in Wharton State Forest, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L lens on a fixed tripod. This single frame (10.3° wide x 6.9° high) was exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 3800 K white balance. Besides size reduction, it's unprocessed. Mouseover for labels. Ceres was spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 3:11 am EDT.

 

Note: The three asteroid pictures above were all taken in a narrow time frame (3:23 to 3:26 am EDT) and all three had the same exposure settings (and were similarly unprocessed). Nevertheless, they show different levels of background darkness. That's due to the sky position. In the first, (7) Iris was at 28.4° altitude and 218° azimuth, roughly southwest, so it was towards the skyglow of Hammonton (about 14 miles away) and the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, which are not that much farther away. In the second, (2) Pallas was high overhead at 62.4° altitude and 213° azimuth, so even though it was roughly south-southwest, it was above the apparent light domes. In the third, (1) Ceres was at 28.3° altitude and 150° azimuth, roughly south-southeast. There's less light pollution to the east at Carranza, but it's still not as dark as it is overhead.

However, it was dark enough, and clear enough, that Milky Way "cloudiness" was distinct in the east from the Summer Triangle (Albireo was at 38° altitude) to Sagittarius (Lambda Sgr was at 12° altitude) when I last looked shortly before leaving at 3:45 am.

 

 

The Waning Gibbous Moon
March 23, 2019

The waning gibbous Moon was captured on March 23, 2019, at 1:37 am EDT from Maple Shade, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera at the prime focus of a William Optics 80 mm, f/6 apo refractor on a fixed tripod. Cropped to a quarter of the frame's original linear dimensions for a field about 0.9° wide x 0.7° high. This single frame was exposed 1/1600 second at f/6, ISO 800, monochrome mode. This exposure is about two-thirds of a stop greater than the "Looney 11" rule-of-thumb, to compensate for a thin cloud passing over the moon at the time. Besides cropping and size reduction, no processing was applied. At the time, the moon was in eastern Virgo, about 38° altitude. It was 16.6 days old (since new moon on March 6) and 93% illuminated. Click here for a larger version, cropped only, no size reduction.

 

 

The Waxing Gibbous Moon
March 16, 2019

The waxing gibbous Moon was captured on March 16, 2019, at 8:51 pm EDT from Maple Shade, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Tamron 150 to 600 mm f/5-6.3 zoom lens on a fixed tripod, set to 600 mm focal length. Cropped to a third of the frame's original linear dimensions for a field about 1.1° wide x 0.8° high. This single frame was exposed 1/1600 second at f/11, ISO 1600 with daylight white balance; note that this exposure coincides with the "Looney 11" rule-of-thumb. Besides cropping and size reduction, no processing was applied (click on the picture for a higher-resolution version, or click here for a higher-resolution version with labeled craters). At the time, the moon was in Cancer, about 69° altitude and 7½° west of M44 (the Beehive Cluster). It was 10.4 days old (since new moon on March 6) and 78% illuminated.

 

 

(2) Pallas & Barnard's Star
March 12, 2019

The asteroid, or minor planet, (2) Pallas was captured on March 12, 2019, at 3:49 am EDT from Carranza Field in Wharton State Forest, NJ. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L II lens on a fixed tripod, uncropped, for a field 10.3° wide x 6.9° high. This single frame was exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400 and 4200 K white balance, minimal processing applied. At the time, Pallas was magnitude +8.0 in Boötes, 10.5° south of Arcturus and 1.3° north of the Virgo border. Mouseover for labels.

Bob King has a nice article at Sky & Telescope online about observing (2) Pallas as it approaches opposition in early April 2019. The upcoming opposition of (7) Iris is also covered, with finder charts for both.

 

Barnard's Star (V2500 Oph) was captured at 4:17 am EDT. Taken with the same camera and lens as the previous image, but cropped to a 2.8° square field (27% of the width x 40% of the height, or 10.9% of the original image area). This single frame was exposed 2 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 12,800 and 4200 K white balance, with minimal processing applied. Mouseover for labels.

Barnard's Star is one of the closest to the solar system, about 6 light years distant, and is the closest star (besides the Sun) visible at our mid-northern latitudes. Its proximity contributes to it having the highest proper motion of any known star, 10.3 arc seconds per year. I previously imaged Barnard's Star in May of 2017 and made a comparison of the then-current position against the positions plotted by SkyTools and SkySafari. In the approximate 22 months since then, I am unable to detect any real movement by comparison of the previous and current images. I also found that SkyTools plots the position calculated for the current date while SkySafari plots a fixed position for the year 2000. As a result, the SkySafari position is now off by more than 3 arc minutes. The previous comparison was made with SkySafari 5, but the more recent version 6 still plots the year 2000 position.

 

 

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Last Update: Sunday, July 07, 2019 at 03:42 PM Eastern Time