Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photos of the Moon-Venus conjunction

This morning I had a little extra time so I was able to snap a few digital photos of the "Spectacular Moon-Venus conjunction at break of dawn" that I wrote about yesterday. It was even better this morning, which I was glad for. I also quickly grabbed my binoculars to see if I could tell the phase of Venus through them but I wasn't able to. Binoculars are very unsteady so you have to be sitting or better yet laying down to really be able to spy something as small as a speck of light in the sky with any clarity. (Which is why we use mounted telescopes for sky gazing.) Just wanted to share my photos. I did adjust the colors in Photoshop to make the Moon and Venus stand out better.

One day when I can afford it, I'd invest in a good telescope. For now, I'm in a light polluted area of Long Island, as I mentioned, so I'm in no rush.

Enjoy the photos (Click on them to make them bigger.):

Monday, August 17, 2009

Spectacular Moon-Venus conjunction at break of dawn

Saw a beautiful sight at about 5:40am this morning going to work. Amazing. Spectacular Moon-Venus conjunction at break of dawn. (No, I'm not in India. It's visible all over the world. Want to take a look? Got to get up early in the morning.)

Wish I had time to get my binoculars. Still a great view with the naked eye. It really is a great way to start the day and I was pleasantly surprised because I had no idea that this was occurring. Had I known, I might have been prepared and taken a few extra minutes in the morning to sit and observe or tried to photograph it. Since I live in a pretty light polluted area on Long Island, I take any unusual sky gazing events that I can get and this is always one I enjoy whether it's at night or early morning.

Why does Venus appear in early morning and evening? Click here to find out.

Nighttime Moon-Venus conjunctions usually happen just before or after sunset. It's most beautiful when you get to see a crescent moon next to a bright Venus. Ironically, we see Venus at its brightest when it is in a crescent phase (Venus has phases like our moon.) When its in full phase Venus is further away, thus dimmer. Watch a cool animation of real photographs capturing Venus going through its phases here on Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The reason we see Venus as such a bright shining object in the sky is because it is covered with clouds that reflect back a lot of light. And it's very close to the Earth. Of course underneath the cover of clouds, there is the nightmare of all enviromentalists, extreme global warming because of a gren house effect as the layer of clouds traps in the heat underneath.

Don't let that information distract you from enjoying the beauty of Venus. The planet is called the evening star or the morning star and used to be thought of as two different planets. A couple of other interesting facts to enhance your viewing pleasure:

1) Venus rotates in the opposite direction from all the other planets. See from the sun's north pole (as compared to Earth's own north pole) all the planets rotate counter-clockwise, but Venus rotates clockwise. If you lived on Venus, the sun would rise in the West and set in the East!

2) Venus is named for the Roman god of love and beauty but it has been observed since prehistoric times.

3) Venus is sometimes called Earth's twin or sister because Earth and Venus are very similar in size (Earth is slightly bigger.)

4) Venus has no moons.

5) The first man-made object to land on another planet was the unmanned Soviet Venera 3 probe in 1966. It crashed on Venus and never gave back any data about the planet.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Wired Magazine is holding a survey: Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Everyone know which side of the fence that I am on. But head on over to the Geek Dad blog to see read the entire post and then offer your two cents.

One note, the image that they have on the blog for Star Wars is a pretty cool collage of Star Wars characters from all six films. I downloaded it as my desktop. It's worth the trip over there just to check it out. IMO, it blows the Star Trek image they have there away.

From @wired:

World peace be damned — it's time to take a stand! Star Trek or Star Wars? Cast your ballot at http://tinyurl.com/n5864v