I learned last night at the November general meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City that we have just fifty days (forty-nine as I write this blog) until the end of a Mayan age (the 13th Bak’tun). More commonly known to us as the Winter Solstice on December 21, 2012 (12/21/12 or 21/12/12 depending on your longitude). I had a lot on my mind as I drifted off to sleep last night, but when I woke to clear skies and a newly risen Venus blinking at me through the bare branches of trees along my eastern horizon, I shook off the last vestiges of ancient doom and gloom and braved the brisk late fall pre-dawn environs with my tripod and camera.
Armed with new tips and techniques garnered from Tom Martinez’s astrophotography presentation during the club’s Astro 101 session, I attempted a long exposure (ten seconds long) of the Big Dipper using my normal lens:
I was gratified to discover that my camera can take even longer exposures without the necessity of a handheld remote. Not that I don’t plan to purchase a remote for it soon though.
I didn’t attempt to capture Canis Major or Orion in a long exposure since I would have been shooting west over the well-lit parking lot of City Hall. Instead, I turned my camera towards the southeast and bright shining Venus and the slightly dimmer Saturn.
I knew Mercury had risen shortly after six o’clock, but I couldn’t see it clearly until about a quarter after.
Later, I accidentally captured not only Mercury, but a passing plane, as it took off from KCI (northeast of my location).
When I got back to my laptop and downloaded the photos, I also double-checked and compared them to the alignment at the time they were taken using the Star Dome Plus java applet at Astronomy.com:
A short successful photo shoot this morning. I didn’t hang around for the sunrise, since I judged it wouldn’t be as pretty as the one I captured Saturday morning.
Weather permitting, I’ll be repeating this activity for the next two or three mornings. I’m excited to see Venus and Saturn pass each other in the night (or very early morning).
And next week I’m going to wish I was visiting Egypt to witness a once in 2,737 years event involving these same three planets and the Great Pyramids at Giza.