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Christopher Greaves

December First, 2008

... promises to be a spectacular night.

Two of our brilliant planets – Venus and Jupiter – will appear in the sky together just after sunset, with a thin crescent moon keeping them company.

Who know what skies will be like in Toronto (or your location!) on that evening, but here is a record of the planets as they ‘move” towards each other in the sky.

If you want to see what it will look like, download the excellent DOS program SkyGlobe . (The Windows version is buggy!)

I’ll be taking a series of photos each clear night, looking to the south-west from my apartment balcony just after sunset.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

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Just after seven o’clock.

Venus appears to be moving each night, a little more to the South.

Jupiter will appear to be moving towards Venus.

Tonight I caught Venus a little to the left of the ventilation pipe.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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A little earlier this evening, shortly after sunset.

I spotted Jupiter in the SSW and took a panoramic shot. Venus is near the apartment building to the right of this photo, but you’ll have to look at the second photo tonight to see Venus.

Tough to spot in this photo.

Where’s Jupiter?

On the left-hand side of the photo, use the floors of the balconies.

Look between the top and the next lower balcony.

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Where’s Venus?

Look for the ventilation pipe atop the building.

Go up again that height from the roof of the building, and a bit to the right.

There’s Venus!

Friday, October 10, 2008

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Somewhat later than sunset. I spot Venus as it slides down the side of the apartment building to the SW of me.

That’s it – the blob that appears between the right-hand side of the building and the baseball diamond lamp posts.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

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At seven o’clock each evening, Venus is edging more to the South.

Soon, daylight-saving will kick in (or out, depending on your point of view), and there will be an abrupt re-adjustment.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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At 7:05 tonight, the sky is appreciably darker.

Venus is drifting slowly further south. It must be near its perigee. Or Apogee.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A few days of clouds inhibit photography, but tonight gives a preview of December 1st

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At 7:10 p.m. tonight I am able to capture Jupiter, the moon, and Venus together on the one frame.

The moon is a crescent, and a line drawn perpendicular to the line joining its two “points” points to the sun.

To the right of the moon can be seen, quite faintly in my photo, Venus, circling close to the sun.

Up near the top-left corner of the photo, on a line sloping roughly 45 degrees from the moon is Jupiter.

Jupiter will draw closer to Venus each night. The moon is about to race off across the sky, covering 360/28 degrees of the sky each night for the next month when the two planets and the moon will be ever-so-close!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

No photo tonight, as I was driving back to Toronto from the east.

A good view nonetheless, with the crescent moon midway between Venus and Jupiter. The moon is launching itself eastwards across the sky. Good bye Moon! See you in a month1!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

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Another good shot (for me) of the two planets. That’s Jupiter near the left-hand edge of the photo, upper left corner.

Venus is playing hide-and-seek through the (thankfully) bare branches of the tree near the left-hand of the roof of the apartment building opposite me.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

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A little earlier this evening. There’s Venus directly above the traffic on Bloor Street, and Jupiter is trying to hide, without success, amongst the upper branches of the tree.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

This morning I looked out of the window at 5:30 and did a double-take; then I took a photo (below)

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That’s Sirius, the dog star, floating through Jupiter’s evening path. If I didn’t know better I’d have said “There’s Jupiter!”. Regal is to the right of Sirius, but is too faint to show up with my camera/abilities.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

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Immediately after sunset I catch Venus drifting towards the tree near the apartment building. Jupiter is between the two rightmost branches of its tree!

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An hour later, both planets are winking and blinking through the branches of their respective trees. I take a half-dozen shots, and reproduce here the lucky one that captured both planets when they were winking!

Monday, November 17, 2008

It’s been a long run of cloudy evenings!

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And while we have been waiting, the two planets have drawn closer together.

I took a dozen shots tonight over a two-minute period. A thin bank of cloud had first one then the other hopping out of sight.

Venus here is center of the photo above the bright vehicle light on Bloor Street; Jupiter is off-center to the left, on a 45-degree line NW of Venus.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A clear night!

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At 5:20 p.m. local time, Venus is coyly peeking above the cloud, while Jupiter has slipped hesitantly from behind the tree.

They are due to meet in just ten days time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting closer!

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Yesterday and today were cloudy all day, and this afternoon around 5pm today the clouds shifted and I got a great set of photos of the pair of them.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Clouds, clouds, clouds all week.

The time is 16:37, the sun sets in five minutes. The sky has cleared.

I rush outside to take a photo, knowing that it is still too bright to see the planets, but it’s been so long without a photo.

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16:43 The sun is set, but I can’t see Venus, the brighter of the two planets

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17:07 I catch a glimpse of Venus as a jet swans by, taking off from Toronto’s International Airport. That’s Venus directly to the right of the airplane.

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17:13 Six minutes later I spot Jupiter, almost directly above Venus. faint, but there, and will grow brighter over the next hour.

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17:15 Getting brighter. When I look at the photo in detail I can see that my hand was unsteady, but still and all after a week of nothing, it’s good to have a view.

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17:23 I can’t resist the urge to take shots every ten minutes or less as the sky grows darker.

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17:35 As the sky grows even darker, Jupiter and Venus stand out brighter. Trouble is, it’s at freezing point outside, with a chill wind blowing. I’m shivering and cannot hold the camera steady.

I know. I should have made/bought a tripod.

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17:35 I’m very pleased with this zoom shot. You can see, Venus especially, as a half-circle, the illuminated side of the sphere is of course pointing directly at the sun.

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17:38 Here’s a shot without zoom. Venus shows up clearly as a disk, not as a point.

18:00 I gave up, and came inside to warm up.

The two planets are still visible above the skyline. It seems to me that they will “cut out of view” around 18:30 tonight. There is, at least, a solid hour of visibility from five to six.

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18:33 Here’s a shot that shows the two of them against the background of traffic on Bloor Street and the apartment building to the west of me.

Providing the sky is clear Monday night, we’ll have 90 minutes of a spectacular view.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This morning the Toronto Star got in on the act! (“Venus, Jupiter, moon lining up for rare group hug among stars”). Nice graphic.

“On Monday evening, the three tenors of the night sky will reunite, an event that may not be seen again for another 40 years.”. Better believe it; you read it in the “Star”!

(Have you ever wondered why so many newspapers are named after astronomical figures: Star, Globe, World. Even “The Daily Planet”?)

Usual sloppy stuff I expect from any newspaper “Jupiter is twice as big as all the others combined and its diameter is 11 times that of Earth's.”. Twice as big? Eleven times the diameter? Elementary school mathematics should teach us that multiplying the diameter by eleven increases the area of a circle by 121, and increases the volume of a sphere by 1,331. How then can Jupiter be “twice as big”?

Surely they can’t mean mass? Jupiter is hailed by some to be an almost-sun, it is so massive.

Can they mean “twice as bright”? This must vary according to Venus’s disposition in orbit, and hence Venus’s competition.

As one of my photos from yesterday shows (“17:35 I’m very pleased with this zoom shot. You can see, Venus especially, as a half-circle,”) Venus appears to be twice as bright as Jupiter.

“The planets will be visible to the naked eye, separated only by a finger width held at arm's length.” . We agree on that. I’ve been telling people “a thumb’s width, held at arm’s length”

“And on Monday, even the weakest binoculars should bring Jupiter's four planet-sized moons into focus” more good news, and there’s me armed with binoculars AND my friend Scott’s telescope.

“Unfortunately, Environment Canada says flurries and solid cloud cover on Monday night may obscure the view.”. And then The Star goes and ruins my entire weekend!

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This sketch is as near to scale as I can make it.

Venus’s orbit is 134 Million miles diameter.

Earth’s orbit is 189 Million miles diameter.

Jupiter’s orbit is 966 Million miles diameter.

Think of yourself Monday evening (or any evening from now on is good) at sunset, facing slightly south of west. The sun has just set to your right (if you are in the Northern hemisphere). Your line-of-sight towards the planets is indicated by the red line in the near-to-scale diagram above.

Venus is about five times closer than Jupiter (966/189), and if both planets were perfect glass mirrors, Venus would be five-squared-times-five-squared times as bright as Jupiter – five because that’s the ratio of distance, squared because it’s a surface-of-expanding-sphere thing, and mentioned twice because the light fades on its way from the sun (sphere) to Venus, and then again from Venus (sphere) to the earth. If I’ve got that right, that’s 625 times as bright.

But then these two planets are not mirrors. Venus is covered by lovely dense and reflective clouds, Jupiter is not. But Jupiter offers nearly 125 times the apparent area.

I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve got everything right, but be aware that the mathematics of the planets is a wonderful thing. A thing full of wonder.

Again: Download the excellent DOS program SkyGlobe . (The Windows version is buggy!).

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I was out driving later this day, but not able to take a shot from my balcony. Above is a shot I took early evening. If it is fuzzy it is because it was hand-held, without a balcony railing to help. Venus is bright; Jupiter is faint in the evening haze, almost directly above Venus.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A day of clear sky in the morning, wet snow and, of course, cloud in the late afternoon.

Gloom!

Monday, December 01, 2008

So we missed out here in Cloudy Toronto, “The city that sunshine forgot”

All I can say is “Roll on June 19th 2009 !”


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