Crescent Moon Sails Between Jupiter and Venus on the Ides of July

I need my head examined.  Why else would I suddenly sit up in bed and immediately head to a window in the darkest hour of the night, just to see if an astronomical conjunction was visible yet?  And that’s exactly what I did this morning, without the aid of an alarm clock.  Some internal portion of my brain must be tapped into some universal system (let’s hope it’s not that Dark Energy that’s making the cosmological headlines lately), because I woke up at 3:55 a.m. earlier today, just so I could photograph two planets, a star and a crescent moon.

A quick peak out my second story east facing window showed something bright glittering through my large oak tree’s leaves.  For a better look, I went out the front door and walked halfway down the driveway.  Yep, I could clearly see the crescent moon, Jupiter above, and Venus below, as well as the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus (although that was the only star I could see in that constellation with my blurry bleary sleepy eyes).

Eastern Horizon for Lansing, Kansas at 4:10 a.m. 7/15/2012 (courtesy Astronomy Magazine’s Star Dome Plus subscriber only java web applet).

I went back inside and grabbed my camera gear and the keys to the van.  I remembered my purse, since I planned to setup the tripod in the cul-de-sac in front of Lansing City Hall and the Police Department.  I’ve been questioned more than once by the local ‘protect and serve’ brigade while attempting astrophotography on their front lawn.

I took a couple of shots with the normal lens, but quickly determined I really needed the telephoto.  Once I switched the lenses, I could zoom in and capture just the four primary objects in one frame.  I took a half dozen photos before returning the gear to the van.  At least one police car did cruise by, but he probably didn’t see me ensconced in the dark dead end to his right as he turned left down the hill.

Once I got back home, I went back to bed.  Five hours later, I woke up and thought to look at the photos I’d taken while half asleep.  I settled on the second to last one I took.  Here is that photo (twice … once without labels and once with):



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