Monday, February 04, 2008

Moon, Planets, and Galaxies

I've been watching Jupiter and Venus most mornings for the last couple weeks. I slept in today, and it looks like I really missed it. Pierre Schmidt was outside this morning and sent me this great picture of, from left to right, Venus, Jupiter, and the moon. The new moon will occur Wednesday night at 11:44 Bonaire time. That's Thursday at 03:44 UTC. If you live in Antartica, you can see a nice annular eclipse of the sun at that time. Residents of New Zealand and Southeastern Australia can see a partial solar eclipse.

Back here on Bonaire, there will be an nice total eclipse of the moon on Wednesday, Feb. 20. I hope it is clear that night.

Pierre and I were out viewing with his big binoculars Saturday evening, way down on the south end of Bonaire. We were set up somewhere between the kitesailing area and Red Slave. We took turns looking through the binos and just gazing at the Milky Way with our good old Mark 1 eyeballs.

I noticed a glow in the sky between Canopus and Achernar. Realizing that the Large Magellenic Cloud (LMC) was somewhere over there, I wondered if I might actually be seeing it. Neither Pierre nor I had ever seen it from Bonaire before. After consulting various star atlases, I decided that it must have been the LMC, so I went back Sunday night with my camera. Technical difficulties prevented me from taking any long time exposures, but I shot ten 10 second images at f2.8 and ISO 1600. I combined them with Deep Sky Stacker and then processed them like crazy in Photoshop and shure enough, there was the LMC lurking between Canopus and Achernar.

We are psyched to have seen it. Pierre reports that the top of the LMC never gets higher than 12 degrees above the horizon here on Bonaire and that the middle of it peaks at 8 degrees. So the sky has to be extra clear for it to be visible. I'm still hoping to get out there with a fully functioning mount and take some long time exposures. Tonight is too cloudy, and the moon will be back in the evening sky soon, so it might well have to wait 'till next year. Yikes!

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