On a cloudy night

Lighthing on the horizon

The auro­ra fore­cast was great, but the earth­ly fore­cast was clouds, clouds, clouds. I ven­tured out any­way, hop­ing against hope for a small break in the clouds.

On the back road I chose, there were clouds all around, and lightning—lots of it—to the south and east. I did­n’t hear any thun­der, but there were moments where the clouds lit up from with­in. I man­aged to get one bright bolt in focus.

Look­ing up, I saw that there was indeed a break in the clouds, just large enough for Jupiter to shine through. If you view the pho­to full-size, you’ll see two moons as well: Cal­lis­to on the left and Ganymede on the right (if I’m using this tool correctly).

Jupiter, with Callisto and Ganymede visible

Then, before head­ing home, I decid­ed to take a cou­ple shots of the north­ern sky. There was a hint of green to it. This is the best pho­to I man­aged of the auro­ra try­ing to peek through the clouds.

Clouds with a bit of auroral green

And then I went home.

The Great Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn at conjunction

Sat­urn met up with Jupiter tonight, in case you had­n’t heard about it on the news.

It was cloudy here, but only part­ly cloudy, so I decid­ed I’d take a quick run out of town with my cam­era equip­ment, to see if I could get any photos.

I stepped out­side and dis­cov­ered I did­n’t need to go anywhere—it was vis­i­ble from my dri­ve­way. So I set up there, and snapped some pho­tos of Jupiter + Sat­urn in between the clouds.

Jupiter and Saturn at conjunction
Jupiter and Sat­urn at conjunction

In the box­es, top-left to bot­tom-right, are Cal­lis­to, Io, and Europa. Ganymede is too close to Jupiter for my lens to sep­a­rate it.

The half-moon looked love­ly, too, so I got some of the sun­shine reflect­ed off it, too.

All the pho­tos were tak­en with my 55250mm lens, at 250mm, f/5.6, vary­ing times and ISOs.

A comet, an aurora, and the king of planets

Last night was nice and clear, so I grabbed my gear and drove about ten min­utes west of town, hop­ing to catch Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

It was about 10:30 when I got to my spot, and the sun­set was still too bright to see the comet. I noticed Jupiter on the oth­er side of the sky, so I snapped a cou­ple shots of it first. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I got all four Galilean moons in the shot, too.

Jupiter and its four largest moons
Jupiter, and—very faintly—Io, Cal­lista, Europa, and Ganymede
5 sec, f/1.8, ISO 10050mm

Then the sun set enough, and I swung back around to face northwest.

The comet above a bluff of trees
5 sec, f/1.8, ISO 10050mm

As I was get­ting ready to pack up, I noticed a hazi­ness to the north­east­ern sky. I knew thanks to SpaceWeather.com that a coro­nal mass ejec­tion had just arrived, trig­ger­ing some auro­ra. So I put my widest lens on my cam­era and snapped a few more shots.

Comet + aurora
Comet NEOWISE and some auro­ra bore­alis
30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 80011mm

All in all, a good night. I even got to wave at the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion as it went by.

Jupiter’s Birth


Well, this is pret­ty cool:

Thanks to exten­sive com­put­er sim­u­la­tions, the researchers have cal­cu­lat­ed that the cur­rent asym­me­try [in the counts of Tro­jan aster­oids] could only have occurred if Jupiter was formed four times fur­ther out in the solar sys­tem and sub­se­quent­ly migrat­ed to its cur­rent posi­tion. Dur­ing its jour­ney towards the sun, Jupiter’s own grav­i­ty then drew in more Tro­jans in front of it than behind it.

Jupiter’s unknown jour­ney revealed

Image cred­it: NASA/J­PL-Cal­tech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill