Archive for the ‘Crescent Moon’ Category

17 June 2012

Woke up this morning and looked out of Bedroom Observatory. There was the crescent Moon hanging off the palm tree like a slice of silver fruit!

Crescent Moon

Crescent Moon (Click on image to enlarge)

I moved to get a better view and two bright sparks came into view! Jupiter and Venus! Gorgeous! And all before sunrise!
How quickly Venus has moved across!

Crescent Moon with Jupiter and Venus

Crescent Moon with Jupiter and Venus (Click on image to enlarge)

18 June 2012

We are really out of practice of waking at 4 AM and throwing off the feather doona, our warm nest for the night.  But jump out of bed we did, and looked out of Bedroom Observatory.  The sky overhead was clear, but it was too dark to judge whether there were low clouds in the eastern horizon.  A clear horizon was crucial for today’s pre-dawn viewing.  The only way to find the answer was to check from Clifftop Observatory.  So we had a quick cuppa, rugged up, gathered our camera gear, and drove to North Bondi.  The temperature was 9 deg C, and a cold wind from the south pole was about.  From where we parked we had to climb about 100 metres, and our fingers froze holding the cold metal of the camera tripod.

When we reached Clifftop Observatory, we stood stunned, breathless and motionless.   Jupiter was lined up with the Pleiades; the new moon was below lined up with Venus.  And Venus was pretending to be the brightest object in Taurus!

Jupiter, the Moon, Venus

As the sky brightened, some of the little stars got swallowed up in the dawn light, but the main players were still there, keeping us riveted.

Jupiter, the Moon and Venus

Jupiter, the Moon and Venus (Click on image to enlarge)

Before we left, a photo with our favourite tree and my favourite man was mandatory!

Dom the tree and the planets

Dom the tree and the planets (Click on the image to enlarge)

When we came home, we could still see the triangle of Jupiter, Moon and Venus over the roof of our house. 

Final look at Jupiter, the Moon and Venus

Final look at Jupiter, the Moon and Venus (Click on image to enlarge)

The weather man says the rain has gone to Spain for a few days.  So here’s cheers to clear weather and more good viewing.


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20 April 2012

After many, many days, the evening sky looked reasonably clear, so we went to Dover Heights, a suburb adjacent to Bondi, which faces the west. There from the platform of a large playing field we get a spectacular view of three suburbs, Bondi, the City and North Sydney. I hope the developers never, ever think of building here as it gives the public, in a crowded suburb, a place where children can play, people can walk their dogs and star gazers can come and enjoy the beauty of the night sky (despite the light pollution) against the background of our glittering city.

Somehow Dom and I have been forgetting about this grandstand view of the western sky – put it down to “senior” memory.

We went there this evening, carrying our cameras, and parked ourselves on a bench. A thick bank of clouds lay on the horizon up to about 10 degrees where the sun was setting and we thought we’d miss what we had come to see – Venus, the Evening Star – because it would be chasing the sun and soon drop below the horizon.

Anyway, we thought we’d just sit there and enjoy the cool evening and see which stars would pop out in the darkening sky. We saw headlights of planes flying this way and that. Then looking towards the north we saw two planes approaching, but as we watched we realised that one was not moving.

It is the higher one in this image. 

Venus and plane in evening sky

Venus and plane in evening sky (click on image to enlarge)

“Can’t be Venus”, we decided, though as it got darker, it kept getting brighter! “It is a bit more than 20 degrees – 21, I’d say!” estimated Dom with confident exactness. I had to agree.

“Must be Jupiter!” I tentatively suggested as it got brighter and brighter. “Now that’s brighter than any plane’s headlights,” said Dom.

Stars began to appear – Sirius was high up. The belt of Orion was becoming visible.

Convinced we’d missed Venus behind that huge bank of clouds near the setting sun, we picked up our gear and went home. We spied the big headlight in the sky in between buildings and above streets as we wound our way home. “Should have brought the binoculars,” I said. “Might have seen Jupiter’s Moons.”


Back at my computer I checked on Stellarium – it wasn’t Jupiter, was it? It was Venus! Not the King, but the Queen of the evening sky!

It was much higher than we expected and not as near to the sun as we had imagined.

But it sure was bright and beautiful!

21 April 2012

 We were drawn again to see Venus, this time with binoculars. Venus has phases like the Moon, so we wanted to see it as a crescent.

Planet Venus over Sydney, Australia

Planet Venus over Sydney, Australia (click on image to enlarge)

24 April 2012

We had a thunderstorm this afternoon and I thought our hopes of going to see Venus were zilch!

However, on our way back from our evening walk we spied the crescent Moon in the West against a clearing sky.

As soon as we got home, we took our gear and went to the platform which looks out west.

The sky was darkening and the Crescent Moon and Venus were getting brighter by the minute. The city lights came alive and the scene was breath-taking.

I wish I could say I got a good pic – sometimes it just does not happen.  This is the best of a bad lot.

Venus and crescent Moon

Venus and crescent Moon (click on image to enlarge)

The view is burned in my mind’s eye. It was just beautiful.

I sent emails to friends and family who do take the time to look at the night sky. Here’s what my niece Saritha had to say:

“So glad you sent us that information. We noticed it on the way home the other night. It was amazing – so low and bright that I was sure it was a plane, except that it wasn’t moving! Can’t believe it was actually Venus.

Feel quite excited about noticing the Evening Star – we may become star-gazers after all!”

As Greg, my US mentor says, it is wonderful when “people simply – and routinely – integrate  the night sky into their appreciation of nature.  It amazes me how many people are bird watchers, gardeners, or whatever – yet have no idea what is going on once the sun sets.”

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19 Jan 2012

Studying the Moon is a challenge when skies are cloudy. We often have to wait patiently for a quick break in the scudding clouds.  Those seconds are precious: we must have our binocs ready to find the sickle moon and scan its face.

At 4 am on the 19th we woke up to find the crescent Moon a little south of east – at a narrow angle to the window of Bedroom Observatory. The Moon was sitting just out of reach of the fangs of Scorpio. The crescent is my favourite phase – it is the one I remember from childhood as the illustration in fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

Crescent Moon near Scorpio

Stellarium image: Crescent Moon near Scorpio (Click on image to enlarge)

Taking in the view through the binoculars we were delighted to discover features of the Moon we hadn’t noticed before. During the waning phase, the edge along the terminator is more clearly defined as the slanting rays of the sun emphasise physical features by casting shadows of mountains and rims of craters.

At the lower end of the terminator was what appeared to be a small mare with a prominent rim on its lower bank.

Bay of rainbows (Click on image to enlarge)

Research showed it to be Sinus Iridium or the Bay of Rainbows, the remains of a 260 km diameter walled plain. The mountainous rim on the northern and western edges is the range called the Jura Mountains. Along the line of the terminator, peaks of this range catch the sunlight. The string of bright points is aptly called the ‘jewelled handle’ effect.

Looking closer, about halfway along this mountain range, we noticed the prominent crater Bianchini.

There are a few craters scattered in the area below; some of which are Mairan, Sharp, Harpalus. The Bay of Rainbows is certainly a prominent feature, but we noticed it only now in the crescent Moon.

Bay of rainbows
Bay of rainbows with craters and Jura Mountains (Click on image to enlarge)

Moving up (south) we saw the familiar crater Kepler whose rays are now prominent. Aristarchus was its bright self and Grimaldi its dark self.

But what was that fairly large mare with a prominent crater in the top half of the Moon?

Crescent Moon with Bay of Rainbows and craters
Crescent Moon (Click on image to enlarge)

I recognized the mare as the Sea of Moisture, but it is more prominent during this phase of the Moon than when I saw it before. The Sea of Moistureis a small circular mare 825 kilometers (275 miles) across. The frilly edge of the Sea of moisture is formed by the mountains of an old impact basin. This basin has been flooded and filled by mare lavas. We could see that the lavas had flowed through the basin rim particularly in the lower left into the southern part of Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms.

Crescent Moon with Sea of Moisture
Crescent Moon with Sea of Moisture (Click on image to enlarge)

And that crater on the lower (northern) edge, is the large crater Gassendi which was considered as a landing spot for the Apollo 17 mission.

The rim of Gassendi is pretty circular, but is eroded in parts – a big gap appears in the top (southern) end. From the shadow cast it appears that the rim varies in height. Research tells me it goes from as little as 200 meters to as high as 2.5 kilometers above the surface.

A smaller crater cuts into the northern rim, making Gassendi look like a ring with a single stone. We noticed a few central peaks in Gassendi becoming clear as they caught the light.

Click on the link below for a neat photo of Gassendi taken through a near-infrared filter when the moon was waning.


Here are all the features I identified in the crescent Moon.

Crescent moon with features
Crescent Moon with features (Click on image to enlarge)

The top part of the crescent Moon, where it narrows to a point, looks interesting with a collection craters, but it is really hard to work out what they are. So I’ll leave them for another time – another phase of the Moon.

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