When Moon, Venus, and a Beehive got together

Conjunction of Earth’s Moon and planet Venus with M44 as a bonus! September 14, 2020. Photo by Frank Shoemaker.

CAA member Frank Shoemaker, despite challenging seeing conditions and the early hour, captured a fine image of the September 14 conjunction of Earth’s Moon and planet Venus. As luck would have it, the conjunction occurred in constellation Cancer home of the lovely open cluster M44, the “Beehive”. The technical info.: Canon EOS 6D Mark 2, 100mm, f/4.5, 19 seconds, 5:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Meanwhile, closer to Earth …

Studt_Crescent Moon
Our Moon. Day 27 of the Lunar cycle – 10% illumination. Photo by Alan Studt.

The eyes of stargazers have largely been focused on comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) of late but there are other dazzling sights the cosmos offers; among them is Earth’s Moon.

CAA member Alan Studt has been pursuing a project to photograph — as possible — Moon every day through its cycle of phases. He has captured most phases thus far. At the time of this writing, Luna was in her waning crescent phase with the sliver of lighted disk growing slimmer by the day. The crescent phases offer dramatic views of Moon due to low-angle sunlight casting longer shadows from lunar surface features.

Above is our Moon seen the morning of July 17, 2020, day 27 of the Lunar cycle – 10% illumination – 394,051.09 km away. Studt’s technicals: Four shots stitched, Nikon D850, 4400mm, f/20, ISO 2000, 1/80th sec.

Below is Moon accompanied by planet Venus, accentuated by sunrise-tinted thin clouds. Settings: Nikon D850, 350mm, F/5.6, ISO 250, 1/100th sec.

Studt Crescent Moon & Venus
The 27-day-old Moon and planet Venus float in sunrise-tinted clouds. Photo by Alan Studt.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse: July 4 – 5

NASA Solar and Earth images, illustration by James Guilford.
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the thin outer portion of the shadow Earth casts out into space.

We’re fortunate that the night of July 4 is expected to be clear, and not just for the traditional booms and flashes of celebratory fireworks. Our Moon is getting in on the act, albeit with a much more subtle display in the form of a penumbral eclipse. The eclipse will take place from 11:07 PM to 1:52 AM EDT with maximum eclipse at 12:31 AM July 5.

We say subtle because, unlike a total lunar eclipse, Earth’s Moon will not change to reddish/coppery colors. The Moon will instead become oddly shadowed for a Full Moon, as it enters the outer fringes of Earth’s shadow in space — the penumbra. Only the “top” portion of Luna will pass through the penumbra making this eclipse especially slight. Still, it’s worth a look and it won’t be at a particularly late hour. A deeper penumbral lunar eclipse will take place the night of November 30, 2020.

Moon is eclipsed when it passes through Earth's shadow. Credit: SkySafari / J. Guilford
Earth’s shadow runs away from the Sun into space and has two parts: the deep inner shadow or umbra, and the thin outer portion called the penumbra. The Moon is eclipsed when it passes through Earth’s shadow. Credit: SkySafari / J. Guilford

While it’s possible to view this eclipse with the unaided eye, binoculars will provide an enhanced view as would a small telescope.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse of July 4 – 5, 2020 at Maximum Eclipse: 12:31 AM EDT. Simulation via SkySafari

And just in case there’s any confusion, lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to view and photograph — it’s moonlight — so nothing to worry about there.

If you shoot any photos or have impressions to share with us, you can do so via our Twitter — @Cuyastro

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse of July 4 – 5, 2020. Credit: NASA

NASA Eclipse Page available here: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse of July 4 – 5, 2020.


Give the Moon a chance

Waxing Gibbous Moon, by James Guilford. April 3, 2020.

by William Murmann, CAA President

I know the Moon is considered a nuisance by many of our members.  However, it does have many things worth looking at as it waxes and wanes during the month.  Every night presents something new to see.
Tonight {April 3, 2020} for example, we have a waxing nine-day Moon that is past first quarter.  Looking along the terminator, however, you can spot 52-mile diameter crater Tycho with its steep walls and magnificent ray system that shoots halfway across the Moon.
Farther to the Moon’s north, we have 56-mile diameter crater Copernicus with a collection of four to five thousand-foot mountain peaks in its center made by rebound energy immediately after the crater was created by its impactor.
And just below the Moon’s north polar region, we have the 61-mile diameter crater Plato, the famous “Black Lake.”  Plato is filled halfway with black lava.  On its western rim there is a 9,000-foot peak called Plato Zeta.
As the Moon wanes and the terminator from the setting Sun nears the western edge of the crater, a sharp, spiky shadow can be seen shooting about 30 miles across the crater floor just as the Sun hits Plato Zeta.  By luck, I happened to observing Plato at 4 a.m. one morning and saw the shadow at the exact moment when the setting Sun hit the peak and shot the shadow across the crater floor.
If you are up for a challenge, see if you can see Plato Zeta’s spiky shadow just as it appears.