close encounters of the planet and moon kind

Tonight was a pretty cool event in terms of random geometrical alignments. The evening of the 18th of February, 2013, marked a close encounter between Jupiter and our own Moon on the sky. For more southern latitudes than Sydney, the two would have actually occulted (Moon passing in front of Jupiter)! We only got a close encounter - but it was close enough for both objects to be in my telescope's field of view, so that was neat. And of course, being the photographic nerd that I am, I had to try and get a photo of it.

Took a while standing out in the dark, but thankfully the sky was mostly clear. My poor little 6" Meade, stored in a dusty garage and beaten up over the years, struggles sometimes but for two objects as bright as these it managed to do pretty well. I think one of the mirrors is out of alignment though. I discovered that my otherwise very awesome Lumix TZ20 is absolutely crap at night shots compared to my Olympus waterproof camera, so that was interesting. Had to play around with some settings, and take several shots to get a nice one, but finally….

I even managed to get all four Galilean moons! So pleased about that. It took a lot of shots to get that though. I also checked in with WolframAlpha to see which moon was which:

So it was Callisto and Io huddled close together :)

Although this kind of astronomical event is mostly meaningless (just a chance alignment on the sky), seeing the Moon so close to Jupiter and its own moons is kind of awe-inspiring nonetheless. We live in a time where it's taken for granted that there are other planets, with other moons, in our Solar System and other systems. It was really not that long ago where to mention talk of other planets, or anything that didn't rotate around the Earth, would have gotten you exiled or worse. Now we know that our Moon orbits around the Earth, and that those four little dots are Jupiter's largest moons, orbiting around it along with 63+ other moons 34 light minutes from Earth while a storm over 300 years old swirls on the "surface" of the biggest planet in our Solar System.

Imagine what we will know about the Universe in another few hundred years!

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License