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Venus & Mercury Conjunction, Comet Lovejoy & Full Moon

Posted: 5 January 2015

Open: Sunday, 4 January 2015, 1812 MST
Temperature: 52°F
Session: 764
Conditions: Mostly clear, clouds approaching from NW

On my way to the observatory I could see Venus and Mercury low in the western sky. Took this (cropped) D7000 DSLR photo, f/3.5, 1/20sec, ISO 1250, 18mm, showing the planets on the left and the observatory dome on the right:

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As the observatory was opened, the nearly Full Moon was rising over the hill to the east. It would be exactly Full at 2152 MST.

1819 MST: viewed Mercury, 83X. It was bright but too low to determine phase. Then viewed Venus, 83X. It was also low in the sky but it seemed to be at a nearly full phase.

1822 MST: getting breezy. Slewed the 8" telescope to the moon, low in the eastern sky. Using 83X, a very slight terminator was visible 3.5 hours before exactly full phase.

1830 MST: began scanning the sky near the constellation of Orion for Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) using the Celestron Cometron 12x70 binoculars. I started scanning from the comet's position on the previous night and moved northward (its direction of motion). I picked up the comet in the binoculars after about 15 seconds of scanning. It was bright with a large coma. No tail was visible. It was not visible to the naked eye as the bright moon light interfered.

I then did a test photograph of the sky to see if the comet would be visible against the bright sky. It was. I began waiting for the comet to rise higher. I monitored its position using the 12x70 binoculars.

1852 MST: took this handheld iPhone 5s afocal 83X photo of the nearly full moon:


Next, I began taking a series of sky photographs using various exposure settings to try to capture both the Full Moon and Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). I took this photo from inside the observatory at 1907 MST, f/3.8, 4 seconds, ISO 2000, 24mm. It shows the overexposed Full Moon on the left (with some clouds that had reached the eastern sky), the constellation of Orion (rising behind the tree), and Comet Lovejoy in the upper righthand corner.

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This image is a magnified view from the above image clearly showing that the comet was captured even with the bright moonlit sky:


The comet is getting brighter and should look really nice once the moon is gone from the sky later this week.

1915 MST: the clouds had now reached Orion and there were thin clouds in much of the sky. Ended sky photography.

1922 MST: took a final look at the moon, 83X. There was still a very slight terminator visible 2.5 hours prior to Full Moon.

Close: Sunday, 4 January 2015, 1932 MST
Temperature: 46°F

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