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Moon-Venus Conjunction, Changed Orion Appearance

Posted: 29 December 2019

Cloudy skies returned on Saturday, 21 December 2019. Had 0.6" rain on Tuesday, 24 December. Saw this owl during the rain Tuesday afternoon.


Thursday, 26 December, dawned clear but clouds from an approaching storm system began appearing mid-day. Friday, 27 December, received an unforecasted 1/2" of snow before sunrise. There was light rain most of the daytime hours with a precipitation total for the day of 0.4". Light rain continued on Saturday, 28 December, with a total of 0.1".

Shortly after sunset on Saturday I managed to get this photograph (D850 DSLR, f/11, 1/40sec, ISO 800, FL 600mm, slight crop) through some thin clouds of the conjunction of the Moon and Venus, 2° apart, with some faint Earthshine visible.


I woke up at 0030 MST on Sunday morning, 29 December, and decided to check the sky condition. It was clear. I finally had a chance to view the constellation of Orion since the reports began appearing that Betelgeuse (the upper left corner star) had faded. The difference in the appearance of Orion was obvious. Betelgeuse (normally Mag. +0.6) was slightly brighter than Bellatrix (upper right corner star, Mag. +1.6) and fainter than Aldebaran (in Taurus, Mag. +1). So Betelgeuse was nearly a full magnitude fainter than normal. Betelgeuse is a variable star and has faded in the past, but not to this extreme. Some day (year, millennia, or a 100,000 years from now) Betelgeuse will go supernova, becoming nearly as bright as the Full Moon, and will be visible in the daytime and cast shadows at night. But it didn't happen this night.

I took the left photo of Orion on 15 December 2017 with a D7200 DSLR (f/3.8, 1 minute, ISO 1600, SkyTracker Pro) and the right photo on 29 December 2019 with the same camera and lens (f/4. 1/2sec, ISO 6400, handheld) 29 December 2019. The photos have been cropped and scaled to approximately the same size. Although the exposures are different in the two photos, the brightness difference in Betelgeuse at the upper left compared to the other stars in Orion is obvious.

photo photo

It was nice to be able to confirm the changed appearance of Orion. I hope to get a tracked photograph of Orion soon but clouds are forecast to return as another storm approaches.

I have posted my review of the Optolong SHO Filters, Starizona Filter Slider.

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