The western sky has been interesting this month. Once again, we had Venus and Jupiter shining brightly, this time joined by the crescent moon. That’s Venus next to the moon, with Jupiter at the bottom of the frame in the image above. I felt it was my duty to run out and shoot a few frames for the record. Venus is close to it’s maximum brightness, just incredibly bright in the evening sky.
This week, for various astronomical reasons, Venus and Jupiter appear unusually close together in the western sky after sunset. This is known as a conjunction. While interesting and lovely, especially for astronomy enthusiasts, this does not necessarily lend itself to spectacular photography. On this one, I found myself more interested in how the sycamore tree looked in this several second exposure, illuminated by a light on the garage nearby. Yes, I would like to claim this is some intricately planned multi-flash operation, but no. Just a tree, illuminated by a garage light, along with two planets as the icing on the cake.
I’ve always been interested in astronomy as well as photography, but never really tried much astrophotography. The other night, when I found out Jupiter was making it’s closest approach to earth in decades, I went out to take a look. As is my custom when seeing something cool, I try and figure out if it can be photographed. I tried a few shots with my D700 & super sharp 24mm-70mm Nikkor lens. Although this lens gave very little magnification, when examining the images on the computer I was amazed that I could both see Jupiter was clearly a disk (not just a point of light), and a hint of what looked to be the four brightest moons. Now I’m fully aware that all this is visible in normal binoculars, but for some reason I had not expected it to be so obvious with my camera.
Swapping out the nikkor with my Sigma 70mm-200mm I went back out. With this longer lens zoomed into 180mm or so you can actually see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. (Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io.) Yes, they’re just little dots of light, and Jupiter itself is way overexposed, but I thought it was really interesting that I could go out with just my camera and some normal-ish lenses, and capture this. I’m sure there are many thousands of astrophotographers out there to whom this is no big revelation, but I was impressed. I can see how this could be an interesting hobby.