Category Archives: Astronomy

Comet c/2022 e3 (ztf) | Fading fast

One more view…

How I See It

Discovered in March 2022, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) caused a stir in the astronomy community. In January and February of 2023, hailed in the news as the Green Comet, it was the subject of numerous media stories. The hype surrounding it’s appearance was rather intense. I looked for it on a few occasions when the weather cleared with hopes of seeing what was being described in articles. I was not impressed with it on either of the two times I saw it. I don’t have the equipment to take long exposures or stack multiple images such as those made by astronomers with better resources. I did enjoy their images and appreciate the skill and talent needed to make them.

Where is the comet now in mid-March? It is positioned to the right of the constellation Orion. It is labeled in green in this desktop planetarium simulation. Each day it moves…

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Venus-Jupiter conjunction progress

How I See It

I started imaging the evening pair of planets on 19 February when they were still quite far apart. My camera is a Canon Powershot SX60HS with a powerful zoom. It was mounted on a tripod. Settings of ISO 200, 0.5 sec, infinity focus, 2 sec delay timer, and medium zoom were saved for future exposures over the next days of the conjunction. I tried to time exposures between 6:30 and 6:45 pm. Lengthening daylight and weather conditions were challenges. Our region of the mid-United States is especially prone to clouds and wind this time of year. I felt lucky to get six images over twelve days.

Pixelmator Pro was used to layer the images and add text notations. I aligned each exposure on Jupiter as the frame of reference. Both planets moved from night to night. Jupiter moved down to toward the Sun a small amount each day. Venus moved…

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Venus-Jupiter Daylight view | 1 Mar 2023

How I See It

Like many others, I’ve been following the evening views of Jupiter and Venus. It has been a challenge to get clear skies in order to see their progress as they neared each other. Today started foggy. That moved out leaving clear skies. I set up my 102 mm Meade refractor on the go-to mount and asked it to find Venus. There it was, glowing bright in the eyepiece, with the much dimmer disc of Jupiter to the lower left. It was a rare sight. I’ve seen both of these planets separately several times before in the daytime with my naked eye, binoculars, and telescope. It is a fun challenge. This was special to see them both in the same view of the eyepiece.

I had an eyepiece camera mounted on the telescope part of the time hoping to get an image with it. I couldn’t find them. So, as a…

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Viewing Heavenly Bodies | 2023

Looking for stuff in space this year?

How I See It

🔭 Updates anearlier post toinclude recent changes and new information.🔭

Desktop planetarium software helps plan viewing sessions and keep track of the planets and Moon. Many products are available for all computer platforms and smartphones. A browser search yields links to many sources. Open source and free Stellarium is one popular program. It can be customized to your location and has a nice look and feel. For Android and Mac phones and tablets, I like SkySafari. It isn’t free but is inexpensive.

Online planetariumsitesarepopular and offer many features. Below are highlights of a few I like. With multiple features, a unique look and feel, and different levels of detail, they can help satisfy your curiosity aboutastronomical events. I welcome reader questions or reviews about using these tools or others you find helpful.


Heavens Above

This popular site offers a wealth of sky viewing options. It is simple and very…

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Maharishi Vedic Observatory

How I See It

Fairfield is a city in southeast Iowa with a population of 9416 based on the 2020 census. Like many places, it has a varied and interesting history. Higher education played a large role in that history. Fairfield was home to Parsons College from 1875 to 1973. Enrollment peaked at 5000 in 1966. Soon after, the school and it’s president, Millard G. Roberts, got caught up in questionable activities. Life magazine published a critical article. The school lost accreditation and he was asked to resign. Enrollment dropped and the school closed in 1973 bankrupt and $14 million in debt.

The following year the campus was purchased by Maharishi International University. It promotes consciousness-based education which includes Transcendental Meditation technique in its practices. Full potential of the individual, reaching economic goals, living in harmony with the environment, and bringing spiritual fulfillment and happiness to humanity are some of the goals of…

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Lunar Eclipse | 15 May 2022

How I See It

The skies cleared as evening approached. The Moon was aligned with Earth and the Sun. Their syzygy at 9:30 pm CDT brought the Moon into the umbra of the Earth’s shadow. Desktop software gave a simulated view like this. The faint inner circle is the umbra. The larger circle is the penumbra.

My camera was mounted on a tripod and set for capturing images about every 15 minutes starting at 9:30. The images were cropped to place the umbra in nearly the same place in each image. That placement highlighted the movement of the Moon over the 15 minute time periods between photos.

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Venus Crescent

We went to a spot with a clear southwest view hoping to see comet Leonard. The conditions weren’t quite favorable. Instead, we admired the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. I pointed my camera on full zoom to Venus. It is currently rounding its orbit and passing us between the Sun and Earth. See the orbit diagram below.

We are seeing mostly the shadowed side of Venus. A thin crescent reflects off its surface. In the early days of January it will be almost directly between us and the Sun and not visible in the glare. It will emerge in the early morning hours by mid-January. It will remain our morning companion until October. This thinning crescent remains as our last view of 2021. The crescent will reverse next month.

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS | ISO 800 | 1/400 s
© Dominic Ford 2011–2021

Comet NEOWISE | Planet Opposition

The comet moved during the 14 minutes it was watched.

How I See It

Sunday evening 19 July 2020 the skies cleared providing another viewing opportunity for C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). We went just outside our garage door and looked northwest below the Big Dipper. A large River Birch tree shades us from the glare of the nearby streetlamp. We first looked at the comet through our 30x telescope.

I then set my digital camera on the tripod and zoomed all the way in for a photo. It was 9:53 pm local time. Several features are labeled in the resulting photograph. Comets have a core nucleus composed of rock, dust, water ice, and frozen carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and ammonia. Some describe them as freeze dried dirty snowballs. Their surface is littered with a thick layer of very dark material. The Sun heats this dark material and causes the ices to vaporize and escape into a cloud of gas around the core called a…

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