Two Bright Planets

I finished work at 6 pm today. At that time, the sky was clear, the sun is already 6-12 degrees below the horizon and Venus and Jupiter were shining brightly. I look at both planets, located in opposite sides of the horizon, and they both appear so bright. I wondered why, and came up with an answer.

Venus is many times closer than Jupiter, but they look similar in brightness. The reason why is because Jupiter is bigger and we can see more of it. Jupiter’s mass and radius is 1.89E27 kg (317.8 Earth Masses), and 69,911 km, whereas Venus is only 4.867E24 (0.815 Earth Masses), and 6,052 km respectively. Clearly, Jupiter is the larger planet, but (at closest point) is 588 million km away. Venus is the smaller planet, but is only (at closest point) 38 million km away. This means that they look similar in brightness when compared to each other.

Here is another example:

The sun is 1.9891 × 1030 kg, and 695,500 km in mass and radius respectively. The Moon is 7.34767309 × 1022 kg large and 1,737.5 km in mass and radius respectively. The sun is (clearly) the larger of the two, but when you put them on top of each other, such as during a Solar Eclipse, they look very similar in size.

For both cases, their actual distances and diameters vary greatly, but their angular diameter is similar. The angular diameter is the diameter of an object from a certain frame of reference. For example, the Moon is 31.075 arcminutes across, and the sun is 32 arcminutes across. Very similar in angular size, but greatly varied across the cosmic distances.

The next time you see Venus and Jupiter in the sky or a solar eclipse, Look at how different they are, but how similar they look. It’s will surprise you.


Keep looking up. You never know what you will find up there.



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Surprising Discovery In Sudbury

On Thursday, November 14, 2014, I went to Sudbury with my father, and the second day we were there, it was a gorgeous day. My father suggested I take the telescope out to observe the sun, and I did that.

The batteries had died, therefore I got the DC adapter, and plugged it into the car. I looked at the sun, and there were a few minor sunspots on the right side of the Sun. My father, and my aunt, saw the sun, and they were impressed. When my father needed help with some repairs, I centered the sun in the telescope’s eyepiece and, I went to help him leaving the telescope and car running.

My experience with tracking this past year was horrible. It never stayed in the center long enough to take any good photos. That is why it was a surprise to find that the telescope actually stayed in the center. Tracking worked because it was connected to a DC power source. When I stayed in Sudbury during the summer, I connected my telescope to an AC outlet, and it didn’t work as well as I wanted it to. Maybe it has to be connected into a DC plug to power the telescope efficiently.

Whatever happened, we need to do more research on this. If this is the case, then my problem is solved, and I can do all the imaging that I would like to do. I hope that is the case.


UPDATE: A few weeks ago, I tested my telescope’s tracking capabilities using my Pontiac G6 as its power source. Tracking did all right, but not as expected. I had the idea of imaging the Pleiades, but the clouds came in and quickly blocked the night sky. Therefore, I centered my telescope on Sirius. I timed the tracking, and Sirius reached the edge of the Eyepiece’s Field of View in less than 5 minutes. I think that might be the acceptable limit that my friend was talking about, nevertheless, I needed to do more testing. Good Night!

Solar Viewing with Jim Chung

On Friday, October 10, 2014, I visited Dr. Jim Chung, who is an amateur astronomer, and a fellow Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) member, at his house. He invited me over so he could show me his solar filter. It is a glass based solar filter that lets in a safe amount of light to look at the sun.

Telescopes need a filter to look at the sun, because the telescope concentrates light. When you look into a concentrated sum beam, it would blind you. If you want to look at the sun, use proper protection!

I set up my telescope on his driveway, where we attached the solar filter, aimed it at the sun, and relished in the majesty of the sun. We saw a sunspot, and the filter worked perfectly. We set the telescope to track on the sun, and we went into his garage where he showed me his workspace.

I saw all the equipment he acquired over the years. It was quite extensive. There were lenses, diagonals, cameras, and many other objects. We returned to my telescope and saw that the scope has drifted greatly from the center, which means the tracking had failed. However, Jim believed that it works just fine, because there is a level of drifting that is acceptable for visual astronomy. However, it is unacceptable for astrophotography. Therefore, I wanted to get more information about making my telescope astrophotography-worthy.

I asked about auto guiders, and focal reducers. Jim told me about auto guiders and that alt-az telescopes (which is what I have), need a wedge to make it act like an equatorial mount. The wedge will correct for North-South drift once it was polar aligned, and the auto guider will take care of East-West drift. Jim soon showed me his the Alan Gee-Telecompressor mark 2 focal reducer, which he highly recommends. It seems like an interesting piece of equipment. We checked the telescope again, and the sun hid behind the clouds.

Therefore, we decided to call it a day. I packed up my scope, and thanked him for his time. In addition, Jim lent me his solar filter to observe the solar eclipse that came up. I thanked him and left his residence.

I had a great time hanging out with Jim. Since this happened over a month ago, my father and I were able to use the solar filter for a couple of events. My father was able to see the solar eclipse that happened on October 23, 2014, but he wasn’t able to find a good location to observe the eclipse from. A day later, I was able to image the large sunspot seen on the Sun. I hope to do more with the Solar Filter, but I will need to return it to Jim soon. Until I find a new one, happy observing!