The Mercury/Venus Expedition

On the morning of August 11th I awoke at 3:30am to photograph
Venus and Mercury, which were rising in the northeast at about 5:00am.
I also wanted to attempt to observe some Perseid meteors.

As soon as I got coffee started I went outside . It was a glorious morning.
Not a cloud in the sky and the full moon about 35 degrees above the horizon and heading west.
I packed up my gear, filled my thermos and was on the road in short order.

I decided to go to Tiki Beach in Vermilion. The park closes at dusk
but I decided to pull up to the gate and park.
Hopefully, the Vermilion PD would not make me leave.

I arrived at about 4:15 and to my chagrin the entire sky was totally cloud covered.
Low, swift clouds were flying in from the north, and were being propelled by
what I estimated to be a 35 mile an hour steady wind from the north.

Look at my camera strap.
It slapped me in the face a few times, and I was beginning to
consider it a lethal weapon.
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While clouds covered 80% of the skydome that morning, they refused to cover the full moon.
I would have gladly welcomed a large thick cloud to cover up the moon's glaring light,
but hey, if astronomy were that easy it would probably be boring.
Here's a shot of my scope, with the full moon happily shining away behind me.

I watched for perseids through holes in the clouds, but alas, the effort was in vain.
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As the morning progressed I could see some clearing in the north, so decided to hang around.
Finally about 5:45am I got a glimpse of Venus through a hole in the clouds.

In the first shot you can see that my camera dutifully found a bright object to focus on and carried out it's task.
Unfortunately it focused on the end of my telescope. I quickly switched to manual focus and had time for one more shot
before Venus was again obscured by clouds. As you can see in these photos, dawn is fast approaching.

Venus remained visible for about 5 minutes and I attemped to get a shot through the scope.
I shot about a dozen images, but only one turned out halfway decent. The remainder were oblong because of the
high winds buffeting the scope.


Finally, the sun popped up on the horizon. It was a glorious sunrise.
I shot 65 photos of the sunrise and gathered them up into a little gif file.

Thus ended the Venus expedition. If it's clear I'll try again tomorrow.
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Well, I did not get a clear morning again until Tuseday, August 15th.
And then it was only partially clear.
By this point in time the planets are beginning to seperate and I had to wait for Mercury to rise above my
obstructed horizon. When it did it was lost in a very slow moving cloud.
I rushed down the road a ways and found my shot.
Right over top of Chase bank on Rt. 57 in Lorain.
Here's the money shot, first, as I saw it, then with a little cropping.
    

ENDNOTES:
1) The Upper planet is Venus, the lower is Mercury.
2)  Since they both lie on the ecliptic it's easy to see what it looks like at 41 degrees latitude.
3) The 1st photo on this page was taken with an Olympus Stylus 710 digital camera.
4) The remainder were shot with an Olympus E-500 Digital SLR w/various digital lens configurations.
5) The telescope is a Meade 8" LX6 SCT  and the close up of Venus was shot at prime focus.
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The animation was made by shooting 65 images @ ~ 25 second intervals.
I put the camera in auto exposure mode so it could adapt to the different light levels.
The photos are unretouched. The only mod I made was reducing the size of the images
so the animation could be kept under 2Mb.
I used Animation Shop Pro (comes with Jasc Paint Shop Pro) to compile the animation
and produce the title, start and end sequences.
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AFTERWARDS:
Well, I thought this page was finished until the morning of the 16th. I was on my way to work
and realized it was a clear morning. I pulled off the side of the road and finally got the two planets
in a pristene, clear, nearly dark sky.


...THE SAGA CONTINUES...

On August 22nd, 2006 Venus, Saturn, Mercury and the New Moon will be rising early in the north east
just before sunset. I set out to capture the event, but alas, my pesky cloud got in the way again.
(Seems like that happens a lot, doesn't it?)

I patiently watched Venus rise high in the morning twilight and finally, as the sky began brightening
the crescent moon worked it's way up out of the cloud,

Sadly, the cloud hung in there and was still in the way when the sun became bright enough to obscure the crescent moon from view.
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The three planets will remain in close proximity for another few days and I will continue to try and capture the grouping.
On the 27th and 28th saturn will approach Venus and overtake it. On the morning of the 27th saturn will be just below Venus
and on the 28th it will be above Venus.

On both mornings they will be close enough to be captured in the same telescope eyepiece  with a wide field lens.
I'll try to capure it, but will be fighting morning twilight (and probably my friendly cloud!) in the attempt.