Mars, Mercury, the Moon, and Algol

Hey, everyone! Well, it happened. The clouds cleared, and I had a gorgeous view of the sky to the west right after dusk. The moon was a thin little crescent, only about 33 hours past new, and as I stood on my back deck with my tea and watched. The family wasn’t interested tonight. Their loss; more for me. It was nice to have a few quiet minutes for myself to watch the stars come out.

And come out, they did! Dig this:

IMG_4026
Mercury, Mars, and the Moon, March 29, 2017

That there’s the western sky as seen through the branches by my little pocket-sized Powershot, with the stars of no fewer than four constellations (Taurus, Aries, Perseus, Cetus), and two star clusters (Pleiades and Hyades). Here it is with some stars and planets labeled, if you want to find your way around. I didn’t bother labeling the moon.

The western sky, labeled, March 29, 2017
The western sky, labeled, March 29, 2017

I was happy to get the star Algol, the second brightest in Perseus in this shot. Mirfak, above, is the brightest in Perseus.

Algol, which is also called the Demon Star, is an interesting star. It’s what’s known as an eclipsing binary. It’s a system in which there are multiple orbiting each other, and they’re arranged just right so that they cross right along our line of sight, pass right in front of each other from seen from here. This causes what we see as just one star to dim and then brighten every three days or so. It’s a few hours past its minumum brightess tonight. If you watch it over time, though, you’d see it brighten and dim reliably and predictably. It’s another one of those amazing rhythms of the universe, hidden right under the surface. It’s another easy piece of the universe to watch, check in on and keep track of. For something that moves as slowly as the universe does, I love things like this; things that change quickly enough for us to see.

The real show, though, was the three M’s: Mercury, Mars, and the Moon. They were just as spectacular as I’d hoped, and it was great to see them, and watch as the rest of the night sky filed in and the starts took their places around them after dusk. It’s a great way to take some time and reconnect with the world after a busy day.

The Moon, Mercury, and Mars
The Moon, Mercury, and Mars

Were you able to see anything tonight? I hope you were. If not, the moon might be out of the way, but remember, Mercury will be sticking around for the next couple of nights.

Have a great night, and clear skies, everyone!

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12 thoughts on “Mars, Mercury, the Moon, and Algol

      1. We got 0.75″ of rain last night and 0.72″ yesterday. The wind is brisk out of the north. Rain again on sunday.

        We must not be living right. 😦

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  1. I got ’em too! Impossibly thin sliver of moon, moon and Mercury together, and a Moon/Mercury/Mars trio. I’ll be posting later this week. I also took a lot of long exposures in the direction of Draco… Nothing spectacular but I MIGHT have caught 41P, doing some stacking now to see if I can enhance it!

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    1. Cool! I’ll definitely look for your post. I’m glad you were able to see. Ugh… I forgot to look for 41/P. Tomorrow, hopefully, though it’ll probably be six months before the skies open again. ☺

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    1. Thanks. How hard is it for you to get away from the city a bit? It’s always amazing to me when I’m in a bright place, and get even just a little distance, how big the difference can be. There’s way too much light pollution all together, but even a little bit helps sometimes.

      I’m glad you liked the photos. It’s just a little pocket sized Canon Powershot that cost me like $100 US a couple of years ago. Nothing great, but I can set to 15-second exposures at as high as ISO 1600, so I can get some good, wide shots. Of course, 15 seconds at 1600 makes it look like daytime, which is both surreal and gorgeous, but it works!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I live in the middle of the city, and I am a student with now vehicle of his own here. And There is no cleaner area nearby. It just when I go back home that I witness star filled sky

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