Missed Conjunction

The evening of August 27, 2016, was scheduled to feature the conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter shortly after sunset, a marvellous mere ½ degree apart, the same as the apparent diameter of the Moon, which is pretty darn close in a big, big sky. That’s a must-see in my book! As a last minute decision I went for the best nearby vantage point I could think of, which was the west side of Slottsfjellet (“Castle Mountain”) in Tønsberg, a mere 20 minute drive from home. I was gonna shoot me some planets!

Hiding behind them there cloudses

Although the sky was mostly clear and outstandingly beautiful with the sunset and all, I missed the conjunction on account of lovely but otherwise annoying clouds on the horizon. On the upside, on account of wearing shorts, I have several brand new mosquito bites to keep me entertained the next few days.

Screenshot from Star Walk overlayed on camera view

I followed the planets until they were well below the horizon. Not only were they hiding behind clouds the whole time, the sky was still bright enough that they probably wouldn’t have been very visible anyway.

According to Space.com, “the next time Venus and Jupiter will get this close will be in November 2065,” by when I will be a whopping 96 years young. Bring it on!

In the mean time I’ll just leave you with this.

Screenshot from Star Walk overlayed on camera view

The sky beneath my feet.
Darkness and light.
And grass.



Planets Hugging Virgo

The celestial trio of Venus, Mars and Jupiter are spreading wider apart, but they are still slightly dominating their part of the south to south-eastern sky in the last hour before sunrise. Right now they’re pretty much hugging the constellation Virgo. Here is what my daughters and I spotted on our way to our respective buses to school and work in the early morning hours of December 15th, with a cool and clear sky above us.

Photos © Bjørnar Andre Haveland
Click images to see larger versions.

VMJ spanning Virgo

The original iPhone 5s shot, at 07:48 (my attempt to use the Nikon was thwarted by the bus arriving right on time for a change). On most screens this will show up as far too dark to see much more than the bright specks of Venus (left) and Jupiter (right). With a bit of luck, optimal illumination, fabulously good eyesight and an impressively clean monitor, you’ll just possibly spot Mars as a barely distinguishable pixel somewhere in the middle.

VMJ spanning Virgo

With the exposure adjusted in the extreme, however, Mars and a neighbouring star both show up reasonably clearly, Mars being the upper right of the two, almost precisely smack bam in the middle between Venus and Jupiter.

VMJ spanning Virgo

Labels, for clarity, because mostentimes a bright dot in the sky looks just like any other bright dot in the sky, of which there are a good many. The one labelled Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, and as far as I can tell from diagrams, lacking a degree in stellar anatomy, it seems to constitute the left hip joint of the virgin in question, assuming she is facing us, otherwise it has to be the right hip joint and we’re looking at her bum. Shame on us!

VMJ spans Virgo

Screenshot from astronomy app Star Walk, showing the same section of the sky, with the planets and surrounding stars in their respective locations, for reference. Incidentally, the bright white orb to Mars’ immediate left is the asteroid 1998 KY26, about 15 metres across, which passed within 800,000 km from Earth on June 8, 1998, but is now about 1.51 AU away, almost as far as Mars, at 1.84 AU. And no, I’m afraid you won’t be able to spot it with the naked eye (in comparison, the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 was estimated to be about 20m across).


Within the next couple of weeks Venus will drift even further away from the others, so that around December 30th, Mars will be precisely dead center. At that time, the waning Moon will also come swooshing through the trio, possibly making for some nice conjunctions as its crescent grows thinner. On January 6th, the Moon, with just a sliver of a crescent left, catches up with Venus and Saturn, so if you can actually see Saturn, it’ll likely be a lovely little group.

VMJ spans Virgo - meteor composite

We also saw not one but two shooting stars in that precise part of the sky, a few minutes apart, probably leftovers from the Geminids shower during the night. Now, I hasten to point out that this is a composite of the above original, and a meteor trail taken from another picture. Seeing as meteors wait for no man, and to first spot and then photograph one in the same take requires more time than any meteor is willing to hang around for, I had to resort to low-level Photoshop cheating in order to illustrate the event. My apologies.

Moon in Coloured Sky

The Moon is more than just a bright light in the sky. For starters, it’s our nearest neighbour in the Universe. It’s also almost big enough to be a planet in its own right — bigger than Pluto, who admittedly isn’t an actual planet anymore, and really not that much smaller than Mercury, who still is (hush, don’t tell Neil deGrasse Tyson). It gives us tides, and helps to ever so slightly massage the crust of the Earth to keep things in motion. We’ve even had people walking on it, for goodness’ sake. It looks rather pretty in clouds, and every now and then it teams up with the Sun to scare the willies out of people who think an eclipse means the world is going to end.

Photos © Bjørnar Andre Haveland
Click images to see larger versions.

Moon in Morning Clouds
Hanging out with twigs in blue-gray clouds, at 08:44 on 30-Nov-15.

This (above) is actually a composite of two nearly identical pictures; the first taken with the Moon in focus, and the branches blurry, and the second with the branches in focus and the moon a blur. These were later aligned and merged in Photoshop Elements to form a picture that is in sharp focus throughout.

Pink Moonrise
Rising in a pinkish, purplish sky, at 17:24 on 08-Nov-2011.

Majestic as it looks in the dark night sky, surrounded by the blackness of deep space, it really comes to life during twilight and daylight. This is when it bathes in colour, and looking anywhere from beautiful to stylish to downright fabulous.

A Thursday of Frozen Mist and Silhouettes

Thursday, November 26, was a chilly morning, but less so than the previous ones. Most of the snow and ice from earlier in the week was on retreat as the subzero temperatures had tripped clumsily over the freezing line and tumbled onto the plus side of the thermometer. Winters tend to be like that in the southern parts of Norway these days. And there was fog, or rather mist, which does something to the late morning sun when it’s low in the sky. Moments disappear as quickly as they come, so it’s a matter of capturing the shadows and silhouettes before they find somewhere else to play.

Photos © Bjørnar Andre Haveland
Click images to see larger versions.

Misty Morning (i)

The beginning of my trot from the bus stop to the office is an uphill climb, with silhouettes of trees and people ahead of me. Three quarters of a mile left to walk.

Misty Morning (ii)

There’s a fusion reactor hovering in the air in front of me. Given the chance, it would burn our world to a crisp in the blink of an eye, which would then also be burned to a crisp. Yet on a larger scale, it’s really not even very big.

Misty Morning (iii)

The last three hundred metres or so of the path leading to the office. I know this, because those are too many lamp-posts to be in Narnia. There’s also a disturbing shortage of lions.

Misty Morning (iii) Blue

Same as above, but with different white balance. The previous one is pretty close to how it looked for real, but I think the blue hues in this one makes it look colder, more wintery. Which one do you think looks better? If you have an opinion to share, please feel free to leave a comment about this below. I do like a good comment, I do.

Misty Morning (iv)

Final one hundred metres. The triangular protrusion on the right is the eastern end of the northern wing of the building where I work, and in full glory it looks almost like a gigantic stranded spaceship. Interestingly enough, though it’s not particularly blue, it also seems bigger on the inside. Conversely, seen from straight above at considerable altitude, it bears a slight resemblance to the Eye of Sauron.

Cold leaf

Though the air is well above the freezing point of water, some ice crystals still manage to form out of the droplets of mist condensed on leaves and twigs in the shadows. The mist itself keeps direct sunlight from thawing everything, at least for a little while. In fact, in the whole place looks a little as if Elsa had been having a grumpy day, but that’s just a hypothesis.

No horizon

Where does the sea end? There is no sky, no horizon, no other side. If you sailed out from the shore, would you go on forever? Or would you said straight into the sky?

Spot of orange

That orange floater was the only hint of real colour among its foggy, near-greyscale surroundings. It almost seems to be floating in mid-air! Or maybe it is. Can be hard to tell, and it’s not as if I’m going to wade out to check.

Night Sky in Silver and Blue

Bonus Shot of the Night Sky in Silver and Blue: Clouds backlit by silver lunar light from a hidden full moon. Can you spot the constellation of Orion? You’ll probably have to click the image to check out the bigger version. I know at least some of its stars should be relatively easy to find; the belt is a giveaway. Personally, when I took the picture, I thought the sky looked as if the clouds had been painted on. However, this reminds me I need a real wide-angle lens, to capture more sky — there’s just too much sky up there to properly grab it all with eighteen millimetres.

I may have to brighten this last one up a bit. If you come back later and it looks less dark, you will know that I’ve done just that.

Planetary Diagonal

2015 © Bjørnar Andre Haveland. Click for larger image.

Eastern sky at 05:51 today (above). Had a lovely view of the crescent moon, with several planets all lined up as if begging to be taken pictures of. Now, in a hurry, as always, to get to the bus to work on time, I couldn’t spare the moments I would have needed in order to fish out the Nikon and play with settings, so this iPhone shot was the best I could do under the circumstances. Terribly annoying, to be honest. Of course the iPhone can in no way do the actual sight any justice at all.

This near 45° line-up consists of (from bottom left) the moon, Venus (brightest), Mars (that barely visible wee li’l smudge of light above and left of Venus) and Jupiter at the upper right.

The thin, crescent moon was precisely the right brightness for this group picture. It’s a shame my equipment wasn’t up to it. I can always try again tomorrow, and make sure I bring both the time and the tools required for the job, but the moon moves quite a distance in the sky from day to day, counter-clockwise*, so tomorrow at this time it will still be well below the horizon. I’m sure that yesterday and the day before that, it was even better, but I wasn’t there to see it. Timing, alas, is everything.

* Clockwise would have been so much better, in which case I would simply have quietly decided to wait and instead bring you the splendidest pictures I that could muster tomorrow.

2015 © Bjørnar Andre Haveland. Click for larger image.

Here (above) I’ve boosted the exposure and contrast somewhat to make Mars a little more visible next to Venus. It’s still barely more than a bright pixel, almost lost in noise, but at least a bit more noticeable than the faint smudge in the first picture.

2015 © Bjørnar Andre Haveland. Click for larger image.

Off the bus, an hour and a half later, give or take, even though I had sufficient time before starting work to take more pictures, the sky had grown far too bright for it. Mars was not at all visible, and Venus and Jupiter just barely so, even the moon was struggling to make itself known against the morning light. They’re still there, though, except for Mars. Can you find them?

Still, weather permitting, I’ve half a mind to bring the tripod for the Nikon tomorrow, along with a few minutes extra time, and at least capture the planets, if not the moon.

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