World's greatest spectacle yesterday (April 26, 2009) was taking place at dusk, high above all of us in the western sky. At that time, the crescent Moon, Mercury and the Pleiades star cluster had gathered for a three-way conjunction, potentially visible to the naked eye even from light-polluted cities. This was not an everyday event, as described by Dr. Tony Phillips from Science @ NASA:
The show begins before the sky fades to black. The Moon pops out of the twilight first, an exquisitely slender 5% crescent surrounded by cobalt blue. The horns of the crescent cradle a softly-glowing image of the full Moon. That is Earthshine- dark lunar terrain illuminated by sunlight reflected from Earth [...] Shortly after the Moon appears, Mercury materializes just below it [...] To the naked eye, Mercury looks like a pink 1st-magnitude star. The planet itself is not pink; it only looks that way because it has to shine through dusty lower layers of Earth’s atmosphere.But wait, according to Dr. Phillips, there was even more:
Next, do nothing. Spend some quiet moments absorbing the view. As the twilight deepens, your eyes will dark-adapt and - voilà! There are the Pleiades [...] The brightest stars of the cluster are only 2nd magnitude, not terrifically bright. Nevertheless, the Pleiades are compelling in disproportion to their luminosity. Every ancient culture -- Greek, Maya, Aztec, Aborigine, Māori and others - put the cluster in its myths and legends. On April 26th you may discover why, even if you cannot articulate your findings.So, we are no astronomy photo experts but below are a few photographs we managed to take yesterday night, in spite of some pretty bad air pollution over the nearby western city of Netanya. Just as Dr. Phillips said, it's very hard to articulate our findings... We think we did capture our own Crescent Moon plus, we suspect we got a view of the so called Earthshine. Yet, what a bummer - we could not have identify any materializing Mercury below the moon... Can you see any?
8:05 PM + detail. No materializing Mercury...
A wide angle shot including some of the area, 8:15 PM
8:30 PM + detail
OK, we also see there is something else there, we are not that blind. The problem is that, according to Phillips, the Pleiades are "a cluster of young stars about a hundred light years from Earth" forming "a miniature Little Dipper located, on this particular evening, halfway between Mercury and the Moon." (See infographic). Therefore we don't believe the small cluster of lights shown in the below detail is actually the Pleiades, but we thought it might worth adding nevertheless. Just in case anyone of you kind readers can help us find out what it was.
Another 8:30 PM detail (cropped from left side) showing a bright cluster of lights. Probably not The Pleiades...
- Article by Dr. Tony Phillips via RedOrbit
- Photos by CultCase, April 26, 2009
- Taken with Nikon CoolPix 8800
- Kfar Netter, Israel