Sun Enters Cancer

19july-view-from-earth   Tuesday July 21st at 6 UT, (1 am CDT) the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Gemini the Twins and into the constellation of Cancer the Crab. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Morning Sky Views

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   Didn’t work today so while waiting for the phone to ring, just in case a sub position opened up, I started making arrangements to do some more photo experimentation of various constellations and planets, and then ending with an Iridium Satellite Flare just before 7 am CDT. For the flare I knew where to look, just slightly northeast and at an altitude of 57 degrees. This would put the flare above and to the right of the North Star Polaris as I face north looking over the roof of my house. This picture used a 3-second shutter speed with the 18mm lens set to F5.7 and the ISO at 1600.
   So I aimed my camera and took a few test shots hoping to be able to frame the stars of the Big Dipper and Little Dipper – which I was able to do as the picture above shows. However by the time the Iridium Satellite did its thing the sky was too bright for the ‘dipper’ stars to be visible as the (banner picture) shows. This picture used a 1-second shutter speed with the 18mm lens set to F8, and the ISO 200.

The Pleiades

The Pleiades

   Before my encounter with the Iridium 3 Satellite I spent about an hour taking pictures of Mars and the backward question mark shape of Leo; Jupiter and the Gemini Twins stars; Orion, and the Orion Nebula. These pictures were taken with a 55mm lens set to various exposure times and ISO settings. I was curious about how long of an exposure or shutter speed I could use without getting ‘star trails’, or a streak of light from each star as the Earth rotates. The picture of the Pleiades used a 55mm lens set for an 8-second shutter speed and there are noticeable ‘star trails’. This more or less confirmed what I had suspected and that a 6-second shutter speed was probably ideal – at least for my camera. So, while I was changing the shutter speed I also played around with the ISO setting and the aperture setting. Each of these had an effect that bears looking into further. Somewhere I’ll find the right mix of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. But then the sky transparency is never the same so that right mix setting may be an elusive thing.


Orion: 43mm; 4-Sec.; F5.6; ISO 1600

Mars and Leo

Mars and Leo: 55mm; 6-Sec.; F5.6; ISO 3200


Jupiter and Twins: 55mm; 6-Sec.; F5.6; ISO 1600

   Click here to read about and see additional pictures of the ISS and Iridium flares.

               Click on each of these thumbnails to see it full size.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mars – Jupiter Conjunction

22 July - 5:30 am CDT

22 July – 5:30 am CDT

   Tomorrow morning, 22 July, the planets Mars and Jupiter will be less than 1 degree apart. Look toward the east-northeast horizon for the bright Jupiter and the dimmer Mars nearby. The banner graphic at the top of the page as well as this graphic are set for 5:30 am CDT. By that time the sky is fairly bright but it may still be dark enough to make out the stars of the open star cluster M-35, just above the two planets. All three objects will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Sun Not in Gemini Today

4:00 p.m. CDT

4:00 p.m. CDT

   Monday 20 May at 4 p.m. CDT the Sun will cross into the constelltion of Gemini the Twins according to the pseudoscience of astrology. However in reality the Sun is within the constellation of Taurus the Bull due to circumstances beyond our control.
   The Earth wobbles on its axis and causes precession of the axes which in turn, among other things, causes the celestial grid system to shift moving the original signs of the zodiac at least one constellation to the west. In effect whatever your zodiacal sign may be according to astrology, you are really the constellation before it according to Astronomy and on this day, the real position of the Sun is still within Taurus the Bull.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.