Jupiter + Venus… + the Moon!

Ah yes, another good night for stargazing and astrophotography. Slightly hazy, often actually helps as it means the atmosphere is calm.

Without further ado I present my trophy pictures for the night. The first is of the lovely triangle formed by Venus (top), Jupiter (bottom left) and the Moon.

(click to full size)

Unfortunately because Venus is so far up, this is zoomed-out far enough that the moons of Jupiter are not visible. Still a really nice shot, I think, especially getting all three objects within the dynamic range of a single exposure.

Zooming then – and helpfully using auto-focus on the moon, often a good trick when the moon is up – got this image off of the Moon and Jupiter being nice and close. Again this is from a single exposure, I like seeing the disk of the moon, I also like that this image displays objects so disparate in brightness as two of Jupiter’s Galilean moons and the moon, whilst retaining details (craters on the day/night border) on the moon. This would be my favourite shot of this night, despite Venus not being in it.

(click to full size)

For those too lazy to zoom in fully, here’s tonight’s close-up of Jupiter, this time only two moons visible, grmpf, lol two moons are easily visible below Jupiter: Ganymede closest and Callisto further out, and as I was informed by Stellarium, the two tiny tiny specks just top left of Jupiter (!) are, in fact, the other two moons, Europa just a little to the left of Io. Intat amayzing? I think so!

I’ve got a set of around 40-odd photos, some may be good for stacking and making into a composite, ‘astro-HDR’-like image. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for that tonight. Also, tomorrow the moon should be close to Venus, so I’ll have another go at getting some nice shots – although Venus isn’t as interesting as Jupiter, having no moons and all that. But I will have a go at the remaining photos, watch this space! Until then, enjoy these :).

Jupiter + Venus

You live, you learn (by trying)

A few years back (Nov 2008), Venus and Jupiter were also in conjunction. Back then, I just had my DSLR for a few weeks, knew buggerall about exposures, used the wrong lens and no tripod, and so my photos came out utter shit:

Venus + Jupiter not really in focus and weak









Jupiter, sharp nor clear, and no moons for sure

Later, I managed to get a decent shot of Jupiter plus its moons, however the quality (…lack thereof) of my telelens was not really up to scratch.

Not quite really in focus nor sharp, but for the record, Calisto is the moon to the left, and then to the right are Io, Europa, and Ganymede.

But now, I has learned! And I has a better telelens. So now, with another Jupiter + Venus conjunction, I managed to get this after just a few attempts – I could have optimised with a few dozen more photos with micro-adjustments in the manual focus but… meh.

This time, pretty good!

If you look close at this (click to open the full size), you will already see the four Galilean moons next to Jupiter (left). Zooming in a bit more, but as said, without much optimisation, this is what I got:

Not perfect but it will do! (from top left to bottom right the moons are Ganymede and Calisto further out and Io and Europa closer)

Wonders of the Solar System

The one thing that always fills me with wonder when seeing the four major moons of Jupiter, is to realise that one night, a few hundred years ago, Galileo was the first human to ever see this. To realise that I can replicate that, I can see what he saw (it works with a good set of binoculars, too), with just some stuff I bought for not a lot of money in a camera shop, is just… wow :).

Hope you like it too!

Small (6)

and large, too.


Things I learned or re-remembered:

  • That the Oort Cloud is so large (I read that but had forgotten) (won’t say how large, look it up)
  • That after Tera (1012) come Peta (1015), Exa (1018), # (1021) and # (1024) (won’t say which, look it up)
  • Not much happens in the small end of the Universe
  • Uranus is pronounced ‘YER uh niss’
  • Eyelids have the thinnest skin (won’t say how much, look it up)
  • LOL at water molecule (you gotta look that one up, too!)

And last but not least:

  • We’re probably not in the centre of the Universe :p

The Big Bang, ergo god?

I’ve read that argument once too often now; time for my personal take on it.

What is this about anyway?

It’s about an argument used to ‘prove’ that there is a god.

Usually that conveniently happens to be the very same god of the religion that the proving person holds. The short version of it runs as follows:

1. Everything that begins does so because of a cause

2. The universe has begun

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause (this then presumably is god)

Wrong, wrong, wrong…

It’s wrong on several levels, which makes it, on the one hand, easy to dismantle, but on the other hand, where to start? It’s probably easiest simply to go through each of the statements one by one.

The first

The first statement is simply wrong.

It starts off by being just that, a statement. If given as-is, without any evidence, it falls to the general principle that everything that is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. If it is going to be more than a statement, it needs evidence.

To get those who want to prove this statement to be true started, and to save all of us time, I suggest they start by proving that the decay of a radioactive atom (which results in the ‘beginning’ of for instance positrons and electrons that didn’t exist as such before) has a cause. When that’s settled they may want to turn to virtual particles, as those in the Casimir effect and the ones that make black holes seem to emit particles, and explain what causes these particles to appear.

The second

The second statement is indeed true… hurray!

Yes, the Big Bang indeed signalled the beginning of time as we know it, so by definition that is The Beginning. Even if there was something before (a Big Crunch, for instance), it is irrelevant – if for no other reason than that previous something would have to have a beginning, too.

However, anybody that brings up the cosmological argument has to accept the fact that the universe is around 13.7 billion years old. You cannot on the one hand choose to accept the science that shows us that there has been a Big Bang (cosmic background radiation, the Hubble constant, and suchlike) but at the same time reject the same science that tells us this happened 13.7 bln years ago. Accept both or accept none (and look stupid).

The third

The third follows logically from the first two – but since the first is wrong there is not much to crow about.

There is of course no evidence whatsoever that, if indeed something did cause the beginning of the universe, this would necessarily be the god of the religion held by the person who asserts this “proof”.

Occam’s razor

Another obvious objection – pointing out a logical fallacy (special pleading, to be exact) – is the “but what caused this god (or whatever ‘prime causer’) then?”

This either fails to an infinite regression of god-creating meta-gods, unlikely in my humble opinion,  or to special pleading – why would a god not need a creator itself (apart from it simply being part of the assertion-without-evidence that “god/it just doesn’t, it’s god/it!” – see above for what happens to such assertions), but the universe would? Why can’t the universe not be the element that doesn’t need a cause?

My personal peeve…

…with the cosmological argument is the same as with similar arguments that use some sort of formal logic to prove that god exists: surely something that is presupposed to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent shouldn’t rely on formal logic to be proven?!

Usually, given the paucity of direct evidence for god’s existence, believers assert that “god does not want to make himself seen” “god is unknowable” or something along those lines. This is of course a huge fail.

There is no a priori logical reasoning from which follows that any godlike being would not want to be known; I’d actually venture the opposite. There is also no infallible message from god him/her/itself that he/she/it wishes to remain anonymous; only rambling scripture, clearly thought up by humans.

That makes this assertion nothing more than an ad hoc get-out-of-jail-free-card. It is yet another case of special pleading: god is the only being that can influence the material world without being detected (which is quite peculiar  if you think about it, because influencing the material world by definition is detectable), simply because, well, just because that is what god does… yeah ,sure.

So… THAT is why this argument, like every other argument for the existence of a god/gods, does not impress me.

Science, animated and set to music

For your entertainment and education :-)

Not sure about the theory of the closed universe ;-) (or that that will result in an “even bigger bang”, where does the extra energy come from then?) NOR that the elements were formed in a fraction of a second NOR that galaxies are formed within minutes… but I’m being pedantic, it’s a funny song!

The Barenaked Ladies do the theme tune to (a sitcom that I don’t know), The Big Bang Theory

This is different (mostly more violent :p), also not wholly accurate… and also funny :-D

The end of an era?!

Sad news that only now got through to me:

Obama cuts NASA budget so much to allow for a reduction in the US deficit, that not just the manned Mars mission, but even the manned Moon mission are not going to happen for a while.

Sad but true :’(

Een erg goed geschreven achtergrondartikel in het Nederlands hier.

Meanwhile, just a thought… can’t ESA buy the developed Ares technology, that would otherwise just be gathering dust? (just don’t forget to convert to the metric system ;o) !)