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The Quadruple Conjunction on August 21 2012

August 23, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

During the month of August two planets: Mars and Saturn passed near the bright star Spica (alpha Virginis), the conjunction took several different triangular shapes. Triangles are powerful shapes for the human brain and being the 3 objects of similar apparent magnitude the view, to the naked eye, was really captivating. On August 21th the waxing crescent moon joined the show to make the conjunction a quadruple. Since the conjunction was on the West I could take a photo a few minutes after sunset while the low clouds were still lit by the sun below the horizon. Here's an annotated version.

Now let's move a few days back to see how the conjunction looked without the Moon.

This photo is from August 14th, Spica is on the left, Mars at the center and Saturn on the right. I used a fog filter combined with a star filter to bloat the stars and keep their real colors. Spica shines in a bright blue at magnitude 0.95, Mars is orange/yellow at Mag 1.3 and Saturn is white/yellow at magnitude 1. The separation was 1.5 degrees from Spica to Mars and 2.5 degrees from Mars to Saturn. Seeing three bright celestial bodies of contrasting colors in a tight are of the sky inmediately draws our eyes to the sky, this was a conjunction that most people noticed not only astronomers.

Back to August 21st I took a portrait of the conjunction. Without the fog filter the stars get saturated quickly so the real  colors are lost. The photo shows how close the Moon was to Spica from my location, about half a degree of separation. To the naked eye they were almost touching.

In this photo I tried to show how powerful the triangle shape looks to the human eyes. Even above the bright lights of the pier the conjunction stands out as a bright display. The Moon is a welcomed visitor just next to the triangle above the western horizon.

The photo is a sequence of stacked shots showing how the conjunction drifter in the sky setting on the west. The Moon looks different in each frame due to some passing clouds. It's interesting to see how Spica and Mars shared the same celestial highway as they are displayed in very similar positions next to the Moon while Saturn was setting on the right side.

The last photo I took shows the Moon setting covered by clouds with Mars and Saturn barely visible behind the cloud cover. The Milky Way can be seen above the conjunction starting it's movement down in the sky. 

Quadruple conjunctions between bright objects are always very interesting and this time the triangle shape and contrasting colors were a very nice bonus.

Youu can check more images I took from this conjunction at this gallery.



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