April-June 2002 Planets

From late April through May and into June 2002 skywatchers were treated to a rare and beautiful series of planetary and lunar conjunctions in the NW sky. It was fascinating to watch the planets move relative to one another against the background stars as the days progressed. The series began in fine style in late April/early May when Mercury achieved greatest elongation east of the Sun and all six naked eye planets were visible in the NW at the one time. An added bonus arose during the middle of May when the Earth-lit crescent moon passed close to Venus and Mars adding further beauty and interest. The rarity of the events is exemplified by the fact that the next similar collection of solar system objects will not happen again until September 2040.

Weather permitting, I was there on the scene merrily snapping away creating a photographic record for posterity.


Planets 29-04-02 vsm.jpg (4227 bytes)

Looking NW on the 29th April 2002, the planets are aligned from the bottom right to top left ; 28mm lens at f/2.8, 10s exposure onto ISO200 slide film. This was "Image of the Month" for Sept 2002 in the BBC Sky at Night Planets Gallery.

Planets 01-05-02 annot vsm.jpg (4348 bytes)

Imaged on the 1st May 2002. Venus and Mars are closing on Saturn; 28mm lens at f/2.8, 10s exposure.

Planets 03-05-02 annot vsm.jpg (4834 bytes)

Same view as above imaged on the 3rd May 2002. Venus and Mars are approaching Saturn; 28mm lens at f/2.8, 10s exposure. (Mercury is just covered by the cloud bank lower right of Venus.)

Planets 05-05-02 annot vsm.jpg (3709 bytes)

Looking towards the NW over Ben Ledi on the 5th May 2002; 28mm lens at f/2.8, 10s exposure. Venus, Mars and Saturn form an almost equilateral triangle. Here is a close-up view; 180mm lens at f/2.5, 5s exposure.

Planets 10-05-02 annot vsm.jpg (3920 bytes)

The close conjunction (0.3) of Venus and Mars on the 10th May 2002; 10s exposure through a 28mm lens at f/2.8. A close-up view including Saturn; 5s exposure through 180mm lens at f/2.5.

Planets 14-05-02 annot vsm.jpg (4148 bytes)

The crescent moon with Venus and Mars on the 14th May 2002; 58mm lens at f/2.8, 2s exposure onto ISO400 slide film. A close-up view of the Moon, Venus and Mars; 180mm lens at f/2.5, 1s exposure. (Saturn and Mercury are obscured by cloud).

Planets 03-06-02 annot vsm.jpg (4726 bytes)

The conjunction of Venus with Jupiter over Tantallon Castle on the 3rd June 2002; 5s exposure through a 58mm lens at f/2.8. A close-up view; 180mm lens at f/2.5, 5s exposure.

Moon-Venus 13-06-02 vsm.jpg (3903 bytes)

Close conjunction (0.4) of the Moon with Venus on the 13th June 2002; 1s exposure through a 180mm lens at f/2.5.