Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction of 2020

Jupiter, Saturn, their major satellites, and star HIP 99314 are seen together on December 21, 2020 (click for full size)

Jupiter and Saturn appeared closest to each other in nearly 400 years on the Winter Solstice of 2020. For this Great Conjunction, the two planets were only about 6 arc seconds apart, which meant that I was easily able to take a photo of both in a single frame as you can see here. Some had expected that they might appear as a single dot, but it turned out that Saturn was discernible as a fainter "bump" on the top right side of Jupiter to the naked eyes.

To show the planets and the satellites together, I used varied exposures and then combined the results into a single photo. Titan was the dimmest that I could photograph, and it appears very faintly to the right of Saturn. Interestingly, a star named HIP 99314 was also caught in action between Io and Europa, which means that this conjunction was actually a triple affair.

Nikon P1000 taking photos of the conjunction

By the way, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to see the phenomenon in person because it was pretty cloudy throughout the day. Luckily, most of them went away as the Sun set and I was able to take the photos for about an hour until the low-hanging clouds started to block the view. The next closest conjunction happens 60 years later and I'm not sure if I'd be around to see that, so I was glad that the weather decided to cooperate in the last minute.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - f/8
- Jupiter: 24 photos, ISO 200, 1/30s
- Saturn: 13 photos, ISO 400, 1/30s
- Satellites: 17 photos, ISO 800, 1/5s
Filters: None
Time: 2020-12-21 18:20-18:40 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
Photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9, RegiStax 6.1.0.8 and Pixelmator Pro 2.0

Illuminated ISS crossing waning Moon

Brightly lit ISS passes in front of the Moon on November 11, 2020 (click for full resolution)

The International Space Station is usually in the Earth's shadow when it makes a pass in front of the Moon. But when the conditions are just right, you can see both illuminated by the Sun just like the photo I took above. When seen with the naked eyes, it looked as if a bright meteor was darting across the sky towards the Moon and eventually pass right through it. To witness this, I drove about 40km northeast to the edge of Damyang in the early morning.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 400 - 1/500s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2020-11-11 05:36:43 KST
Location: Damyang, Korea
6 photos processed with RegiStax 6.1.0.8 and Pixelmator Pro 1.8
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Close approach of Mars in 2020

Mars seen in 5-minute intervals at around midnight of October 9, 2020 during its close approach

With the red planet coming close again after two years, it gave me another good opportunity to take a detailed look of the surface using my equipment. The Nikon P1000 has been working well for me these days, so I pointed its lens to the sky around midnight to capture the photos. Although the total session lasted less than an hour, I got satisfactory results.

Last time the Mars was close, I photographed the eastern hemisphere. This time I got to see the western hemisphere, which has the famous features like Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris, one of the biggest examples of mountain and canyon in the solar system, respectively. Also, I got to see the polar ice caps on Planum Australe for the first time, a highlight of the otherwise reddish, 45-pixel wide (22.6" apparent) disc of the planet.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 100 - 1/500s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2020-10-09 00:18 - 00:54 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
44 photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9, RegiStax 6.1.0.8, and Pixelmator Pro 1.8
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Saturn in the summer sky

Saturn photographed with Nikon P1000 - raw, stacked, then processed

This summer, Saturn is easily found near the bright Jupiter in the southern night sky. It's been nearly two years since I took a good look at it, so I took out my P1000 and shot some photos of it. It's amazing how well the rings come out with this superzoom camera after some post-processing.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 100 - 1/25s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2020-08-24 22:21-22:40 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
20 photos processed with RegiStax 6.1.0.8 and Pixelmator Pro 1.7.1
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Spotting the SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship

International Space Station as seen in 2015 and 2020

SpaceX Crew Dragon launched on May 30, 2020, under the mission name DM-2, became the first privately operated spacecraft to reach the Int'l Space Station with a human crew. It is now docked to the Harmony module at the forward end until around August, which makes it possible to be seen when the station is overhead. I made some attempts to photograph it, and these are the first clear results coming from the space station's transit in front of the Sun.

ISS passing by (click to enlarge)

With a distance of 448.9 km, the station would have an angular diameter of 61.6", which made it easier to notice the docked spacecraft in question. You can clearly see the difference when you compare the new photos to the one I took 5 years ago, when another SpaceX spacecraft, the Cargo Dragon, was berthed to the bottom of the Harmony module (and thus not distinguishable from the overhead view) for the CRS-6 mission.

Nikon P1000 takes photos of the Sun behind Bolt EV

To take these photos, I drove to Hamyang on my Bolt EV. It was about 100 km away from home, but the weather was excellent and I didn't want to waste a good opportunity. I was glad that everything went right. The photo from 5 years ago is an enlarged composite of multiple frames took by an iPhone through a telescope. But it seems that a single photo taken by Nikon P1000 on its own surpasses that with proper focusing, even though the setup is much simpler and lighter. I guess I'll be bringing around the camera to more places.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 200 - 1/2500s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2019-06-22 13:53:20 KST
Location: Hamyang, Korea

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