Photos of the Moon, Jupiter, Mercury & Mars Conjunction


I just love Moon and Planet conjunctions, and I just love early morning photography. When the two combine that’s when I hope to create something special. On the morning of the 23rd February, a beautiful conjunction rose in the pre-dawn sky. The Crescent Moon with earthshine on display shone brilliantly in the East as it was joined by three other celestial bodies, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars to give a sense of depth and feeling to the morning skies.

For ages last night I sat in bed wondering where to go to photograph this marvellous sight… wondering if it would be cloudy, would it be clear, would the skies provide the same dramatic scenery as I was presented for the Smiley Face Conjunction, would I remember the spare batteries, my tripod, the remote switch, would the alarm wake me up or would I sleep through it?!

Luckily, everything came together for a beautiful morning of photography and I was able to capture some stunning images of the Moon, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars conjunction.

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

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UPDATE: This image was featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day, February 26 2009.

The image above is my favourite from the session, and was taken with the Canon 20D and Sigma 17-70mm lens @ 33mm, f/5.6, 2.0s exposure @ ISO800.

Please continue reading below to see more photos of the conjunction gracing the lovely morning skies.

Even as I woke with my alarm this morning, I still wasn’t sure where to go to photograph the conjunction. A quick peak outside built my excitement as I could see stars, not clouds, which was a welcome change from the last week. I finally decided to head to Berkeley Vale, on the West side of Tuggerah Lake which has a few nice wharfs and a lovely view to the East over the lake towards Long Jetty and the Entrance.

I arrived at my location at about 5:10am and I could already see the Crescent Moon, Mercury beside it, and brighter Jupiter down below as the trio were barely above the muck and still tinted yellow from the diffraction of the light caused by Earth’s atmopshere. The photo below was taken @ 300mm, 2.5s exposure.

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

The sky was still very dark with no sign of the pre-dawn glow from the rising Sun. The dark skies meant the early exposures had to be quite long, resulting in trailing of the planets ruining the photo. As I surveyed the area for more photographic opportunities, I noticed Mars was now visible above the haze and I was able to get a few tight shots of the grouping with the stock 75-300mm lens.

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction

Before long, I noticed a distinct change as a glow appeared on the horizon and colours started to fill the sky. I quickly changed back to my Sigma 17-70mm lens and started to photograph the scene in my favourite way – with a beautiful foreground scene and an equally stunning astronomical interest in the sky.

The lake was very calm and still and the reflection of the conjunction on the water was just magic. The tide was fairly low so I had to squelch out into the mud near the shore to get close enough to the water to capture these shots. It paid off!

Conjunction Reflection at Dawn

Conjunction Reflection at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

The light was changing minute to minute now, and the pace got frantic as I changed location every few minutes looking for a different perspective, a different foreground element to complement the scene.

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars over Tuggerah Lake

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars over Tuggerah Lake

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

The birds started singing and the pelicans and other water birds started to swim around the lake in front of me. The sky was getting so bright now that only the Moon was still visible as the planets were lost in the light blue canvas.

Conjunction at Dawn over Tuggerah Lake

Conjunction at Dawn over Tuggerah Lake

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction at Dawn

I called it quits at 6:10am and rushed off to catch the train to head to work – happy from a very productive hour with my camera and delighted with what sat on my compact flash card.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed viewing my photos as much as I enjoyed capturing them.

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