Observing Lessons in Fog

I scooted out of the house this morning, binoculars, camera, and tea in hand , in the hopes of catching one installment of May’s  early morning planet show. I was cutting it close. Prime time would be 5:10 am – I made it to Gooseberry at 5:06 am. But I’m ahead of my story.

Here’s what I wanted to see:

This chart is for May 1 - on May 2 the moon would be missing, but the rest would be pretty m uch the same. (Chart prepared from Starry Nights Pro screen shot.)

For this you need an unobstructed eastern horizon – Gooseberry offers this – and you need exceptionally clear skies. As I stepped out the back door to head for the car I immediately had grave doubts. I could see fog to the east hugging the horizon over the Westport River.

As I drove down Drift Road the fog was thick in spots, but surprisingly it cleared by the time I got to Horseneck Beach and I caught a glimpse of Venus out the rolled-down car window to my left! However, I had to put on my windshield wipers every five-to-ten seconds  – there was that much moisture in the air – and the horizon was very red. I pulled up in the parking lot before the causeway. The horizon looked clear, but red. It took me a few moment to pick up Venus with the naked eye – but that was all I saw. I swept down and to the left using 15X70 binoculars and Venus as the anchor to the right (south.)  No luck at first – and then, Jupiter popped into view. Terrific!

But search as I would, no Mars and no Mercury. Just too much moisture in the air as that red horizon indicated and these other two planets were significantly fainter any ways.  I took a few shots. here’s what I saw.

Strain your eyes and use your imagination and you may see a white dot above the arrow - that's Venus, Any other white dots, down and to the left, could be Jupiter or one of the other planets, but I doubt it. I think they're just artifacts of the image-making process. Actually, even when I could pick out just two, it was kind of awesome to know there were actually six over in that general section of sky - besides the four mentioned, Uranus and Neptune were out there, though much higher and much, much dimmer. Heck, even dwarfed Pluto was out there somewhere in the general vicinity this morning. Quite a gathering!

Then I walked out to the towers on Gooseberry and back as exercise. And on the way back I saw this

Looking towards East Beach from Gooseberry - click image for larger view.

– yep, fog inland over a portion of the Westport  River and neighborhood near East Beach.  Actually, I like this shot with the  cormorrants in it better.

Same scene, but with "extras." 😉

And yes, when I drove home I hit some fog at the bridge. All of which made it clear that I should not assume that just because I have fog at my house, it’s foggy at the ocean. I’ve always thought of the fog moving in from the ocean and smothering the whole area – and it frequently does. But there are exceptions. You can have instances when the fog is really just one or morel ow lying clouds – not a continuous blanket. My lesson for the morning.

Oh – and for more details on the May planet show, go here.

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