Night photography: Jupiter snuggles up to the Moon ๐Ÿช

An article popped up recently highlighting the chance to see several planets in the sky at once. On the evening of the 29th December 2022, I took out my camera and tripod to see what was happening out there in the garden. Turns out, there was quite a lot going on!

I had actually spent the late afternoon admiring the half moon, with Jupiter in close attendance (below). I was down by the river Arun in the town of Arundel, the sun creating a gentle, pastel-coloured twilight.

Later on in my garden, I ticked off a couple of other planets with the help of my camera, binoculars and the phone app Stellarium. This app has helped me to learn loads, though I struggle to remember it all, of course.

Just visible over an extension of a neighbouring house was Saturn (above, top right), ringless to my eye and the cameraโ€™s lens. I had managed to get a rough image of it in the past with rings just about visible.

Mars was prominent in the sky, hanging out in the eardrum of Taurus, earwax coloured, too. I used the nearby Pleiades to attempt to find Uranus, something much more difficult to see because of a lack of colour definition or prominence in the night sky.

Compare with image below to identify Uranus (best to click/expand)

Screenshot from Stellarium, showing the Pleiades on the left, the ^ roof of three stars, and then Uranus

Using the pitched rooftop shape of a trio of stars (Tau Arietis, Zeta Arietis, and Botein) I found a wonky cross shape. In the middle of the cross was Uranus, indistinguishable in colour from those close by. This is a first for me, which is always a lovely thing.

Far more visually dramatic was the sudden burst of a meteor in Taurus, shooting upwards to the south-east. A little researched revealed this to be one of the Quadrantids, a meteor shower that peaked on the 3rd January 2023 in the Northern Hemisphere.

Thanks for reading.

Night photography

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A tale of two hedges in the South Downs

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Macro Monday: the mourning bee

In this post: garden bees, extension tubes and woodland lichens

The ‘Stay at Home’ message has ended in England but I’ve learned my lessons in this pandemic year. Macro is a time-consuming activity and the less time spent travelling means more time spent honing the skill and having a good time!

One person whose photos and work ethic I really admire is Penny Metal. Penny’s work is focused on a small park in Peckham, south-east London. She photographs species I would never have imagined possible in Inner London, where green space is a rarity.

The lesson for me here is: keep it local, have faith and you never know what you might achieve. From one of Penny’s accounts last week I saw a mourning bee and a comment that they were abundant.

Now, I’ve only ever seen this bee in rural Surrey near to Box Hill (for those who don’t know, Box Hill is probably the closest SE England will get to a mountain and is a hugely popular place). It seems Penny was capturing a trend – mourning bees were perhaps having a good spring.

And then, on one afternoon last week I encountered this bee in my garden. Mourning bees are parasitic on hairy-footed flower bees, a species my garden is very popular with. I was delighted to witness it feeding on the shrub I can never recall the name of.

That afternoon felt like a watershed moment. Though we have gone from 24 degrees Celsius one week to sub-zero the next, the spring bees are now on the scene. The above is a red mason bee (Osmia rufa), the first I’ve seen this year.

There were more bees, most of whom were not willing to be featured on this blog. To which I would say: whatevs.

This weevil seemed to think it was having a Lion King moment. I’m here for it.

And this yellow dung-fly. It may spend its days cavorting on cow pats, but if you’re willing to pose for a pic for me like this, I don’t care what you get up to.

Away from my garden hedge, I’ve finally bought some decent extension tubes. This is to give better magnification for my macro lens and peer even further into the wild world.

Needless to say, it’s not easy. The woods are not great at the moment, after hot and then very cold weather, the wildlife is a bit baffled. In my local Narnia I tested my new kit out on these Cladonia cup lichens. A nice person on iNaturalist identified this as Cladonia polydactyla. The red tips were so small they could not be seen without a macro lens and the extension tubes. Hopefully it’s a decent start to years of the greatest lichen images the world has ever known.

Let’s hope so.

Thanks for reading.

More macro