Dawn over Thorncliffe Park

Searching for 4 planets

Added 2011-05-11

The other day one of my nephews, Kyle, a talented photographer, posted a lovely sunset photograph on Facebook. I suggested that he try taking a picture in the early morning this month, to capture four planets. I had been inspired by Dawn of the Planets on NASA's fabulous "APOD" (Astronomy Picture O' the Day) site.

Using Starry Night (an astronomy computer program), I made a quick image for him, adding captions for the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, as they would be aligned on the following day, May 10.

Starry Night screenshot

When I heard the forecast that the weather would be absolutely clear today, I determined to try it myself.

Sadly, the weather wasn't absolutely clear. There were clouds on the eastern horizon.

Pre-dawn sky over Thorncliffe Park on May 11, 2011

This is the best shot I obtained of the pre-dawn sky (waiting and waiting for a gap in the clouds to see the planets), taken from the Leaside Bridge, looking east up the Don Valley, between Thorncliffe Park on the left and the Trillium apartment building at Woodbine and O'Connor on the right.

Closeup showing Venus and Jupiter

This closeup of the above picture shows Venus and Jupiter, but my camera (an entry-level digital point-and-click) was unable to discern Mercury and Mars through the quickly brightening sky. I've marked approximately where they were. Compare this to the following illustration:

Pre-dawn sky chart, May 11, 2011

Did you notice that the planets had slightly moved their alignment between May 10th and May 11th? This screenshot was take from a pretty nifty animation (quicktime video) at Sky & Telescope, The Four-Planet Dance of 2011. Watch the planets dance their way through the entire month of May.

On the way home, I detoured through Thorncliffe Park and stopped on Beth Nealson Drive where it crosses Walmsley Brook, to watch the sun rise. This is also where the main Gatineau power corridor comes in, all the way from Quebec.

A tree grows in Thorncliffe Park

In the other direction, a magnificent view of Yonge and Eglinton in the early sunlight.

Yonge and Eglinton as seen from Thorncliffe Park

Log in