Rotterdam and the planets

I wouldn’t call myself an astrophotographer. I don’t have the equipment for it and after all, you can’t specialize in everything. Moreover, the Rotterdam city center, where I live, is not the best place to photograph celestial phenomena. Too put it mildly. Not only myself and my 600,000 fellow Rotterdammers produce a sea of light, industry and greenhouse horticulture also contribute to that light pollution.

When you think you see stars in downtown Rotterdam, they are usually planets. Although those are much smaller than stars, they are also much closer and are therefore a lot brighter. A conjunction of two planets above the city often makes quite a nice picture.

In this blog post, expected to expand over the years, I collect such snapshots. They briefly remind us that we are sitting on one of those spinning spheres that slowly revolve around a large fireball.

Grafische verbeelding van het zonnestelsel met een raket, de Zon, de planeten en de grootste manen, vormgegeven als "I love the solar system"
The main bodies in the solar system to scale

Conjunction over Calypso

The 3Develop offices don’t have a bad view in the first place, but on the evening of June 30, 2015, a very special spectacle awaited me when I returned home. Although well after ten o’clock it was still not completely dark. In the northwest sky, two “stars” were close together: one bright and one very bright.

Those lights were the planets Jupiter and Venus. And their conjunction was one of the most beautiful celestial phenomena of that year. Of course I immediately grabbed my camera and tripod to take a picture.

The upper, least bright, of the two planets is Jupiter. It is actually much larger than Venus but is about ten times further away. This immediately shows that the conjunction is only apparent. In reality, the two planets are still hundreds of millions of miles apart. Only when viewed from Earth do they seem to almost touch.

The celestial body with the most details visible is of course the planet in the foreground, Earth. The large white-red structure is the Calypso residential building. Behind it one can see a part of the First office tower, which was still under construction at the time. Closer to the camera we see the red light line, the stage tower and some other roof structures of the Schouwburg location of Theater Rotterdam.

Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, seen from Downtown Rotterdam
Jupiter, Venus and Calypso

Ad Astra at Aelbrechtskolk

Regular readers of my blog probably recognize the next photo. I proclaimed it number 1 in my top 10 of personal favorites over the disastrous year 2020.

On November 19 of that year I cycled along the Aelbrechtskolk canal in Delfshaven. At first I was enchanted by the reflection of the city lights and the Moon in the smooth water of the canal. I only noticed when I got home that the scene was also enlightened by a conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter (from left to right).

In ancient times, these kinds of phenomena were often seen as a message from the gods or a beacon of hope. And we could use a little hope at the time; in fact we still can right now. Unfortunately, the planets in our solar system pull each other’s orbits slightly with their gravity, but their influence does not extend beyond that. Although the astrologers will think otherwise.

Aelbrechtskolk canal in the neighbourhood of Delfshaven, Rotterdam during the blue hour on a windless evening
Saturn, Jupiter, The Moon and Delfshaven

Planets over the Plas

On March 1, 2023, Venus and Jupiter were closing in on each other again. That day I was busy with a wedding reportage at brasserie de Schone Lei on the banks of lake Kralingse Plas. It was the most beautiful weather imaginable for such an occasion; I haven’t seen a cloud all day. Spring was definitely in the air.

That cloudless sky also gave a good view of the conjunction after sunset. So I took a few pictures of it as well. The skyline of Rotterdam above the Plas of course formed a perfect backdrop.

Around that time, northern lights were also seen in some parts of the country. But the red above the horizon has nothing to do with that; it’s simply the last light of the aforementioned fireball, the Sun. The last light of the day of course; tomorrow it will be back, our own star.

Although, like stated before, there is no indication whatsoever that a conjunction of the planets has any influence on daily life on Earth, it is of course a nice bonus on a wedding day. Let’s call it a placebo effect…

Conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter above lake Kralingse Plas in Rotterdam with the city's skyline in the background
Jupiter, Venus and the Skyline

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