We begin the journey back into high resolution planetary imaging! This is a much different challenge. I have done some planetary work in the past with mixed results. The most important variable is seeing. To really get the details you want the atmosphere has to be like the “glass ocean” or like the ocean that is completely calm with no waves. I don’t know if that ever happens! The guys who are expert with this actually live near large bodies of water. Maybe that’s not a coincidence. The other problem is that planets are usually low in the sky for us here in mid northern latittudes so at these altitudes, usually less than 60 degrees the atmosphere is more dense. So tonight we are going to be at the telescope in the TSH (short for Talavera Space Hut) and let’s see what happens! Certainly we have the equipment to do it. I understand most folks are using SCTs for this but RC optics should work great I would think. After all that’s what the Hubble is using! We also have a great permanent mount, high frame rate USB 3 camera so no excuses there!
This video demonstrates the equipment we will be using for planetary imaging: AT12RTC scope, Celestron Skyris 132M usb 3 camera, Moonlite stepper focuser and of course our trusty Paramount ME mount!
In this video segment, the telescope is turned on, initialized and we are waiting for Jupiter to come up over the mountains!
In this video some of the basic functions of the program Firecapture are demonstrated. Use of ROI (region of interest) is explained. Live video of Jupiter as we begin the session.As it is for deep space imaging, video also should be calibrated for dust but the ROI function can also help.
In this segment we point out some additional features found in the Firecapture program. The image details are somewhat improved as Jupiter climbs a little higher in the sky
In this final sequence we are capturing an R-G-B sequence of Jupiter
What a difference a couple of years makes! Our community known as Talavera continues to grow like crazy along with the town of Las Cruces, NM. Along with huge growth comes increase in lighting and unfortunately the lighting is not exactly sky friendly. I am truly amazed in the 4 years I have been here the light dome from town has been steadily increasing to the point now where it is close to 50 degrees over the western horizon! Thankfully we now have Orion’s Belt Observatory in a dark site (for now), dedicated to deep space imaging and spectroscopy. So what to do with the Talavera Space Hut as we affectionately call it?
This is the equipment stationed in Talavera. An Astrotech 12″ f/8 RC scope on a Paramount ME and mounted on that is a William Optics GT102 refractor. The 12″ has a focal length of 2400mm. This is more than sufficient for planetary imaging.
I have thought about this for awhile now and what we decided to do was convert it to a planetary observing site. We can also do video astronomy for community outreach as we have in the past. Possibly narrow band projects etc but for now we have reinvented the Hut for the purpose of solar system observations. On Saturday March 4th I started this transition with a full evening of solar system observing and what an amazing night it was for that! I think the images are self-explanatory.
We already have installed a stepper motorized focuser. The camera currently is a Skyris 132M video camera with manual filterwheel. The Skyris is usb 3 and capable of frame rates as high as 100fps
We started out with the Moon. We’re using the software Fire Capture and you can see some of the lunar surface there on the screen
The space hut is a small roll off structure, only 8 feet square and manually operated. It is located in our backyard here in Las Cruces
A very cool Venus apparition! The bright planet is rapidly swinging between us and the Sun as it goes through inferior conjunction and will soon swing around to the other side of us and the Sun to become a morning star! In the meantime it appears as a very thin crescent. This is a capture sequence with a blue filter.
The fairly well publicized lunar occultation of Aldebaran, the red giant star in Taurus, occurred on Sat night the 4th. I am not much of a lunar observer but I was aware of the time it was supposed to re-emerge and since I was lucky to be out there testing this equipment for its new role I decided to try and capture it! The star’s relative motion is very fast and I was just in time! This is a single frame at prime focus.
Finally there was Jupiter! I do have some experience with planetary imaging prior to moving out here so I do know what to do. Unfortunately it appears I will have to add some extension to the optical train in order to use any additional magnification so sorry the planet is so tiny but this is an LRGB image obtained about 12:30 AM MST. No transits or other phenomena were visible at that time but I think this is promising. The image is pretty clean and seeing was not superb so perhaps this is a good sign of things to come!
Not too bad for a first night of solar system observing!
Thanks for reading!
In our latest installment of “Morning Coffee” a new asterism is discovered! Xmas eve morning, Mintaka Hill, Mayhill NM at about 5:30 looking Southeast the 3 brightest objects form almost a right triangle: Arcturus at the top, Jupiter to the right and the crescent Moon at the bottom. Hence, the Xmas Eve Triangle 2016!
Xmas eve triangle. Arcturus is fading with dawn approaching but still distinctly visible.
I took a break from my M1 project to visit my friend Tony on the other side of town. We did some imaging of Jupiter. I did planets for awhile in the past and one thing that I really began to understand was the importance of “good seeing”. Good seeing is the elusive variable we are all trying to take advantage of here on the Earth’s surface. We have to deal with this “thing” called an atmosphere. I tell people it’s like being on the bottom of a pool or other body of water and trying to see details of something floating on the top. The only way this is going to be even remotely possible is if there is no movement at all in the water. I mean it has to be like glass! That doesn’t happen very often unless you live in certain parts of the world, like the tropics or equatorial regions. Anyway we took some images of Jupiter which is very well positioned now high in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. Tony has a nice set up with a 14″ Meade SCT housed in a structure with a roll-off roof. Those large aperture SCTs are definitely planet-killers! But again, you need the quiet atmosphere to take full advantage!
Here are 2 images of Jupiter taken 1 week apart. You can see the nice detail in the first image taken on 1/3/14. The second one is lacking in detail. I used to get frustrated with trying to get these high resolution images and would do my collimation and all the important fundamentals and could not understand why the results were so disappointing. It’s because of “seeing”.
Jupiter in good seeing taken 1/3/2014. Note the satellite transit in progress! Great Red Spot is clearly seen and nice detail in the cloud bands.
Jupiter captured in below average seeing. Note the surface features are “washed out” in this image.1/10/14