This morning before the kids got up for school, I took some time to wheel the Yard Cannon out of mothballs and onto our driveway here at the new house for the first time. I don’t think this qualifies as first light, since that happened in Texas in July of 2010…but I think this means that the Texas Yard Cannon Observatory has officially annexed this location in Wisconsin.
Anyway, I tried my hand at some wide-field pictures of Orion (my favorite constellation!) but was foiled by some high, thin clouds. Yeah, they were over Orion and nothing else. Really?
But, Jupiter and Venus were blazing away in all their glory so I took a peak through the TYCO at Jupiter. The seeing must have been exceptional, because I saw some great detail—one of my best views of Jupiter, ever! I clearly saw the north and south equatorial belts (really wide…looked like a big Oreo cookie in browns and tans) plus one thinner band by each of the major ones. In the northern hemisphere, I saw the north equatorial belt, a thinner one north of that, and two really thin ones north of those before the pole dimmed into that grey-brown soup. The southern hemisphere only had the main belt and one south of it.
I decided to mess around with the little old Casio Exilim EX-Z70 pocket camera and held it up to the 9mm eyepiece and took a video in .avi format. It lasted about 14 seconds (long enough for Jupiter to cross the field of view of the camera. I did my best to steady the image and only realized at the end that last summer I made a DIY adapter (I’ll do a write-up on this soon) to attach said camera to the eyepiece. I’ll have to use it next time.
I took the .avi file and tried to open it in Registax but it wouldn’t recognize the file format (though it’s designed to use .avi files…). So, a quick search online pointed me in the direction of VirtualDub, another program astro-imagers use regularly. Just so happens I had a copy. So I opened the file, saved it in VirtualDub, then opened that in Registax and it worked. I seperated otu the frames (about 400 or so) and aligned them with each other, then “stacked” the images so the data combines and…there’s all knids of complicated tech-babble here, but basically, stacking images makes them better looking. Registax automates that process (thank goodness) so it only took the computer about 2 mintues to crunch everything into this:
Not bad…pretty close to what I saw in the eyepiece but still fuzzy and not quite in focus. So, I took it over to hPhotoshop Elements 5.0 and processed it some more…I adjusted levels, brightness/contrast, some color saturation…made some layers for the background, the planet and the moons (invisible in the original image but the data is there, just not optimized for viewing) and this is what I got:
As you can see, it’s much sharper, the belts are darker and you can really start to see some detail. Also, by tweaking the original image I was able to pull out Ganymede and Io (I saw Callisto and Europa at the eyepiece, but somehow they were washed out in the camera)). I have added bits of information to the above picture (camera details are more for me so I can remember what the heck I did next time lol). The image is exactly aligned how it was in the telescope, so that means it’s flipped and backwards.
I noticed a little dark spot on the south-west limb of Jupiter’s southern hemisphere (look to the top-right “corner” in the picture above). It’s like a little semi-circle. So I decided to investigate. I have blown up Jupiter’s disc to 400% so you can see a little dark spot I noticed.
I think it may be Ganymede’s shadow crossing Jupiter’s face!—I don’t know if it’s exiting or entering. But it’s either that (or another moon’s shadow) or a bad pixel or something like a defect with the image from the camera. I’m leaning towards the shadow personally. Now that would be something to catch…