So after almost 2 solid weeks of crummy weather in my prime observing time (before dawn…read that as before the kids get up) I finally got up and found the skies clear.
Granted it was about 30* out, but that didn’t deter me. I have been waiting to get some new data on Jupiter and try out the new processing tricks I’ve absorbed during my cloudy-down time. I have reprocessed almost all my old data and found the results to be pretty darn good, but I’ve taken my previous data to the limits now. I need fresh imagery to work with. That means new videos.
And that meshed perfectly with today’s conditions. Clear, cold and stable air. The jet stream is well south of us now. Got everything set up and cooling around 6am. By 6:30am I went out into the pre-dawn light and checked things out.
Through my 9mm eyepiece, the gas giant was really clear. Not the best I’ve ever seen in this scope but pretty close. I picked out at least 4 or 5 belts in the quick seconds I took a peak. Right. I switched over to my 6mm eyepiece (200x) and the image was a little more shaky, but still pretty darn good. Break out the camera, get it set up, start snapping away videos. I was able to refine my holding technique a little, and also practiced moving the dob with one hand and holding the camera with the other. The results were a much more stable image. I was pretty excited.
Then the battery died. I should have taken that as an omen of things to come.
So I grabbed my Fujifilm FinePix camera with the 10x optical zoom and took some movies with that bad boy. I should have done this earlier! Jupiter was easily 2.5x larger in the video and just as clear. I was floored. So I took a couple videos—it’s much harder this way because the camera zooms in so much, Jupiter fills the FOV almost totally with the vignetting and it was really a challenge to keep the planet in view.
At any rate, after 4 videos, the batteries died on this one. Another omen, in my glee over collecting what I thought were my best clips yet, that I missed.
So after drooling over Jupiter a little visually, I slewed up to the last quarter moon (more or less) and had a little fun. I took the stunning views I had with the 6mm eyepiece and added a 2x Barlow to yield 400x magnification. Talk about being blown away! Except for the very obvious atmospheric disturbances that caused the image to shimmer, my goodness that was impressive. The craters on the moon that just a few seconds ago I thought were fairly small along the terminator (I focused on the southern highlands) were simply huge.
Buoyed by my capturing success, I headed inside to download the data to my computer and start to get a preview for processing. That’s when the tragedy struck. Every video, every single one was over-exposed to the point of uselessness. I couldn’t believe it.
In my haste to observe after 2 weeks of being “off”…I had forgotten to add the ND filter to my eyepieces that cut the nasty glare from Jupiter that washes out in the camera (yet our eyes can see right through). Talk about being bummed.
I tried processing anyway…after struggling for a good long time, I was able to get one single frame pulled out of a perfectly guided 1 minute clip). No stacking was possible, it just made a blurry white mess, every time.
But I got this one frame…
Clearly not my best. In fact, I think it’s fugly, compared to this: Sure this one is smaller (9mm @ 133X vs the first picture 6mm @ 200x) but waaaay better. That ND filter is the difference.
But I will post it here to serve as a reminder to me to take my time. Because I didn’t spend an extra 30 seconds preparing for the imagine run today, I wasted nearly 2 hours or effort, both outside in the freezing cold and inside at the computer.
But tomorrow….I will be ready for the Great Red Spot transit that is supposed to take place between 5am and 7am give or take 15 minutes on either side. I have figured out how to get the little Casio to focus on infinity—which I think will provide some sharper video—and I will try out using the Fuji film camera too.
And I’ll remember to have the @*#$ing filter installed as well.