If you click on the tab at the top of the page listed as PROJECTS you’ll see my current astronomical projects.
I’m compiling a group photo of all the planets in the solar system using my Yard Cannon and Casio pocket digital camera. I am pleased to release the portrait as it stands after a few sessions in September.
I have successfully imaged Venus, Jupiter (and the Galilean Moons) and Uranus so far.
For Saturn, I think I’m going to have to wait until December or so when it returns to viewing in the morning sky after a swing around the backside of the sun.
Mercury I’ll have to wait for greater elongation from the sun as it currently is lost in the trees that surround my property at sunset/sunrise.
Mars is a tempting early sunset target that I’m going to aim for next.
Neptune will take a great night of seeing and not much interference from the Moon. See my post on how I got Uranus to understand why the Moon makes it difficult to find the ice giants.
You’ll notice that Pluto is not listed—at magnitude 14.0 or so, it’s close to the limit for my telescope (I think). I’m pretty sure it’s beyond the limit of the little Casio. However, I’m working on modifying a webcam, so we’ll see how that works later.
Yesterday morning I got up early to see the ISS fly overhead at 6am. I got up at 5:30am and got the Yard Cannon cooling down early. After the flyover (really, really cool by the waybecause it was -3.0, a little brighter than Jupiter!) I tried for Jupiter and Venus with the Casio camera.
I took about a dozen short movies afocally, a few with the 2x Barlow installed. The seeing was tremendous—not perfect, but definitely the best since…well, since leaving Texas over a year ago! I could clearly see the ink-black dot of one of the Galilean moons’ shadow on Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.
I found really quick that Jupiter was too bright for the little camera’s sensor so I added my neutral density filter to the 9mm eyepiece. I ended up with sever nice movies. Although, the camera adapter was giving me some fits this morning (I think it was cold enough that the tape holding it together is starting to come loose—it just wasn’t very stable on the eyepiece today) so I decided to handhold it today.
After processing in Registax and Photoshop Elements 5.0, I ended up with the best of the 9mm videos. Turns out it is the best image I’ve ever taken of Jupiter, plus I got all four Galilean moons (barely!) and the blurry smudge (light gray) in Jupiter’s southeastern hemisphere (just below the southern equatorial belt) is the shadow of Europa! I confirmed it with Sky and Telescope’s Jovian Moon Tracker. For some reason Registax stacked everything and gave me a blurry shadow, but a sharper Jupiter. Still playing with that…
So I decided to slew over to Venus as it climbed ever higher into the pre-dawn sky. I’ve learned that the best time to view and try to photograph our sister planet is during twilight as the contrast between the planet’s rediculously bright disc and the background sky/space isn’t so bad.
I used the same method as I did on Jupiter (and tried a few 2x Barlow for giggles) and was disappointed to see Venus was just a gibbous blob of white light. I added the neutral density filte and the moon filter and this is what I got (after processing of course):
Now that I’m getting the hang of this planetary imaging thing, when Venus starts showing phases and turns into a crescent, I should be well prepared to get some more exciting looking pictures!
Time to update the solar system family portrait!