The little black dot on the south-west limb of Jupiter (top-right corner of the planet) is actually Ganymede’s shadow making it’s way across Jupiter’s face! According to Sky and Telescope’s online Jupiter Moon tracker, Ganymede’s shadow started to cross Jupiter around 5:30am CDT…I took my movie at 6:15am. Talk about blind luck! If you look at the image below you’ll see the same little dot down there on Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. In my image, south is up because that’s the way the telescope projects it. In Sky and Telescope’s simulation, south is down:
I went off in search of Jupiter again this morning. Same setup as yesterday, only this time I added a 2x Barlow into the mix and actually used my DIY camera adapter to hook up the little Casio to the telescope, instead of holding it by hand. I took several 30sec – 1min, 30 sec movies and was able to keep the image on screen pretty well, I think.
Anyway, after processing in Photoshop Elements 5.0 to adjust sharpness, lighting, levels, etc., here is the result with the Barlow:
I’m pretty sure had I taken the time to collimate the scope and let it cool down properly (instead of the maybe 10 minutes I gave it) I could have gotten a sharper focus. But, I was more interested in getting camera settings nailed down and learning Registax than getting the perfect image. That will come with practice.
I also removed the Barlow and took some videos through the 9mm objective only, with the addition of a double stack filter (Moon filter and neutral density filter) to reduce the glare from Jupiter. I took a video without the filter stack and of course Jupiter was just a white ball, but I managed to snag some moons. Here is a frame from that video:
As you can see, everything is pretty much over exposed, except the moons. So, I took the stacked image of the video with the filters, layered in the above image and this is what I got after monkeying with levels, brightness, etc.:
Not too bad!
I still have a handful of videos to process from this morning so we’ll see if I get anything better. Oddly enough, on the two videos I did process this morning, I tried it two ways—I had Registax stack every frame and give me the result. Then I went back and sorted through all the frames (the Barlow image had 1800+ frames, the non-Barlow had about 300 frames) and removed the blurry ones. It took waaaaay too much effort for the result (which was that I could hardly tell a difference). In theory, if I only used the best frames, that image should have been way better than the image produced using all the crappy frames too. Right?
All that effort for nothing! I must have done something wrong. More research is needed!
So I went back and monkeyed with the video that I took of Jupiter this morning (see the previous post). Instead of doing what I did this morning—that is, fiddling with any tab or button in Registax that struck my fancy at the moment—I found and followed a Registax guide for processing planetary images.
Not only did I end up with a better looking image (I think), but one that not only looked much closer to what I saw visually at the telescope, but I managed to pull Europa out of the black background in Photoshop! Score!
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…