Posts tagged 'Jupiter'

Connect Four (or Five)

Posted by on February 25th 2012 in Astrostuff

You'll all have noticed the line of lights in the south-western sky at about 18:30 GMT yesterday evening, no?

It's not the greatest of pics but it's the best I could do in a rush:

This is what you get: upper-left = Jupiter, middle = Venus, lower-right = our Moon

The 4th in the line is Jupiter's moon Ganymede (a tiny dot really close to Jupiter, you'll need to look at the full-size pic to find it).

Other folk have also seen Mercury (even lower than and further right of our Moon) from their locations, but from here it was down in the light-polluted clag.

There'll be similar such alignments in the south-western sky for several nights - have a look, take some pics, see what you can catch - here's what's on offer just after sundown on Monday:

Just don't go being stupid and looking directly at the Sun - it's another one of those things that'll make you go blind 😯

Observing Report 24th-25th July 2011 (Messiers, Jupiter and Moon but no Sun)

Posted by on July 28th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

Sunday evening was still and clear with good seeing so I made my excuses and headed to the shed for another Messier Object imaging session. For some reason the northern skies were darker than I'd expected so I had a look around there and decided to try to image M81 and M82 in one hit. After a bit of jiggery-pokery I got the 1000D rotated to get a decent framing and then I set to with the hardware and software. After a couple of hours I'd got some decent subframes so I moved to a different target - M74. This thing isn't called The Phantom for no good reason... it's hard to image because it's so dim. I upped the exposure from the standard 5 minutes to a more realistic 15 but still didn't get useful results so I scrubbed the attempt.

By then the Moon was rising and the sky was lightening. Jupiter had already risen and was an obvious target so I opted to go for a wide shot with the webcam and CCD camera in order to pick up some Galilean moons.

That finished, I turned the scope towards the Moon which was by then well above the horizon with the Sun not far behind. Just enough time to grab some CCD data to make another big mosaic.

I had intended to go the last mile and get some early-morning sunspot images but before the Sun reached a suitable position I was too knackered so I called it a morning, packed up and got me a few ZZZZs before the usual waking-up time.

Clickable results as follows:

M81 (aka Bode's Galaxy, NGC 3031, lower-right) and M82 (aka The Cigar Galaxy, NGC 3034, upper-left),
a pair of galaxies in the constellation Ursa Major.
Subs: 24 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

L to R: Jupiter, Europa, Io, Ganymede.
Luminance: 100/1000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3,
DMK mono CCD camera on the 6" R-C.
Colour: 100/1000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3, SPC900NC webcam on the 6" R-C.

 The Moon.
14-pane mosaic created with iMerge.
Each pane 500/2000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3.
DMK mono CCD camera on the 6" R-C, unguided.

Observing Report 30th-31st August 2010 Part 2 (Jupiter)

Posted by on September 1st 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

As previously mentioned, I did get a bit of Jupiter data. I didn't expect the results to be any good bearing in mind the glare and the less-than-reasonable seeing conditions, but it's turned out fairly well:


Jupiter (31/08/2010 @ 00:43).
100/1000 per-channel RGB composite.
DMK mono CCD camera on the C8N.

Observing Report 29th-30th July 2010 (Ganymede shadow transit)

Posted by on July 30th 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

The was a short period of clearish sky here last night, it was the first reasonable observing opportunity for a long time so I took the chance and got set up in the obsy. The Moon was up which meant that doing any deep-sky observing was a no-no, so I had to be content with Jupiter and viewing some lunar craters.

I couldn't get any good high-resolution data for Jupiter, as the seeing was quite bad, so I went for a slightly wider field of view than usual and managed to catch a few moons and a transit as well. Here's the first edit, run yer mouse over it to see what's what:




The processing of the lunar data will take quite some time, so I'll put the results in a separate post.

Observing Report 24th-25th June 2010 (Tidy obsy, scruffy Jupiter)

Posted by on June 25th 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics
Tags: ,

I managed to get out to the obsy last night, mainly to get the place tidied up and to oust the spiders that had invaded during the spring. The skies weren't really good enough for any deep-sky observing, as there was a persistent high-level moonlit haze that was ruining the contrast and which would have washed-out any images taken with the D50. Nevertheless it was a calm warm night so I stayed up to see Jupiter rise above the eastern horizon into a brightening blue dawn sky.

Not being one to pass up an opportunity, I decided to have a crack at imaging it with the mono DMK camera and some RGB filters even though the seeing wasn't really good enough.

Anyway, the resulting image from the first set of data is below:





I've got more data to process, some of which has Europa in the frame as well as Jupiter and Io. If the processing works out OK I'll let you know.

Jupiter revisted

Posted by on September 15th 2009 in Astrostuff

More metaphorically than literally, of course!

I've reprocessed the video data used for the images which I posted on the 13th, using a slightly different method. This has resulted in some subtle improvements without the introduction of some of the processing artefacts that were evident in the previous versions. These are about as good as I can get them:

Observing Report 9th-10th September 2009 (More Jupiters)

Posted by on September 13th 2009 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

After spending a good four hours refining the drift-alignment of my pier-mounted scope and then grabbing a load of PEC data using PERecorder, I had a few minutes left to grab some frames of Jupiter before it went out of my field of view.

The purpose of this was to see how the mount was behaving, rather than to do a serious imaging session, but I thought I'd post the results here anyway. Due to the average seeing and the Moon being up it's not my best image of Jupiter, but at least I no longer have to keep faffing with the RumblePad to keep the target centred on the webcam chip.

The two versions of the same pic differ only by the amount of sharpening. I might run them through Noel's Actions later to see if it makes any difference.

8" Newt, SPC900NC webcam (unmodified), 8mm EP projection with 50mm extension, captured and stacked in K3CCDTools3 then processed in Registax and PSCS3.

Observing Report 20th-22nd July 2009 (Jupiter and Io)

Posted by on July 24th 2009 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

Observing reports have been neglected a bit for a while now while I've being commissioning the observatory. This process has included:

  • Getting the mount drift-aligned so that its axis of rotation is aligned as closely as possible with that of the Earth;
  • Setting up the Shoestring EQDIR to control the mount via planetarium software on the laptop;
  • Setting up the Logitech Cordless RumblePad 2 as a wireless hand-controller;
  • PEC training - measuring the inherent periodic error of the mount gearing to allow the software to compensate for it.

Anyway, Monday night was the first time I'd used the place in anger, so to speak. There had been rain (see here) and there was still a fair bit of patchy low cloud around, but the seeing was reasonably good. I decided to have a peek at Jupiter. It's quite low in the southern sky just after midnight, so there was always going to be a fair bit of atmospheric dispersion to mess up any imaging, and some hazy high cloud didn't help either, but I needed to give it a go to "prove out" the mount alignment and stability.

I shot just the one .avi file with the webcam on a general setting, needing the image shape and drift rather than any great detail. Happy that the mount setup was satisfactory, I decided to process the .avi as a check of the webcam's performance. The resulting image is  below:

Io emerging from behind Jupiter, with Europa a bit further out

I was pleased to have captured Io right on the limb of Jupiter, but I've made a right botch of the planetary processing, which isn't surprising bearing in mind the settings used for capture. Even so, it proved that the webcam is still up to scratch.

Given the choice of reprocessing or shooting more video, I went for the latter. The next night I was set up in good time, ready and waiting to take advantage of any gaps in the clouds. There was a particularly clear half-hour during which I managed to shoot eight good two-minute .avis with more specific settings. After the usual software jiggery-pokery, I've managed to get the images from the best .avi stacked and processed reasonably well, certainly better than any that I've done before. Here are two versions of the best stack, the only difference is in the amount of sharpening. Feel free to let me know which one you prefer:

Jupiter and Io version 1 - average sharpening


Jupiter and Io version 2 - more sharpening


Next I've got a different challenge - getting the DSLRs set up on the mount for some widefield shots of the Perseid meteors, which are on show from July 17th to August 24th, with the peak on August 12th. The possibility of getting decent pics all depends on the weather, of course.

Playing catch-up

The blog's now well out-of-date, so it's time to do a bit of catching up. Luckily for you lot, I'm not a stats-whore, so I'll keep things brief and cram everything into one or two posts so that there's not a pile of individual entries to wade through. Now, where to begin...?

  • After a weekend-long posting-restriction imposed by the SGL forum admin, on Monday July 14th I was banned. And yes, the ban is justified. After some unjustified comments made by some of the admin, I reacted, broke the rules and got what I deserved. My crime was to react by removing the content from some of my posts. Just mine. No posts by other members were edited by me. The official version is different, and sounds much more sinister - according to the ban screen, I am banned for "attempting to corrupt the SGL database", which is a bit like saying that I've attempted to eradicate all life from the planet just because I swatted an annoying fly in our kitchen. Luckily, there's no sign that I'll be extradited to spend the rest of my days confined to the Guantanamo Bay facility. Anyway, I deserved the ban, and I don't much care that it'll never be lifted, but at least I'll no longer be hassled by some admins who think themselves beyond reproach and who think that they never have to apologise for anything, even when they have been proved wrong. It's sad that they get the good admins (who are in the majority) a bad press.
  • Talking of things astronomical, I had a bit of a panic a while back when one of the scope mount's tracking-motors packed in. After an online chat with the retailer, arrangements were made for the defective items to be investigated and replaced. Everything's now fixed and working fine, thanks to the great customer service provided by Adam at Rother Valley Optics (retailer) and by Optical Vision Ltd. (importer).
  • There was a clear night here a week or so ago, so I set up the scope to test out the replacement motors and to let the kids have a good look at Jupiter. They were suitably impressed with the view, seeing clearly-defined cloud-bands on the planet and seeing all four of the largest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - the Galilean satellites, after Galileo Galilei who discovered them in 1610). After sending the kids to bed, I returned to the scope and had a reasonable visual observing session, finding M8, NGC 6530, M20, M22, Cr 399, NGC 6822 and a few others. The ISS passed over twice during the session, and there were a few meteors around. I didn't set up for imaging, so there are no pics. Since then, it's been cloudy almost every night.
  • Regarding other outdoors activities, there's precious little to report. I missed out on the Outdoors Bloggers' Dartmoor Meet because it was the weekend of my birthday and I didn't feel that it would have been right to bugger off for the weekend. Suffice to say that I got loads of nice pressies. :mrgreen:
  • I managed to fit in a drinking session with my friend Dave, who's a casualty of the recent round of redundancies at Thwaites Dumpers. He's taking it well, but there are a few folk I know from there who've been hit hard by the job cuts. I hope that they all get sorted out soon.
  • Gear-wise, I've been quite reserved about splashing the cash. I supplemented the money that I received as birthday presents in order to buy a SkyWatcher Auto Focuser from Steve at FLO, so that I don't have to faff about twiddling the knob by hand (go on, you make the puns). Even though it's not really auto (it's a motor with a control-box on a curly lead), it's a great bit of kit. Fed up with buying numerous adapters for allowing all sorts of electrical gadgets to be powered or charged in the car, we got a power-inverter so that we can just use the standard mains chargers/transformers instead. I should have bought one of these years ago - I must have spent a small fortune on car-adapters in the last few years. We had a day shopping at Go Outdoors and I didn't get any outdoors gear for myself - that must be some sort of record! Mind you, we spent a small fortune kitting out the other three for our summer holiday.
  • Blog-wise, there have been a few changes here. A few more plugins have been added, if you're interested they're listed at The blogrolls have been updated - quite a few additions, some moves and a few deletions - if you spot any cock-ups, please feel free to let me know. I've a few more changes in the pipe-line, but I'll tell you about them another time.

Well, that's all for now. There's more, but it'll have to wait for later.

Observing Report 30 June/1 July 2008 (The bonus-ball)

Posted by on July 2nd 2008 in Observing Reports

Well, after many weeks of varied weather and cloudy nights, on Sunday evening the skies cleared and I went out for a quick spotting session to help plan what to view on Monday night, which was also forecast to be clear. I'm still not ready to start imaging DSOs yet, so I figured that some widefield observing and some Jupiter imaging would be reasonable objectives. Jupiter's the brightest object in the southern sky at the moment, but it only reaches 12° elevation when it passes through my "window of opportunity", so in order to view it from my garden I would have to finish decimating the overgrown privet hedge that blocks the prospect southwards. That was the job for Monday.

Monday evening arrived and things didn't look promising - plenty of high cloud was obscuring the sky, and I figured that if I couldn't get a consistent view of Polaris, I would have to abandon the session, as the scope's alignment routine depends on getting the mount aligned with the pole.

I was just about to give up when the clouds parted and the stars shone forth. I had about an hour before Jupiter was due to swing into view, so I took my time with the mount-alignment, ensuring that everything was set up as near to perfect as possible, then it was time to see the sights.

First up was a view of M8 (Messier 8, the Lagoon Nebula) in Sagittarius, before it went out of sight. Pretty impressive, I reckon. I could have tried to image it, but it escaped behind the house next door.

Next I decided that it was time to get the scope pointing at Jupiter, which was due to hit my field of view within the next 30 minutes. That set, I went in for a cuppa.

When I came back out, Jupiter was dead-centre in the eyepiece with some of the moons lined up like a string of pearls either side of the planet. Io was just grazing the edge of the disc, and later there was the shadow of Io on the face of the parent planet. Nice.

Soon the webcam was in place and it was taking 100-second .avi movies of the planet. I had zoomed right in with the 8mm setting on the eyepiece, this gave a magnification of x125, and I was projecting the image onto the webcam chip about 70mm away. This gave a large image but because the planet was so low, it appeared just above the rooftops, and the heat from them was causing a lot of shimmering. Short exposures would be needed, so I settled for 15 fps. The .avis were processed later, and the best image produced from them so far is this:


Jupiter, with a hint of Great Red Spot (lower-left) and the shadow of Io (upper-left)

After that, I put away the webcam and attached the Nikon D50 instead, still using the eyepiece-projection method, and rattled off a selection of wider-field shots of the planet with some of its moons. I had to use longer exposures to get the moons, and shorter ones to get Jupiter, so the images produced are composites. The best one of these is:

Left to right: Europa, Ganymede, Jupiter, Callisto.
Io is in transit across the face of Jupiter, but it's lost in the background.
The object in the top-right corner is a star.

After a couple of hours of this, Jupiter passed out of sight so it was time to look at something else before the skies became too light. I had a look at Winstars and figured that Neptune, a planet reluctant to appear before us, might be in shot after a short wait. I slewed the scope to point at it but it was behind some trees. No matter, it was time for another brew anyway.

Neptune's not visible to the naked eye, so I had a look for it through my trusty binoculars. I found the row of three stars that currently acts as a marker for locating the planet, and, by using averted vision, could just make out a very faint dot of light where Neptune should be. Encouraged by this, I waited until the area was in sight, and took a short series of zoomed-in long exposures of the seemingly-empty area of blackness, hoping that the results would be in focus (none of the marker stars were bright enough to show up in the viewfinder, it was hit-and-hope stuff). I had to stop soon, though, as the sky was just too light, and the morning dew was beginning to form on the optics. The session was over, and I was convinced that I had failed to capitalise on this unplanned opportunity.

I packed away and headed inside to warm up. While swilling down a hot cuppa, I had a quick look at the pics that might have included Neptune, and there it was, a small blue fuzzy ball! It needed a lot of processing to get rid of the noise and other defects caused by the optics and the atmospheric conditions, but I ended up with this, and I'm right chuffed about it:

Neptune (the tiny blue thingy to the right of centre), and 2 of the 3 marker-stars.


Next time out, I'll try for a better picture. It'll be easier now that I know where to look and what camera settings to use.

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