Entries tagged as astronomy

Planetary observation with Nikon P1000

Saturn and Mars on October 19, 2018

I'm getting the hang of photographing the planets with P1000 after some practice. Jupiter sets below the horizon too early these days, so I targeted Saturn and Mars. Using the Moon as the reference for the manual focus (actual setting seems to vary up to ten dial ticks by the daily conditions) and turning off the vibration reduction (better to let the tripod stabilize on its own), I was able to take several photos for processing. Discernible in the results are the prominent differences in the surface colours of Mars, as well as the Cassini Division on the rings of Saturn.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - (Saturn: ISO 200 - 1/40s / Mars: ISO 100 - 1/160s) - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2018-10-19 (Saturn: 19:15 / Mars: 20:50) KST
Location: Naju, Korea
(Saturn: 9 / Mars: 11) photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8
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The Nikon P1000 Moon shot

The Moon as seen by Nikon CoolPix P1000 (click for full size)

Due to the extreme optical zoom, Nikon P1000 actually has a dedicated "Moon Mode" in the scene selection wheel to let you photograph the Moon. However, I wanted to get used to the manual operation of the camera and so I took some photos of the Moon under manual mode. This one looked to be the best one so far, with tiny craters easily visible.

The Moon is currently 1,775 arc seconds wide, while it was 3,462 pixels wide on the photo. This is just a hair wider than the height of a photo that P1000 takes (3,456 pixels). This translates to 0.513 arc seconds per pixel resolution for the camera at maximum zoom.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 200 - 1/100s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2018-10-18 21:01 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
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Testing out Nikon CoolPix P1000 with Saturn

Nikon CoolPix P1000 with its zoom lens fully extended

One of the reasons why I like superzoom cameras is because it can act as a portable telescope-camera bundle. I could do astrophotography without hauling a heavy telescope. This is why I bought a Canon PowerShot SX50 HS back in 2013 that had 50x optical zoom. Canon didn't bother extending the zoom beyond 65x (SX60 HS) but Nikon kept pushing, with P900 doing 83x zoom. And now, Nikon created a monstrosity that is P1000. It can do 125x optical zoom (24 to 3000mm, 35mm equivalent) and 4K video recording on a 16-megapixel sensor. I knew I had to get it.

Saturn: SX50 HS vs. P1000

Naturally, I wanted to see how much larger the planets would show up on the P1000 compared to the SX50 HS. The result from the P1000 was obtained with a few quick shots that I made during a session where I was getting familiar with manual focusing operation. The one from the SX50 HS I put in here for comparison was made in 2013.

Needless to say, the two cameras' zoom capabilities are worlds apart. I have high hopes with the new camera.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 200 - 1/30s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2018-10-02 19:40 - 20:01 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
7 photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8
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Mars at Closest Approach in 2018

Mars as seen in 10-minute intervals starting from the midnight of August 1, 2018

Mars comes close to Earth every two years or so, but due to the elliptical orbit the closeness varies a lot. It came as close as 0.373 AU in 2003, while it was 0.674 AU away at its approach in 2012. The closest approaches happen every 15 or 17 years, and the latest one happened on 16:50 KST, July 31, 2018, at a distance of 0.385 AU. The next one will happen in 2035. Since this year's occurrence happened during the day, I did the next best thing and got my telescope set up that night to take a good look.

Unfortunately, Mars is experiencing a planet-level dust storm since early June and it has not subsided yet. A peek at the planet during last week's lunar eclipse indeed showed a mostly uniform orange disk, confirming my fears. I wasn't about to give up, so I got my Baader filter out and hoped for the best. Thankfully, the two-hour shooting session did not go to waste as the hours of post-processing finally revealed some discernible surface details, as you can see here.


You can even observe the planet visibly rotating in this video that incorporates all the photos I took. It's similar to what I made two years ago, but the continuous shooting made for a more fluid animation.

Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE
Device: Sony A5000 (prime focus)
Settings: (1500mm) - ISO 100 - 1/100s - (f/10)
Filters: Baader Moon & Skyglow
Time: 2018-07-31 23:59 - 2018-08-01 01:50 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
481 photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8

Century's longest total lunar eclipse and Mars

36-photo composite of the July 2018 total lunar eclipse and the trailing Mars (click for higher resolution)

Those living in Korea was able to see the second total lunar eclipse of the year, following the one in January 31. I had multiple reasons to watch this eclipse. There wasnโ€™t going to be another total lunar eclipse visible in Korea for nearly three years (next one is on May 26, 2021). Also, Mars was just past the opposition, shining bright next to the Moon and forming an interesting celestial pair. Finally, the eclipse was billed as the longest in the century, including more than 103 minutes of totality.

Weather cooperated well, and I was able to both observe and record the progress without a hitch. The result is the composite photo above. It was the first time my newly acquired Sony SEL55210 lens was put to use for astrophotography and it performed adequately.

Celine witnesses her first lunar eclipse after waking up early

One minor disappointment was that the Moon was to set below the horizon during the middle of the totality. So I focused on watching it comfortably in the house with my daughter instead of trying to see through every moment. In fact, it was first such eclipse visible through the southerly window since 2011, enabling Celine to see the phenomenon for the first time. She was impressed with how the full Moon progressively got dimmer from the left corner, eventually becoming red from the Earthโ€™s shadow. Next time, I hope I can show her the comeback part.

Device: Sony A5000 + SEL55210 (E 55โ€“210 mm F4.5โ€“6.3 OSS)
Settings: 55mm - ISO 100 - 1/500s to 5s - f/4.5
Filters: None
Time: 2018-07-28 01:12-04:40 KST
Location: Naju, Korea

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