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Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction of 2020

Jupiter, Saturn, their major satellites, and star HIP 99314 are seen together on December 21, 2020 (click for full size)

Jupiter and Saturn appeared closest to each other in nearly 400 years on the Winter Solstice of 2020. For this Great Conjunction, the two planets were only about 6 arc seconds apart, which meant that I was easily able to take a photo of both in a single frame as you can see here. Some had expected that they might appear as a single dot, but it turned out that Saturn was discernible as a fainter "bump" on the top right side of Jupiter to the naked eyes.

To show the planets and the satellites together, I used varied exposures and then combined the results into a single photo. Titan was the dimmest that I could photograph, and it appears very faintly to the right of Saturn. Interestingly, a star named HIP 99314 was also caught in action between Io and Europa, which means that this conjunction was actually a triple affair.

Nikon P1000 taking photos of the conjunction

By the way, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to see the phenomenon in person because it was pretty cloudy throughout the day. Luckily, most of them went away as the Sun set and I was able to take the photos for about an hour until the low-hanging clouds started to block the view. The next closest conjunction happens 60 years later and I'm not sure if I'd be around to see that, so I was glad that the weather decided to cooperate in the last minute.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - f/8
- Jupiter: 24 photos, ISO 200, 1/30s
- Saturn: 13 photos, ISO 400, 1/30s
- Satellites: 17 photos, ISO 800, 1/5s
Filters: None
Time: 2020-12-21 18:20-18:40 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
Photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9, RegiStax 6.1.0.8 and Pixelmator Pro 2.0

Close approach of Mars in 2020

Mars seen in 5-minute intervals at around midnight of October 9, 2020 during its close approach

With the red planet coming close again after two years, it gave me another good opportunity to take a detailed look of the surface using my equipment. The Nikon P1000 has been working well for me these days, so I pointed its lens to the sky around midnight to capture the photos. Although the total session lasted less than an hour, I got satisfactory results.

Last time the Mars was close, I photographed the eastern hemisphere. This time I got to see the western hemisphere, which has the famous features like Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris, one of the biggest examples of mountain and canyon in the solar system, respectively. Also, I got to see the polar ice caps on Planum Australe for the first time, a highlight of the otherwise reddish, 45-pixel wide (22.6" apparent) disc of the planet.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 100 - 1/500s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2020-10-09 00:18 - 00:54 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
44 photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9, RegiStax 6.1.0.8, and Pixelmator Pro 1.8
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Saturn in the summer sky

Saturn photographed with Nikon P1000 - raw, stacked, then processed

This summer, Saturn is easily found near the bright Jupiter in the southern night sky. It's been nearly two years since I took a good look at it, so I took out my P1000 and shot some photos of it. It's amazing how well the rings come out with this superzoom camera after some post-processing.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - ISO 100 - 1/25s - f/8
Filters: None
Time: 2020-08-24 22:21-22:40 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
20 photos processed with RegiStax 6.1.0.8 and Pixelmator Pro 1.7.1
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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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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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