Entries tagged as planet

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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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

100-minute tracking of Jupiter

Jupiter and the Galilean moons seen on 00:44, April 20, 2018

Jupiter and its four major satellites (Galilean moons) are good targets for time lapse photography because of the relatively rapid movement. The rotational period of the planet is slightly less than 10 hours, and Io, the innermost of the Galilean moons, orbits the planet in about 42.5 hours. Under good conditions, these things become noticeable over a span of just about an hour.

Shortly after midnight of April 20, 2018, Io came out from behind Jupiter on the left side, while the Great Red Spot was moving towards the back of the planet on the right side after being in the center. These were all captured on my camera as I took 597 photos of the Jovian system over a period of 100 minutes between midnight and 01:40AM. The photos were then stacked and processed in 1-minute intervals (6 photos on average), like the one you see above, then put together into video as you see below.


I think it shows the dynamics of these celestial objects quite well. Now that I have a good grasp of the workflow for making a planetary animation, I should be able to make a similar one for Mars when it approaches Earth close enough to be seen as half the apparent size of Jupiter next July. Before wrapping up, here's a bonus picture of the Jovian system that I took just after photographing the Sombrero Galaxy. You can actually see Io casting a tiny shadow on Jupiter. I thought I would never see that sort of thing on my telescope.

Jupiter and the Galilean moons seen on 01:03, April 19, 2018

Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE
Device: Sony A5000 (prime focus)
Settings: (1500mm) - ISO 100 - 1/15s(#1), 1/20s(#2) - (f/10)
Filters: Baader Moon & Skyglow
Time: 2018-04-20 00:00 ~ 01:40(#1), 2018-04-19 01:03(#2) KST
Location: Naju, Korea
597(#1), 6(#2) photos processed with PIPP 2.5.6 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8

Getting the telescope back on its feet

Jupiter and Saturn on April 8, 2018

It's been about two years since I did astrophotography with my Celestron telescope. When I finally took it out of storage to take the photos of ISS recently, I noticed that the shots weren't as clear as I expected. The same problem came up as I tried to take photos of the Orion Nebula yesterday, and I realized that the collimation of the telescope was significantly off. After about an hour of fiddling, the problem was fixed and I was able to see the bands of Jupiter and the Cassini Division on Saturn again. It looks like I'm good to go for the next few months of observation, including the closest approach of Mars on July 31. Here are the photos of the two planets in the order of original (from 4K 60fps recording), stacked, and wavelet processed results. Resolution was roughly 0.32"/pixel due to the iPhone X having slightly wider lens than iPhone 6S Plus.

The look of Jupiter before and after collimating the telescope


Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE + X-Cel LX 9mm eyepiece
Device: iPhone X (afocal)
Settings: 28mm - ISO 50 (Jupiter) / 250 (Saturn) - 1/60s - f/1.8
Filters: None
Date/Time: 2018-04-08 05:18 (Jupiter) / 05:30 (Saturn) KST
Location: Naju, Korea
100 (Jupiter) / 46 (Saturn) photos stacked with PIPP 2.5.6 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8

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