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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    I live in Massachusettes; Observatory in New Mexico

    Default Planetary Imaging

    In all my years I've never attempted planetary imaging, but I also do a unit in a local middle school in "Space Science". I always cover Stellar Creation, Black Holes, CV's, etc. I would now like to introduce some "hands on" experience by having students schedule imaging and do some rudimentary photo processing. i KNOW that Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are going to be the most popular targets. So, my question is given my system (see below) in New Mexico, is it even possible to do such imaging? If so, what do I need to know?


    Celestron C14
    Sbig ST 10 (i believe its fastest exposure is 0.1 second)
    Filter wheel ( with BGRI and Red, V and Blue filters)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Virgil, NY


    Hi George,

    I just used nominal values of specs for your telescope and camera: C14 is f/11, focal length of 3910 mm; ST-10 has 6.8 micron pixels. Your image scale is 206265/3910 = 52 arcsec/mm, or for the ST-10, 0.36 arcsec/pixel. Is that right?

    Jupiter was at opposition on 8 March so it's moving away from the Earth, but at opposition its angular size is/was about 43 arcsec. So an image of Jupiter would be about 120 pixels across.
    Saturn is at opposition on 3 June; its angular size will be about 18 arcsec. The image will be about 54 pixels across - the ring are about 3x the size of the disc.
    Mars is at opposition on 22 May; its angular size at opposition is also about 18 arsec, with therefore the same 54 pixel image.

    These numbers are approximate. If you are able to put a well-corrected Barlow lens (2x or 3x) in the optical path, you can make the images that much bigger.

    You can also image the transit of shadows of Jupiter's moons on the clouds. Sky and Telescope has satellite position diagrams, and the Observers Handbook is an even better resource.

    You might also try laying your hands on a color webcam (aren't they all now) or a DSLR, to collect "movies" and then use software like Registax to align and composite "super-resolution" images.

    Because Jupiter rotates so fast, you can plan to take RGB images, but you'll need to take them in reasonably short succession so as not to smear the stacked color image. Fifteen minutes ought to be okay.

    Does this help?
    Pier-mounted Meade 12-inch SCT "classic"
    w. focal reducer to f/5.3 ~ FL 1630mm
    Optec TCF-S focuser
    SBIG CFW-8A and ST7-XME
    FOV ~ 15' x 10'
    H-alpha, BVRI, RGB & Clear filters
    MaxIm and, of course, ACP!
    AAVSO Code: BRIC

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    I live in Massachusettes; Observatory in New Mexico


    My biggest constraint is that the telescope is remote. I don't have the option of changing the optical train - I can't introduce a Barlow or change out the camera. Imaging must be done with the hardware as it is.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Albuquerque(me) / Rincona(scope), NM


    If what you show is the entire filter set, then your C14 is probably not going to be able to do planets (in our solar system, anyway!) especially with a high-sensitivity camera with a mechanical shutter. The C14 gathers serious light (I have one).

    If you have or can put in a H-alpha filter, that works. I've taken extraordinary pictures of the moon with a C11 + ST-8 in H-alpha. No chromatic aberration, that's for sure. Otherwise, video is the way to go. Christopher Go [ ] uses a C14 for his famous Jupiter imaging.

    But with a big mirror, sensitive camera, and broad-pass filters, I doubt you'll be able to spread out the light enough to take 0.1-sec planetary images. You should be able to image and resolve other moons, though, even if the planet itself saturates its pixels.
    New Mexico Mira Project, Albuquerque NM



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