Friday, March 23, 2012

Planetary Imaging 2012-03-23

After a series of cloudy skies, the god of rain and astronomy finally answered my prayers. When I arrived home, the sky was clear. I wasted no time and carried my scope and imaging gears up the flight of stairs to my usual observation spot. After a quick process of rough polar alignment (It's a really rough one, I don't even have a polar scope for the mount yet), I'm ready to image. The first willing target was the red planet. I whipped out my favorite and most used eyepiece - the simple 17mm Orion Explorer II. I attached the negative lens from my trimag barlow to the eyepiece. As shown below.

The Orion Trimag Barlow

The negative lens removed and the 17mm EP

The lens screwed to the eyepiece barrel

The result - a barlowed eyepiece

With a 2x barlow on the scope and a barlow-eyepiece combo, I can now reach a higher magnification without resorting to a short focal length eyepiece or stacked barlows. Technically speaking, my setup is also similar to stacking barlows.

I initially searched the planet without the barlow. Once the target is centered, I attached the barlow, refocus and then attach the camera. I refined the focus a bit then start shooting. After 3 minutes of video capture, the planet suddenly moved cnotinuously and out of the camera field-of-view. I was initially unaware of the low battery warning flash and continually hammered the button to recenter the target to no avail. Then I realized that the battery warning flash is blinking already. Without a spare in hand, I had no choice but to end my imaging session. I went back to my room, stick the batteries to the charger and started processing my image. With only 1 clip available for me to process, the result was a decent shot, but nowhere near optimal.

After about 2 hours, I was a bit sleepy but decided to try another imaging run. I proceed to the observation deck with my usual stuffs and did the same process as before. But this time, with enough battery power, I was able to capture several clips of Mars. After Mars, I captured a couple of Saturn clips as well. After the 2 planets, I decided to have my much needed sleep. I just processed my image after I woke up in the morning.

After processing my images, I was surprised that Saturn's ring showed a hint of the elusive Encke division, at least I thought at first. This very thin dark gap on the ring is much harder to capture compared to the rather easy Cassini division. The Cassini division, while moderately hard to see visually in a small scope, is very easy to capture photographically. Mars also showed a generous amount of details. Overall, I was really pleased with the results.

A few days later, I found out that the slight darkening near the right edge was just some processing artifact. I've read that the Encke division, being a very narrow gap, can be resolve only by a scope at least 10 inch or larger in diameter.

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