Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mars Opposition, Ganymede

i know i've sent lots of Jupiter this season

but it's still up there and i caught something surprising the other night:
you can clearly see Jupiter, moon Io lower left and Io's shadow at the lower left edge of Jupiter.



look closely below the shadow lo
lower left and you can see Ganymede transiting the face of Jupiter
now look closer still at Ganymede and you'll see the bottom half is white and the top half brown...
meaning surface detail on one of Jupiter's moons has been resolved
which is a new milestone for me
(8"SCT FL ~2000 mm, ASI 120 MC Camera, stack of ~500 of 10,000 5ms video exposures)

Mars is at opposition right now!
prime viewing will last for another week or so, then it won't be back for 20 months, so go out and see it now
here's a shot from last night during poor seeing:

same specs as Jupiter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jupiter's getting better

actually, i think best ever for me
it's all about seeing which was above average for a few days
allowing me to take advantage of a new planetary camera
(more details at picasa album)
2/12/14:

2/16/14 Europa and shadow with great red spot rotating out of view:


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jupiter Overview

Jupiter is up for prime viewing this month so here's an overview of the king of planets.
5th planet from the sun, largest, a gas giant covered with clouds. 
The white clouds seen on the surface are thought to be ammonia crystals. Darker shades may be due to phosphorus, sulfur, or hydrocarbons stirred up from lower levels. 
The great red spot is a persistent storm that's been visible for as long as we've been able to see it with telescopes. 

Known as the amateur's planet because there's always something going on:
-the 4 bright Galilean moons rotate around the planet, sometimes casting shadows as they cross over the face, other times disappearing from view as they move behind Jupiter or its shadow, only to reappear hours later. 
-the great red spot can be seen at times.  the spot rotates with the clouds on the planet's surface coming into view every 10 hours
-a number of significant planetary events have been discovered by amateurs including major meteor strikes leaving transient spots on the surface, formation and disappearance of normally consistent bands, spots, etc. 

Low power view with binoculars will show a disk with the 4 Galilean moons in various arrangements in a line around the planet.  modest magnification with a telescope (60-80x) will reveal several cloud belts on the surface:

the face of jupiter typically has two prominent dark stripes across the center along with grey/brown regions at the poles.



at higher magnification (100-200x) with good seeing and the right time you may see the Great Red Spot as well as smaller white ovals:












here's Europa and shadow crossing the face:















double, then rare triple shadow transit

















One year, one of Jupiter's dark belts disappeared, returning several months later:






at one point, a second red spot appeared
here's red spot junior, barely visible at the tip of the arrow:







the slightly blue patches in the central white band are areas of clear sky, blue for the same reason ours is (i think):






a neat trick is to take two photographs of Jupiter 20 minutes apart.  the rotation allows you to create a 3D pair:

Friday, February 14, 2014

something red for valentine's

fair seeing last night
in time for a valentine's
shot of the GRS












20 minutes rotation:

stereo pair











put a paper between the two and view binocular style for a 3-D effect

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jupiter Callisto transit

seeing has improved from poor to mediocre
here's a bit better shot of Jupiter with moon Callisto and shadow transiting the face:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

the king is dead, long live the king...comet lovejoy

another comet of the century turned out to be a bust
but despite comet ISON's demise during it's pass by the sun
there's another comet out

while comet lovejoy is by no means comet of the century
it's one of the best comets i've been able to photograph from light polluted skies:


this one is fairly bright, but low in the sky
rises above my treeline at 15 degrees in the east at 5 AM, too bright to photograph by 6
so only had a narrow window to image it.
this is a stack of 20x2 minute exposures tracking on the head of the comet
which is moving relative to the stars, explaining the trails

here's an animation of the 20 individual frames aligned on the stars
showing the comet's motion (big file):

comet lovejoy motion

should remain fairly bright thru the month of january, rising higher in the sky
shame it's been overshadowed by ISON. 

bill w

Thursday, January 9, 2014

new year's sun spots, *solar winter storm warning tonight*

last year was the year of the solar maximum
peak in the 11 year cycle of sunspot activity
this is related to the sun's magnetic field flipping
water world with fire
which means this year is...
the year after the solar maximum
and still pretty good for solar activity so far.

took some relatively high power images of sun spots on new year's day:


there was some interesting activity just visible on the other edge:

the sun's surface rotates with a period of approximately 28 days when viewed from earth...
so here it is a few days later on 1/5/14 facing us:
this was a big one which could be easily seen without magnification (looking thru filter)

on 1/7/14 a coronal mass ejection was launched from this spot aimed right at us
as a result, tonight we're going to get hit by plasma consisting of charged protons, electrons, alpha particles and such...
which means major aurora activity tonight at the poles
there's a slight chance that you may see some activity if you live moderately far north
so take a look outside
you may see some strange lights

for more on this check out
http://www.spaceweather.com/

Monday, January 6, 2014

first light from new home: Christmas Jupiter

haven't imaged in about 6 months due to move/move/remodel... Jupiter is just past opposition now and should be in excellent position for viewing for the rest of January. Here's my first light image with a new camera from new location, Jupiter on Xmas night:

unfortunately, the seeing was terrible, amazed i was able to pull anything out at all. this is an animation of two shots taken about 30 minutes apart. shows the great red spot (lower left) just rotating into view.
here it is the next night (again terrible seeing)

you can see the great red spot lower left, Io's shadow upper mid, and a hint of Io just above and to the right of it's shadow.

cheers