Extreme Planet Hunters: Uranus Edition

Click for full size.

Click for full size.

My astronomy activity last night wasn’t intended to be about Aldebaran disappearing behind the Moon, as I flat out forgot about it.  Instead, earlier that evening I wanted to try out the technique written about at Scott’s Sky Watch to capture Uranus with a camera.  It was only after I was done searching for Uranus that I happened to notice the headline about Aldebaran on the side of my blog.

Scott took a remarkable picture, using Mars and Venus as a guide to find the obscure Uranus.  I wanted to try to duplicate what he did.  I don’t have a “real” camera though, only my smartphone, but the Samsung Galaxy S7’s is still pretty decent.  Following Scott’s explanation, I set my ISO to 400 and exposure to 10 seconds (the max the stock camera app will go).

The first image on this post is typical of the many I took about 45 minutes after sunset.  All of them seemed overly bright, but I could see “hidden” stars throughout.  Still, I feel the image qualities were sub-par.  One obvious explanation is the excessive light pollution in my front yard from every neighbor keeping their porch lights on.  Another may simply be the inferiority of my camera.  And in hindsight, I should have been storing the raw native images and not JPEGs.

(Trust me that in the top image, the “UFO” is nothing to worry about.  I live near a busy airport.  That bright dot was only in this one image out of the dozens I took, but it was the best image I have to show what I think I found.)

If you click the top image, you will get the full size image so you can scan and zoom in yourself.  Initially, I was very disappointed because I saw absolutely nothing where Uranus should have been.  Last night I chalked this up as a loss, and instead decided to blog about my cool success with Aldebaran.

But this Sunday afternoon I re-read Scott’s Uranus post, and in particular I studied his image.  Note that Scott’s image was taken a couple days prior to mine.  I hope he doesn’t mind, but I copied his Uranus discovery image to demonstrate what I noticed:


I added in the orange arrows.  I took notice of those three stars.  Now, here is a closeup of my image above:


Click for full size.

Wow, I thought, I have the same three stars!  Obviously, my image is much worse than Scott’s, but nonetheless the star pattern is definitely the same.  And by following that pattern towards Mars, I do believe that I captured an ever-so-small chuck of photons from our solar system’s seventh planet.

Here is the same image with the shadowing, contrast, and brightness altered to try to accentuate the three stars and Uranus:


Click for full size.

So do you think I caught Uranus, or am I just imagining it?

9 thoughts on “Extreme Planet Hunters: Uranus Edition

  1. Wow. Great post!

    I think, *think* you found Uranus! I’ve been looking over your photos for a bit, and comparing against Stellarium: https://scottastronomy.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/uranus-sunday.png

    We’re seeing the sky in Pisces, and those two outer stars are Kuton I (lower) and Kuton II (upper). The brighter middle one is the efficiently named Epsilon Piscicum. Pisces is a dim and difficult constellation, without any real mileposts other than the circlet, and that had probably set by the time you took the photo.

    Notice the angle of your theroetical Uranus to Kuton II, and Uranus’s distance to Mars. It looks about the same in your photo, as does the distance from Mars to Kuton II. What’d really help, and I don’t know if you can tease them out, would be a star directly to Uranus’s left, and then another, the wonderfully named Torcularis Septentrionalis (dibs on the band name!) just to Mars’s left. I think they might both be just out of frame to the left in your photo. I boxed both of these in my screen grab. If those are there, you done found yourself a planet.

    I think you did, anyway. So, here’s to you!

    I’m glad I inspired you and, glad you used my photo. Thank *you*. I’m can now say I have a photographic technique named for me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Scott for all the extra digging you did on this. I also noticed yesterday that those three stars were part of Pisces, but did not take the thread any further.

      I am pretty sure those two other stars are in my main photo. If you click on the first image at the top of the post, it will expand to 100%. Torcularis Septentrionalis is definitely there. If you can zoom in (Google Chrome allows me to) you can also see that other star to the left of my alleged Uranus.

      I promise to do a follow-up post on this extra finding later in the week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Extreme Planet Hunters, Episode II: Uranus and Torcularis Septentrionalis | Aperture Astronomy

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