Saturn at Opposition, July 2019

Saturn on the evening of Monday, July 8th, 2019, through my 254mm Dobsonian telescope.

Last week I mentioned that I had one other planet to show from my telescope work on the evening of July 8th.  It was about as perfect of a night for early July in Summer, so I kept my camera and telescope out for hours.  I first photographed the Moon, followed by Jupiter.  About an hour later, I took pictures of the other visible planet that night, Saturn.

Saturn was at opposition.  As I had not filmed Saturn since last year, I was very worried that the results would not be good.  It is harder than Jupiter to manually track with my Dobsonian telescope, because it is dimmer.

The above image was stacked from the final two videos I took (17 videos in total).  With these final two, I lowered the video exposure to 60.

For the first 18 videos, I let in more light with exposure 30.  They were good as well, but not as good, I thought, as the image produced from exposure 60.  Now normally, I stack only three videos at a time.  But I decided to try stacking all the good videos (i.e. good focus), of which there were nine.  Below is the result, after some final post-processing touchups (as I did with the image above as well).

Saturn at opposition, July 2019. This is a composite of my nine best videos at exposure 30.

Summary of my equipment, settings, and software used:

  • Telescope: Dobsonian reflector 254mm / 10″ (homemade)
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL1
  • Barlow: TeleVue Powermate x5 1.25″
  • Filter: Baader Neodymium 1.25″
  • Canon T ring and adapter
  • Relevant camera settings:
    • ISO 1600
    • Exposure: 30 & 60
    • Set 1: Two 24-29 second videos at exposure 60
    • Set 2: Composite of nine 24-29 second videos at exposure 30; refocused after three videos at a time
  • Software for post-processing:
    • PIPP
    • Autostakkert
    • Registax 6
    • PaintShop Pro 2018 for final minor touchups

8 thoughts on “Saturn at Opposition, July 2019

    • Thanks.

      The nine videos from my DLSR camera are first connected in PIPP using its “join” mode. PIPP creates an .avi file. So 9 videos around 24-ish seconds each produce a single video a little over 3.5 minutes long. The videos were taken over about 10 minutes. For Saturn and the resolution of my camera, this should be fine. For Jupiter, since it spins so fast, you can’t go past about 90 seconds in real time before getting motion blur.

      The real important part of this is that PIPP frames and centers the object (via its Planetary mode) so you get, for example, a 400×400 video with Saturn centered in each frame.

      Then I run that .avi video through Autostakkert, which analyzes every frame and orders them for quality as best as it can. You then need to find a reference frame (likely near the front of the reorder) to act as an anchor (with anchor points) for stacking a certain percentage of the best images. Autostakkert will produce a single, stacked .TIF image.

      I then run the .TIF through Registax to adjust levels/curves and sharpen. Through much trial and error with my equipment I have built curve presets for Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus. It makes the process very easy not having to start the curves process from scratch. Then minor touchups can happen in either Registax or another paint program.

      The Registax presets are the real time saver. End-to-end from PIPP to the output in Registax is only a few minutes now. Every session/image set/evening/focus is different, so there are always some minor curve adjustments, but the presets handle 95%+ of the adjustments.

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