Making Sense of Jupiter’s Problems

Jupiter’s Opposition Night, August 21st, 2021

Late Evenings of August 19th through 22nd, 2021

My sessions on Jupiter’s opposition night did not go as well as I had desired.  After imaging what I consider to be my best Jupiter ever a few weeks prior, I had a lot of hope for this night.  It was relatively clear, though not as clear as Saturn’s opposition.

See the first image in this post?  You should notice two issues with it.  First, Jupiter is a tad blurry.  Second, the Galilean moon is shown as double.  Both may be due to the same out-of-focus issue, or so I first thought.

I remember seeing all the Jupiter videos as they were being shot, from my DSLR camera’s LCD screen.  Through practice, I have gotten pretty good at guessing the final quality, based on the real-time LCD image.

But this night’s issues were a mystery.  What went wrong?

I decided to retry on the next available night, which happened to be a couple of nights later on August 21st.  Here is the best final image from that session:

Jupiter 20210822

I did a lot of post-processing to clean this image up, but it is still a tad blurry.  And more importantly, this time I noticed, on the live LCD screen, that I could see Jupiter’s moons as double, like in the first image.  I kept trying to “fix” the double moons, but no matter how much I refocused, the double-ness remained.

So I tried again on the following night, August 22nd.  It was partly cloudy and not ideal for telescope imagining.  Still, I wanted to try troubleshooting, like playing with the order of my Barlow and filter.  I also cleaned all my optics.

When I started the August 22nd session, clouds were on and off, and I only got in a few video sets before Jupiter was completely covered.  But I could see to the West that clearer skies were rolling in.  It was going to be a patchwork of opportunities, and I knew my next window would be in about 20 minutes.

(It should be noted here that the early Waning Moon was out and well to the East of Jupiter, illuminating the sky and playing tricks with cloud cover.  This added a little complexity to guessing when the area around Jupiter would be clear.)

And so I went inside for a while, taking my camera.  Sitting in my living room chair, I began to fiddle with the camera’s settings, and the thought occurred to me…maybe a setting is off?  I immediately noticed that “image stabilization” was set to ON.  It was the highlighted setting.  Did I accidentally bump that setting between Jupiter’s opposition night and now?  As a general rule, any image stabilization should be OFF for astrophotography.  IS is to make a stable frame when you are videoing your kid blowing out his birthday candles, not for recording pictures of Solar System objects hundreds of millions of mile away.

Yes, I turned IS off at this point, and tried videoing Jupiter again, once the clouds broke.  Visibility was not great, but sufficient.  I did observe that I could still see Jupiter’s moons as double on the LCD.  So did IS make a difference, or is that just a video screen artifact?  I still do not know.

It may be difficult to tell after post-processing, but I do feel turning IS off on the very last sessions made a difference.  Below is the best late result from that evening.  It is not up to my prior Jupiter, but enough to convince me to ensure image stabilization is OFF from now on for the planets.

Jupiter 20210823

Wonderful Jupiter during Saturn’s Opposition, August 2021

Jupiter 20210802a

August 2nd, 2021, 1:40 a.m. local time

Why did I wait to 1am to photograph Saturn a few days ago?  Because it had to clear the trees blocking my South sky view.  Saturn’s elliptic is lower than Jupiter’s right now.  Jupiter, far brighter and “behind” Saturn considerably after their December conjunction, sits higher in the sky and clears all those tall trees.  So while I was out imaging Saturn, I decided to turn my telescope a bit East and check out Jupiter as well.

But it was more than just a second image set.  I used the Jovian system for all my refocuses on Saturn.  I cranked up the ISO to 12800 which allowed me to focus easily on Jupiter’s moons, which is the most accurate focus I can make with my limited equipment.

My Saturn image is proof the method worked, and I think it worked even better for Jupiter.  This may be my best Jupiter yet with a remarkably clear GRS.  A combination of great focus and my first successful ISO at 400 for Jupiter combined for what you see here (the lower the ISO, the less noise).

This image turned out so good, it is now the lock screen wallpaper on my phone.

Summary of my equipment, settings, and software used:

  • Telescope: Dobsonian reflector 254mm / 10″ (homemade)
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL3
  • Barlow: TeleVue Powermate x5 1.25″
  • Filter: Baader Neodymium 1.25″
  • Canon T ring and adapter
  • Relevant camera settings:
    • ISO 400
    • Exposure: 30
    • HD video at 60fps
    • Created from three videos of about 25s each, best 60% of frames (via Autostakkert)
  • Software for post-processing:
    • PIPP
    • Autostakkert
    • Registax 6
    • PaintShop Pro for minor touch-ups

Saturn Opposition, August 2021

Saturn 20210802

August 2nd, 2021, 1:15 a.m. local time

The sky was perfectly clear, with no wind, and downright cold that I wore a winter jacket in August Summer.  Today is Saturn’s opposition day.  And it was remarkably fortunate (maybe the stars aligned) that I was outside with my telescope and camera at 1 a.m.

As is now a near-annual occurrence, hours before I took to reading all my notes from my past Saturn captures, to review the camera and post-processing settings that worked best prior.  This year, I decided to push the ISO down to 800.  Though it was difficult at times to locate Saturn, I think the results were good.  Another even brighter planet was in the sky, which helped with my telescope’s finder alignment as well as camera focus.  More on this later.

Summary of my equipment, settings, and software used:

  • Telescope: Dobsonian reflector 254mm / 10″ (homemade)
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL3
  • Barlow: TeleVue Powermate x5 1.25″
  • Filter: Baader Neodymium 1.25″
  • Canon T ring and adapter
  • Relevant camera settings:
    • ISO 800
    • Exposure: 30
    • HD video at 60fps
    • Created from three videos of about 25s each, best 60% of frames (via Autostakkert)
  • Software for post-processing:
    • PIPP
    • Autostakkert
    • Registax 6
    • PaintShop Pro for minor touch-ups

Botanic Moon

Moon on August 5th, 2019

Through warm Summer haze
Trees keep vigil in moonlight
Even though we don’t

Gradually Increasing Moon

Click for full-sized image.

July 8th, 2019, 21:45 p.m. local time

Well, the Moon isn’t really increasing in size, just the visible side.  Following up on my post from early last week, on the following night I snapped the Moon again (as well as a few other objects), this time providing a larger crescent approaching its Quarter phase.  Each night, as the Moon approaches Full, you can see a little more.  The crescent of July 8th is slightly fatter than the crescent of July 7th.

The night was incredibly comfortable for July.  Here in the Norther Hemisphere, it is Summer, and we are now within our hottest stretch of the year, which I will roughly mark as late June through August, sometimes inching into early September.

The sky was very clear.  If there were any downside to the evening, it was that the Moon shone bright, even as a crescent, which blocked most of the South sky from deep sky observing (as much as is meagerly possible in my light pollution-infested locale).

July 8th was a special evening.  I captured this Moon, as well as Jupiter as I wrote about previously.  One more planet from that night remains to be shown.

Waxing Gibbous Moon, July 2018

July 24th, 2018, 9:15 p.m. local time

A nearly Full Moon was on clear display tonight, lighting up a pleasantly mild July evening.  Saturn was close, just below the Moon, but I opted not to try to bring them into the same picture.  Worth noting is that four planets were visible in the night sky at this time: Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars, though Mars had just peeked over the horizon and was far out of my viewing range.

Moon Reunites with Venus on Hot Summer Night, June 2018

Click to see the full image.

June 16th, 2018, 9:05 p.m. local time

We’re about a month from the last rendezvous of the Moon and Venus.  I wasn’t planning to get the camera and tripod set up tonight due to the excessive heat.  But after the Sun set, I went outside, thought the humidity was somewhat bearable, and decided to give it a try.  I was not outside too long, though, as the bugs were ridiculous.

Fortunately I had my image set from last month to use as reference for the camera’s settings.  This made tonight’s session easy and quick, as was necessary, as explained above.

Constellations III: Of the Summer Triangle

Click to see the full-sized hi-res image!

A few days after I searched for Pluto, I chose to forgo my telescopes for one clear evening and play with my digital camera.  The Summer Triangle is straight up in the evening sky right now for several hours after sunset.  As Jack Horkheimer used to say, “Keep looking up.”  This time, take his advice literally and you will see the magnificent asterism defined by the stars Altair, Deneb, and Vega.

This image was taken in a similar fashion to my prior wide-field constellation pictures, like Leo, where I took dozens of light, dark, and bias frames and then created a composite in DeepSkyStacker.  For this new image, though, I went a step further.  I have been searching for a way to accentuate the stars based on their brightness, short of manually blowing them up.  I believe I have uncovered a technique to get the desired effect.  You can easily make out the three main stars along with other stars/patterns in descending order from their apparent magnitudes.

I must admit that I was mildly shocked at how many stars are shown.  Are those really stars, or image noise?  As the images were taken straight up, to the darkest part of the sky, it seemed plausible.  Also, the Milky Way runs right through the Summer Triangle.  You cannot see the Milky Way in my picture, as I don’t think it is possible to capture in my light-polluted area without longer exposures and an equatorial mount.

In checking as many detailed online star charts as seemed reasonable, I do believe those dots are all stars!

Remember that an asterism is a pattern of stars, versus a constellation, which is a generally accepted “official” pattern.  The Summer Triangle is an asterism (a triangle, duh) but it has several constellations in and around it.  How many constellations can you see and name in this picture?