My answer, perhaps, someday…

Taken with NightCap

“How could you have known?”
“I did not, so I remained
cautious, ” I will say.

The Importance of Taking Notes

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

I began taking copious notes when I entered high school.  I recall, in particular, my history class from that first year.  The several-hundred page spiral notebook filled up, week after week as I listened to the instructor recall the highlights of Western Civilization, from the early formations of Rome up to the monarchies and rise of the nation states in the 19th century.  It became almost a little game for me, to see how much of each lecture I could transcribe, even though much of that information wouldn’t find its ways onto the quizzes and exams.  I felt like the keeper of a sacred knowledge in accordance from the one who professed it.  A sort of happenstance holy book emerged that I couldn’t easily discard at the end of the school year, unlike the largely unfilled notebooks from my other classes.

Notetaking garnered even more importance when I entered college, as I attempted to keep all of the calculus, physics, differential equations, and engineering concepts straight in my head.  These produced, sometimes, even larger sets of writings in the form of official homework assignments.  Using up spiral notebooks and loose-leaf paper was the norm back then, and I still remember how my wrist and hand would ache.

Now in 20+ year hindsight of my humble and narrow career, I see that notetaking was necessary at times, but not at others.  It was certainly more relevant in my early days, fresh out of college.  That was still the pre-Outlook era, and email seemed more an offbeat frill than the mundane requirement it is today.  My work notes and scribbles are far from timeless.  Most spoil quickly and are no longer useful even after just a few months.

When I took up my astronomy hobby in earnest nearly a half decade ago, I held an enthusiasm for keeping logs of my activities.  Particularly, I recorded in detail my photography sessions in the hopes of learning from prior attempts.  My little journal book has been invaluable when I restart taking pictures of the Moon and planets.  What exposure and ISO worked best last year for Jupiter?  Without my journal, I may have given up as it would have become too onerous a task to rebuild and reimagine how to take these photographs at seasonal and annual intervals.

My astrophotography journal came in very handy this week as I put my telescope and camera and lenses back into full service.  Today’s highlight from those evening sessions in Jupiter.  I timed the above picture knowing that the Great Red Spot was visible for several hours on Monday night.

Comparing this to several of my prior Jupiter images, notably from 2018, I am very please with the results.  Always keep in mind, until further notice, that my telescopes are not intended for imaging and my camera is not designed for astrophotography.  It is a hassle to manually nudge my Dobsonian just enough every 30 seconds without completely losing bearing on my current target, but it’s still fun and the results are usually decent enough to share.

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: 125
    • Created five sets of three videos 24-29 seconds each, refocusing after each set
  • Software for post-processing:
    • PIPP
    • Autostakkert
    • Registax 6
    • PaintShop Pro for final minor touchups