The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.

Saturn at it's finest

May 3

Written by:
5/3/2012 4:01 PM  RssIcon

Where I live, in the Midwest part of the United States, the jet stream tends to be mean.  Mean in the sense that it likes to sit right above where I live and make viewing planets less than ideal.

Except last night.

Wow... was that a treat.  It was supposed to be cloudy - actually, rainy.  I was testing a new motor drive for a smaller scope on the Moon as the sky was getting dark.  Then, out of the blue - literally - there it was, Saturn, sitting above a neighbor's house, right where it should be at that time of night.  I put the smaller scope away, and brought out the 6" f/5 reflector.  As I kept changing eyepieces, and increasing magnification, I wondered, "Will I have to stop around 125x or 150x like usual"?  Last night turned out differently.  

At 240x, the planet seemed "etched" onto the background of the sky.  That was using a 3mm planetary eyepiece by Astro-Tech.  A lot of times, that eyepiece has given me somewhat fuzzy views, and I always wondered if it was the eyepiece, or the seeing.  Well, it's NOT the eyepieces!  I even have 2.5mm eyepiece from TMB, before they stopped selling them.  Putting that in the scope, I was now at 300x magnification.  

Planetary pictures never do "the real thing" justice, but here's what I managed to capture using my cell phone camera through the telescope last night.  Given the conditions - and the camera - I think this was pretty darn good.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments.

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5 comment(s) so far...


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Re: Saturn at it's finest

Wow! Cell phone camera... I'm really impressed :) Can't imagine what it looked like to the naked eye.

By Matt on   5/3/2012 8:30 PM
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Re: Saturn at it's finest

Thanks Matt. It was truly phenomenal. Those kind of nights don't come along very often, so I knew it was one of those special "two or three times a year" kinds of things. I just wish I could have taken a picture that really captured how it looked, but given what I was using to get it, I don't think I did too badly.

By Dave on   5/3/2012 8:55 PM
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Re: Saturn at it's finest

That's awesome. We were blessed with a night of incredible seeing when we were up on Mount Wilson 2 weeks ago. Saturn was unbelievably detailed at around 1000x in the 60-inch. One guy in our group snapped a photo but the photo doesn't compare to what we saw in the eyepiece.

I'm quite surprised you got this shot with a cell phone cam. I haven't been able to get anything useful from the cam on my iphone. Even shots of the Moon come out lousy, occasionally showing some crater detail but most often heavily vignetted and with poor contrast. I guess I need to find an app where I can control the exposure settings.

Glad you at least had clear skies. We've been under perpetual cloud cover here in the northeast for a week, with no relief this weekend, oh, EXCEPT Sunday night. Why is it always clear on Sunday nights? It seems that the best weather always occurs on the least usable night.usable

By Jim on   5/4/2012 7:58 AM
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Re: Saturn at it's finest

Jim, Saturn at 1000x must be jaw-dropping. The best I've ever done with my own equipment is 480x with a 10" on Mars - and that was two years ago. I wasn't sure if my Dob's mirror was cooled to see about Saturn through it at that level, and I was satisfied with the 300x view as it was.

The camera on my phone does a remarkable job all things considered. It's an HTC Inspire, and I've managed decent shots of the Moon, Sun and now Saturn. The most difficult thing is finding the planet in the eyepiece at that magnification. Seriously, I got that one good shot from taking about 20 shots, and that's over a period of like 20-30 minutes, at least. Once you move the phone from the spot over the eyepiece, it's darn near impossible to find the planet through the camera on the phone again! So I'd take a bunch of shots, then check to see if any were good, then try again (taking 5 minutes it seemed just to place the phone in the right spot again).

Sorry your skies haven't been clear. Our forecast has been terrible, but actual weather has occasionally been cooperative. So I've tried to take advantage of it when I can.

By Dave on   5/4/2012 8:25 AM

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