NASA Juno Mission Trailer: JOI

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Space-thriller themed mission trailer

Secrets lie deep within Jupiter, shrouded in the solar system’s strongest magnetic field and most lethal radiation belts. On July 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will plunge into uncharted territory, entering orbit around the gas giant and passing closer than any spacecraft before. Juno will see Jupiter for what it really is, but first it must pass the trial of orbit insertion. For more information: http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu

Jupiter and the Great Red Spot

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Yay finally got the Great Red Spot!  Throughout the years observing and taking photos Jupiter, I’ve always wondered if the darker detail I was observing was the Great Red Spot.  Based on date and time it’s possible to determine if the GRS is in view, plenty of software and tables out there for that.  But now I’ve captured my first picture of Jupiter where the GSR is unmistakable, 672 million km away.

Jupiter and the Great Red Spot

Jupiter and the Great Red Spot – March 27th, 2016

April is prime Jupiter observing time, as Jupiter reaches the meridian just before midnight.  And we happen to be at time when the Earth-Jupiter distance is at its shortest, so don’t miss out!  As it’s high in the sky, there is less turbulent atmosphere to peer through and the seeing is better.

Jupiter at 10pm mid-April

Jupiter at 10pm mid-April

The chart above is the sky due south at 10pm local time on April 15th.  And if you have a set of binoculars, camera zoom lens or telescope you’ll easily be able to see four of Jupiter’s moons all lined up next to the planet.

Above photo of Jupiter:
Skywatcher 80ED with Televue 3x
Philips Vesta 675 webcam (yes it’s old…)
Registax for alignment and wavelet
Gimp for post-processing

Backyard Astronomers Capture Impact on Jupiter

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With Earth having passed between Jupiter and the Sun on March 8th, we have some of the finest observations of the Jovian planet.  It’s only normal to have a few backyard astronomers setting their sights on the largest planet (myself included, still got unprocessed videos from March 27th).  However Gerrit Kernbauer was lucky enough to record an unusual event: something slammed into Jupiter!

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy reported that Gerrit Kernbauer with his 20cm telescope in Austria, captured on March 17th what appeared to be an impact of sort.

The issue was to confirm that it was an actual impact, and not some other natural effect or electronic noise in his setup.  What better than to have a second independent observation, and that came from John McKeon with a 28cm telescope in Ireland.

Maybe I should go take a look at my videos on Jupiter from March 27th just in case…  Actually with my 80mm telescope,  I don’t think it would have picked up such an impact.

[SLATE]

Jupiter in 4k Ultra HD

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NASA has just released a video rendered in 4K Ultra HD of Jupiter from images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Learn more about this video: http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/goddard/hubble-s-planetary-portrait-captures-new-changes-in-jupiter-s-great-red-spot

 

June 30th – Venus and Jupiter Less Than 1deg Apart

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Tonight, June 30th, right after sunset and before it’s fully dark if you look West you’ll see Venus and Jupiter less than a degree apart in the sky.  And with either binoculars or a small telescope you’ll be able to observe Venus as a crescent, and the moons of Jupiter.

Planetary Imaging with a Webcam

Planetary imaging is usually where everyone starts.  The targets are bright objects in the sky such as the Moon and the planets that don’t require long exposures; Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  And because there are no long exposures, no need for a mount that tracks.  The electronics of a webcam allows between 5 and 60 frames per second (fps), more than enough to get a good image that can be used with any sized telescope, and the result is a AVI movie that can be easily processed.

There are two ways to use the webcam:

  1. Prime focus: the original webcam lens is removed and the telescope becomes the lens; like swapping lens on a SLR camera.  Magnification is provided by the focal length of the telescope and the optional use of a barlow lens.
  2. Eyepiece projection: the webcam replaces the eye and the magnification is provided by the ratio of telescope focal length to eyepiece focal length.

In my case I went with a prime focus solution, hence I needed a webcam where the original lens could be removed and replaced with an 1.25″ adapter to fit into the telescope’s focuser.

Philips Vesta Pro 680K webcam modified for use on telescope

Philips Vesta Pro 680K webcam modified for use on telescope

The camera sensor, be it CMOS or CCD is sensitive to a wider spectrum than the human eye, therefore most have build-in UV and IR filter, either on the lens or the sensor.  As this filter was on the original webcam lens I purchased a BAADER UV-IR Rejection 1.25″ #2459207 filter for use with the adapter.  Refractors have a challenge getting all colours focused at the same spot, and even with an APO scope what falls in the UV and IR range will generally appear out of focus.  Best to keep those out with a filter.

Today a good planetary imager can be purchased for under $200, but when I started,  most astronomy imaging devices ran in the $1000+ camp.  The Philips Vesta 680K was rather popular as a wonderful man by the name of Steve Chambers figured out how to easily modify the webcam electronic to get much longer exposures.  The Vesta was also equipped with a CCD-based sensor, more sensitive than the CMOS technology used in most webcam.  These modified webcam became to be known as Vesta-SC.

I’ve spotted Jupiter, can I take a photo?  Actually you should take a video.  The reason is that there is a great deal of turbulence in the atmosphere and this causes the image to blur and giggle about.  By taking a video you are doing two things:

  1. Capturing a large quantity of images which can be later processed
  2. May happen upon a brief period of atmospheric stability

Here is a 30 second segment of Jupiter with my setup

I recommend taking a few videos with different settings such that you’ll be able to see after which provided the best results.  Select an uncompressed format such as AVI as to not get compression artifacts, and AVIs are easily broken into individual image frames.

Software such as IRIS or REGISTAX can be used to process the video.  REGISTAX is actually quite good and painless at doing this.  Don’t be intimidated by the large number of settings and parameters, you can get great results out-of-the-box with the default settings.

The process breaks down into 5 steps:

  1. Select your target (what you want the software to track on)
  2. Filter on the frames that have good image quality; only keeping those that are sharp and resemble each other
  3. Align (register) the individual images
  4. Stack the individual images
  5. Wavelet analysis and final brightness/colour balance

Because of the high number of images, you can actually improve image resolution by up-sampling or drizzling the image prior to stacking.  The end result is often an image that can be scaled up by 2x while maintaining resolution.

Wavelet analysis is a type of sharpening, similar to unsharp-mask, but treating each level of granularity as a different “frequency”.  While unsharp-mask is tuned to a specific size of detail, wavelet is able to treat various levels of details as different layers of the image and add the results.

End result:

Jupiter - April 11th, 2015 Benoit Guertin

Jupiter – April 11th, 2015
Benoit Guertin