May 22

Late-night planetary imaging.

Imaging the planets requires completely different techniques and equipment than deep-sky stuff, and it’s something I’m not really good at yet.

What matters the most is the seeing conditions – how stable the atmosphere is. A big part of taking good planetary images is just having the perseverance to get out there whenever the seeing is forecast to be good. Often, the forecast is wrong, as it was last night, and you just have to keep trying.

What’s worse, right now the major planets are only out in the early morning hours. I had to get up at 3 AM to take these images – and I’m not even happy with them! Beyond the marginal seeing conditions, you really need something bigger than my 8-inch telescope to get great images of the planets. And I’m also battling some technical issues.

I have a lot of respect for planetary imagers who have the grit to get up when they have to, tweak their equipment obsessively, and just keep practicing their technique whenever they can. It’s weird that it’s easier to take pretty pictures of distant galaxies millions of light-years away than of planets within our own solar system.

Anyhow, here’s my haul from last night, such as it is: Jupiter, Saturn, and The Moon. Jupiter is nearing “opposition”, meaning it’s about as close to us as it gets. Saturn still has a few months to go before that happens.

Jupiter
Lunar close-up
Saturn

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