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Venus Conjuncts Saturn
1st September 2004
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Click to Enlarge
Venus and Saturn close together, taken with the camera alone, 1/2 sec exposure @ ISO 400. Image artificially brightened in PS to show surroundings (and scale).

On the morning of 1st September 2004, Venus and Saturn were going to be in conjunction, close together in the sky. I'm not sure on the exact measurement on how far apart they were, they weren't really close, but closer than they would be for a while.

I got up at 4am and set the dob up outside to cool down, Venus was barely appearing above the trees and Saturn was not yet visible, so I went back inside for a shower. By the time I came back out at about 4:20am, Venus and Saturn were both visible above the horizon (and the trees) so I took in some visual observing before pointing my camera at them.


Click to Enlarge
5 images aligned and stacked in registax. 1/60 sec exposure @ ISO 400.

Venus was first, and it was dazzlingly bright. I used my ND96 polarising filter with a variety of eyepieces. On the 15mm it looked the best with a good magnification, and the gibbous phase could easily be seen showing about 60% of the planet illuminated by the sun.

I tried imaging Venus, afocally with my Sony Cybershot P100. I used the cameras burst mode to take 5 quick pictures in a row, exposure time was 1/60 sec @ ISO 400. The camera was resting on a tripod, snuggled up next to the telescope to allow the camera lens to point into the eyepiece. Quite a difficult task, as Venus kept drifting out of the field-of-view I had to realign the telescope and then realign the tripod and camera.

I took about 5 series of 5 images, and the best out of that lot was aligned and stacked in registax. The result you can see to the left.


Click to Enlarge
5 images aligned and stacked in registax, 1/60 sec exposure @ ISO 400

Next on the list was Saturn, without a doubt one of the prettiest objects in the sky to observe. Being so low on the horizon, Saturn was shimmering quite a lot and made observing any detail very difficult.

Even with the bad conditions, I had to try my luck at imaging Saturn - it's the only way we get to share our passion with others! :) As with Venus, I took about 5 series of 5 images in burst mode, and when they were transferred to the computer I found that almost all were throwaways, but luckily there was one set that came out clear enough to post-process.

The resulting image on the right is a series of 5 images, aligned and stacked in registax. I'm both disappointed and pleased with how they came out; Saturn definitely looked much better through the eyepiece than the resulting image, so that's a disappointment, but at the same time, i'm glad that I was able to at least get one image that I can share.

Anyway after an hour under the increasingly glowing dawn sky, it was time to head off to work. I quickly transferred the photos onto the computer, zipped them up and ftp'd them to my webspace. Once I arrived at work I downloaded them and did the post-processing, and the results can be seen above or under the Planets page in the Images section.

I'm hoping that some improvement in technique and processing, plus the planets being higher in the sky, will enable me to produce some clearer images of the planets on my next outing. The seeing conditions were pretty bad for the morning, a lot of shimmering just observing them visually, it's no wonder that some of the shots appeared out of focus.

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