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Jupiter, Saturn & a first time Mars


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Another clear night last night although I was put off by the poor seeing forecast, however it didn't actually seem all that bad to me. I setup early at around 8.30pm and doubly made sure I got the alignment right this time round. I seemed to have done a better job this time round with the desired object falling into the field of view but off centre. In any case, I lived with that.

Jupiter was already on the march towards the trees and with a quick peek before the giant disappeared altogether, I spotted 3 of the Galilean moons. Io must have been in transit. I was using a low powered EP, still the cloud banding was clear enough but I didn't spot the GRS, perhaps it was on the opposite side of the planet. I managed to get 5x 45 second videos using my Canon 600D at ISO800 30FPS and popped a 2x barlow in the train. I manually started and stopping the recording so I'll have plenty of frames to drop at the start and end of the clips. The sixth video, Jupiter slowly faded to black about 20 seconds in as the tree got in the way. I also caught the end of the first pass of ISS as the bright dot drifted across into the Southeast and faded away.

A short pop left, I got Saturn and it seemed a little fainter this time round. Even with a 25mm EP, the rings resolved nicely. So I took the opportunity to shoot more video and managed to grab 14x ~120seconds videos using the same settings as Jupiter plus the 2x barlow. I could see Mars peeking through the trees to the East and just needed another 15 minutes or so to finally come into a clear line of sight.

So I spent the interim taking some photos of Andromeda and testing out a 0.5x reducer with a focal extender. But no luck with that combination as I still could not achieve focus on DSLR. All I got was a donut of light, it wasn't far off but clearly the extender was the incorrect length. Disappointed, I took 30x 25s photos of a light fuzzy patch after removing the barlow and extender then achieving focus on Mirach and flipping back to Andromeda. 

A little time passed and now was pushing on for about 10.30pm, Mars finally edged out from behind the tree. This was my first time observing the red planet and is already unbelievably bright, perhaps on par with Jupiter if not a little more. Interestingly, I spotted another dot of light I thought may have been one of the moons of Mars. I suspect it wasn't as it was on the wrong axis as I was using the diagonal. But I could see it by averting my eye on Mars and was quite far away to the left. There was little surface detail on Mars itself, just what appeared to a dark patch stretching out from the top and weaving it's way through to the bottom. I spent a few minute observing Mars before packing up for bed and took some dark and bias frames in the meantime.

A good session, topped off with seeing Mars for the first time. I am now considering a planetary cam so I can capture it as it nears opposition next month. Hopefully, I can use the footage in AutoStekkert and get something decent out of them.

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