Jupiter and Three Moons

Started processing some of the images taken on April 8th, the only evening with a clear night. I spend a good hour in the near freezing air to capture Jupiter with various settings. The one below was taken with a 2X barlow and a simple webcam. This is a mosaic of two frames as not all moons fit into the rather narrow 640×480 CCD sensor. Unfortunately the fourth moon, Callisto, is just out of the frame to the right.

Jupiter - 2017 opposition - SW80ED and 2x barlow

Jupiter – 2017 opposition – SW80ED and 2x barlow

Telescope: Skywatcher 80ED with 2x barlow lens
Sensor: Philips Vesta webcam with IR-UR cut filter
Processing: Registax and GIMP

Took 40 seconds of video at 20 images/sec which produced a 351MB AVI file. The video is then analysed, registered and stacked with Registax.  Color saturation and light levels where then adjusted in GIMP.

I also took many more video with a 3x barlow, but getting the focus right was a challenge. And I’m afraid the end result is just a “bigger” Jupiter, no additional details. I will need a few nights to process those and see which one turned out well. I will also try using the drizzle algorithm on the image above to see if I can get a larger and better image.

This Weekend – Best Time to See Jupiter

This weekend is the best time to see Jupiter of all 2017, because the planet is at opposition, meaning it is exactly opposite to the Sun and the Earth-Jupiter separation is also at its closest.

The photo below was taken during the September 2010 event and I happened to fall upon a fantastic low turbulence window in the atmosphere. Look closely and you’ll see the shadow of one of those moons on the Jupiter’s surface.


Jupiter – Benoit Guertin

Photos of Jupiter with the moons are a little tricky. Capturing the smaller moons require more exposure or gain, but at the risk of over-exposing the planet and turning Jupiter with those wonderful cloud bands into nothing more than a white sphere. It is always better to take a series of images or videos with different settings and review them at a later time on the computer.  Some information on planetary imaging and processing is provided in my blog on imaging with a webcam.

Planetary imaging is all about controlling turbulence.  Air turbulence whether within the optics, telescope, near the ground or high atmosphere will give you a blurry view. Hence some simple tips are:

  1. Allow your equipment to cool down a few minutes such that the equipment temperature can stabilize and match the outdoors.
  2. Past midnight is better as this allows time for the ground to cool especially after a sunny afternoon, reducing convective currents.
  3. Wait until Jupiter is high in the sky, that way there is less atmosphere between you and Jupiter. By looking straight up, you will be looking through a smaller “air column”.

A good time will be on April 10th when the Moon will next to Jupiter.  See the sky chart below showing the southern part of the sky at 10pm EDT.  The planet will track west as the night advances.

April 10th 2017 Sky Chart

April 10th 2017 Sky Chart


JunoCam – Revealing Jupiter from New Angles

JunoCam onboard the Juno spacecraft is providing us with some great pictures of the Jupiter cloud top, but from the rarely seen polar angle.  Pretty much all spacecrafts that have visited Jupiter did so with a fly by along the equatorial plane, which is also the same plane we observe Jupiter here on Earth.  However with the Juno spacecraft, we now have a chance to enter into a polar orbit and take pictures of the polar regions.

Part of the reason behind JunoCam is to get the amateur astronomer community participating in selecting what parts of Jupiter the camera should be snapping pictures, and of processing the raw images.  The image below was captured by JunoCam during Juno’s 3rd swing around Jupiter at a distance of about 37,000km.  The south polar region is on the left.

Jupiter - December 11, 2016 JunoCam - Juno Spacecraft

NASA, JPL-Caltech, SwRI, MSSS; Processing: Damian Peach

The above was the PeriJove3 encounter (3rd pass), and voting on the next PeriJove4 will take place between January 19th and 23rd 2017.  This is where the community can propose and vote for Points of Interest to photograph with JunoCam during the rather quick (2 hours) close pass with Juno.  You can even submit images of Jupiter taken with your equipment to help plan the Points of Interest.

Ref: JunoMission

NASA Juno Mission Trailer: JOI


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


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


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.


Jupiter in 4k Ultra HD


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