Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

SteveC

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There is more than gear and settings to shooting the moon and planets. Another common and very impactful source of blur are disturbances in the atmosphere. Especially if the object you are shooting isn't right above you, you're looking through a lot of air that can wobble and distort the image in the process. It what maker's stars twinkle. If you observe the moon through LiveView it will be easy to judge how the 'seeing' is in a given night.

Ideally, you get lucky and just image on a very still night and wait until the moon / planet has risen sufficiently far above the horizon. Another strategy to combat this has already been described.

Take lots of pictures and let software Analyse them to combine and stack the sharpest sections of them all into one image with less noise and less impact from the atmosphere. The technique is called lucky imaging and is usually applied by taking an uncompressed video with a special type of camera.

I think on an R6 / R5 you are better off just using the electronic shutter 20 FPS burst mode until the buffer is full. That saves you from any forms of compression, or overheating and requires a little less processing power on the computer compared to the RAW video options.

Free software that does this is Autostakkert or Registax, for example.
Unfortunately the Jupiter Saturn conjunction will not be directly overhead...but it's important to take the pictures as early as possible, before they get even closer to the horizon and MUCH more air comes between us and them.

On the other hand later at night is likely to be better because it's cooler and less thermal convection.

The idea of just filling the buffer in electronic shutter mode sounds promising, because any one shot is liable to be blurry thanks to our atmosphere, but there are occasional instants of clarity. (It's going to take a lot of work to step through and magnify each shot to look for the best ones, though!) I generally keep almost everything I shoot but in this case I'll be trashcanning a lot of shots; I do NOT want this to become the first >100GB shooting session on my NAS.
 

Joules

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It's going to take a lot of work to step through and magnify each shot to look for the best ones, though!
Actually, that's not something you have to do manually. That's why I mentioned the software Autostakkert and Registax. They are free applications that ingest a series of frames or a video and analyse them for common features used in alignment. They also evaluate the sharpness of these features and allow you to use only the sharpest sections in your frame stack to compose a final image with both less athmospheric distortion and noise (you're doing stacking after all).

If you aren't using any form of tracking for the camera, the subjects will of course move between shots. And that can make the alignment process fail, at least in Autostakkert (I haven't really used Registax). What I did once to compensate was open my images as layers in PS and roughly align them manually using the difference layer blend mode. Really just quickly eyeballing it and then exporting the layers for Autostakkert (2 or 3, both work well mostly) for the rest.

It also begins to struggle if you use pictures taken across a long period of time. The reason for this is the rotation of the planets, which unlike the apparent motion across out sky, can't be compensated for in post. But with 20 FPS (or higher if you take a video) I think that should not be a major concern.
 

SteveC

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Sep 3, 2019
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Actually, that's not something you have to do manually. That's why I mentioned the software Autostakkert and Registax. They are free applications that ingest a series of frames or a video and analyse them for common features used in alignment. They also evaluate the sharpness of these features and allow you to use only the sharpest sections in your frame stack to compose a final image with both less athmospheric distortion and noise (you're doing stacking after all).

If you aren't using any form of tracking for the camera, the subjects will of course move between shots. And that can make the alignment process fail, at least in Autostakkert (I haven't really used Registax). What I did once to compensate was open my images as layers in PS and roughly align them manually using the difference layer blend mode. Really just quickly eyeballing it and then exporting the layers for Autostakkert (2 or 3, both work well mostly) for the rest.

It also begins to struggle if you use pictures taken across a long period of time. The reason for this is the rotation of the planets, which unlike the apparent motion across out sky, can't be compensated for in post. But with 20 FPS (or higher if you take a video) I think that should not be a major concern.
I don't want a movie, I just want one good clear shot, and to determine which one shows detail, I *must* magnify them.
 

Joules

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I don't want a movie, I just want one good clear shot, and to determine which one shows detail, I *must* magnify them.
I know. I just wanted to point out to you that there is free software available that allows you to extract the most detailed image possible from a set of images without every manually looking at the detail in the shot.

You can of course just go through them yourself (using the magnify view on a second screen in Lr is really nice for that, for example) and pick a single one that you like. I was just trying to provide an alternative.

The programs I named can take a video as one possible input format, but the output is going to be a single image regardless of what you put in.

I just mentioned videos because they are a convinient way of capturing many images over a short amount of time, which is why that's what's being used in very serious planetary imaging setups. But with an R6 or R5 (or 1DX III), taking 20 FPS is basically just as good as capturing a video in terms of frame rate, and better in terms of bit depth and compression.

Here's a good article on Lucky imaging if you want to look into it: https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-blogs/imaging-foundations-richard-wright/lucky-imaging/
 

stevelee

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Jul 6, 2017
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I wanted to take a picture last night when the crescent moon would have been in the frame with the planets, but it was cloudy. Tonight was clear earlier, so I went out and had the camera set for bracketing exposures more as a test than anything else. So I did some handheld spraying to see what I could get. I used the 100–400mm lens, but oddly, when I got a decent exposure, I had it zoomed out to 100mm. Even so I got something a bit interesting enough to post here. But I've enlarged it 300%, and of course cropped. ISO 6400 f/5.6 at 1/100 sec. handheld. If weather cooperates for the next few nights maybe I'll get something decent, using the tripod and zoomed in to 400mm. I don't own a TC.

IMG_3200.jpg
 
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Czardoom

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Jan 27, 2020
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Taken tonight from New York state. Olympus e-m1 II with 75-300 lens. Can't see Saturn's rings, of course, at this magnification, but somewhat surprised to see what seems like some of Jupiter's moons. Saturn is a nice oblong shape. Seriously cropped, somewhere around 100%.
ZC180618-3x4cropped.jpg
 
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zim

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Oct 18, 2011
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Wall to wall total cloud cover here, jealous!
@czarzoom great image with the moons pity you don't have an exposure for the planets you could sub out. Maybe you do though?
 

stevelee

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Tonight I had presence of mind to shoot at 400mm, but there were wispy clouds in the southwest. By 6:20 pm the planets had dropped down into the haze. The best picture I got was taken at 6:09 pm EST (5:53 pm local time), one minute before Nautical Twilight. With camera on a tripod, the shot was made with ISO 3200 at f/8 for 1/160 sec. Unlike last night, Saturn looks like Saturn with a hint of the rings. This JPEG is cropped and saved at 200% magnification. My calculations suggest that the apparent distance between the planets tonight was 65% of the distance last night. It is supposed to be cloudy tomorrow night, but Monday, at their closest approach, it is supposed to be clear here. I'll have just a few minutes between when it gets dark and when they are too low in the sky to get a clear picture. Weather permitting, I'll give it a shot.

IMG_3264.jpg
 
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Mt Spokane Photography

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I saw the sky yesterday morning for the first time in weeks, but it was overcast and raining by evening. The weather report shows patches of sky this morning but its overcast, rain tonight and for 2 days. The day of clear weather has been moving out in the forecast every day, it moves out. I think I'm going to miss seeing it. There is no place within reasonable driving distance with better weather.
 

SteveC

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I saw the sky yesterday morning for the first time in weeks, but it was overcast and raining by evening. The weather report shows patches of sky this morning but its overcast, rain tonight and for 2 days. The day of clear weather has been moving out in the forecast every day, it moves out. I think I'm going to miss seeing it. There is no place within reasonable driving distance with better weather.
Same boat.

Yesterday, today was supposed to be clear for the first time in days.

Today I look out and it's clouds. Enough for the sun to blast through, but not Jupiter and Saturn.

Yesterday I had clouds but only to the southwest. So I headed northeast right after sunset, finally did get to see them, but couldn't get the camera set up, focused, etc (I want a tripod that lets me adjust without having to twiddle two knobs, then just have the thing droop and offscreen what I'm trying to photograph as soon as I tighten up) in time, it went behind the clouds.

I can't win for losing.
 

Czardoom

EOS 90D
Jan 27, 2020
162
377
Tonight I had presence of mind to shoot at 400mm, but there were wispy clouds in the southwest. By 6:20 pm the planets had dropped down into the haze. The best picture I got was taken at 6:09 pm EST (5:53 pm local time), one minute before Nautical Twilight. With camera on a tripod, the shot was made with ISO 3200 at f/8 for 1/160 sec. Unlike last night, Saturn looks like Saturn with a hint of the rings. This JPEG is cropped and saved at 200% magnification. My calculations suggest that the apparent distance between the planets tonight was 65% of the distance last night. It is supposed to be cloudy tomorrow night, but Monday, at their closest approach, it is supposed to be clear here. I'll have just a few minutes between when it gets dark and when they are too low in the sky to get a clear picture. Weather permitting, I'll give it a shot.

View attachment 194649
Steve, Great shot! What camera and lens are you using? Everything I have have read on the topic says that you can't see Saturn's rings with a camera lens! That you need a telescope. Saw a video where someone was using an 800mm lens and they couldn't discern the rings. Wondering how you did it!
 
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Joules

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Jul 16, 2017
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Steve, Great shot! What camera and lens are you using? Everything I have have read on the topic says that you can't see Saturn's rings with a camera lens! That you need a telescope. Saw a video where someone was using an 800mm lens and they couldn't discern the rings. Wondering how you did it!
You might have read about actually seeing the planets, as in, seeing with your own eyes. It is far easier for digital cameras with their sensitivity and the possibility to crop to make out certain details in the night sky.
 

Czardoom

EOS 90D
Jan 27, 2020
162
377
You might have read about actually seeing the planets, as in, seeing with your own eyes. It is far easier for digital cameras with their sensitivity and the possibility to crop to make out certain details in the night sky.
Yes, you might be correct, it might have been seeing, although a quick search of taking photos of Saturn's rings without a telescope gives my varying answers - from "no way", "not likely", maybe if you have a 1200mm lens with extenders", "with a 400mm lens it will just be a blob", "Yes, with my 600mm lens", and another "Yes, with my 500mm lens." Just looked at a video of a guy with a Sigma 150-600 on a Canon M6 II and he's got the rings showing up pretty clearly at maximum magnification. Silly me for believing the first few answers I found on the internet!
 
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Mt Spokane Photography

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Yes, you might be correct, it might have been seeing, although a quick search of taking photos of Saturn's rings without a telescope gives my varying answers - from "no way", "not likely", maybe if you have a 1200mm lens with extenders", "with a 400mm lens it will just be a blob", "Yes, with my 600mm lens", and another "Yes, with my 500mm lens." Just looked at a video of a guy with a Sigma 150-600 on a Canon M6 II and he's got the rings showing up pretty clearly at maximum magnification. Silly me for believing the first few answers I found on the internet!
You can indeed get a 600mm photo of Saturn showing its rings. Often, its not a single shot but 20 or more that are stacked. But, if you want to fill a 35mm frame with Saturn, that's a different story as compared to having a super severe crop into a few pixels.

In any event, the atmospherics becomes a limiting factor to obtaining fine detail, so our photos are for our personal satisfaction but will never compare to those taken from space. I hope we can get some of the Grand conjunction images taken from Hubble
 
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SteveC

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Sep 3, 2019
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You can indeed get a 600mm photo of Saturn showing its rings. Often, its not a single shot but 20 or more that are stacked. But, if you want to fill a 35mm frame with Saturn, that's a different story as compared to having a super severe crop into a few pixels.

In any event, the atmospherics becomes a limiting factor to obtaining fine detail, so our photos are for our personal satisfaction but will never compare to those taken from space. I hope we can get some of the Grand conjunction images taken from Hubble
Hubble, I would imagine, won't be covering it. After all, it's two frequently imaged planets that just happen to be near each other right now; they could get the same result photoshopping other images. In fact, we have gonzo images of both planets from up close.

Of course I could be wrong. The guy in charge of scheduling gets to do what he wants with it ten percent of the time.
 

stevelee

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Steve, Great shot! What camera and lens are you using? Everything I have have read on the topic says that you can't see Saturn's rings with a camera lens! That you need a telescope. Saw a video where someone was using an 800mm lens and they couldn't discern the rings. Wondering how you did it!
I was using my 6D2 with the EF 100-400mm II lens at 400mm. The picture posted is 200% enlargement cropped from the original Raw file. Otherwise I did very little to it in ACR, maybe +5 clarity, -5 black, +5 white. I could show some stars with tweaking a bit more, but noise pops out very fast. The rings and their orientation are in the same position in other shots, so they are not just an artifact.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
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Mar 25, 2011
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Hubble, I would imagine, won't be covering it. After all, it's two frequently imaged planets that just happen to be near each other right now; they could get the same result photoshopping other images. In fact, we have gonzo images of both planets from up close.

Of course I could be wrong. The guy in charge of scheduling gets to do what he wants with it ten percent of the time.
I could find nothing indicating it was going to happen. The brightness is likely different for the two, I don't know if they handle that by stacking photographs or what, but I'd think it was a once in a lifetime photo.

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