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D7000 DSLR Imaging: Sun, Venus, Mercury

Posted: 9 March 2012

Wind and clouds have been the norm for a few nights. The clouds and dust (from the wind) went away on Thursday, 8 March 2012, but there was still a strong breeze blowing during the daytime. In the afternoon, I took this photo of the sun with the D7000 DSLR and 300mm lens, f/10, 1/800sec, ISO 500, using a solar filter. It shows the large sunspot AR1429:


Although there was still a strong breeze blowing as sunset approached, I decided to open the observatory anyway and get in some observing before the winds returned (as they were forecast to do). I opened the SkyShed POD at 1807 MST, 66°F. I set up my ETX-105PE outside of the observatory, as I planned to use it for some planet and moon observing:


At 1821 MST, I viewed Mercury in the 8" LX200-ACF at 77X, 133X, and 206X. Its phase was slightly less than half. Seeing was not very good however. I set up to do some D7000 DSLR eyepiece projection imaging at 222X. First, I went back to Venus and focused on it (and tweaked the finderscope alignment). I did a 30 second video recording at 1/200sec, ISO 5000. Most frames were blurred out due to the poor seeing, but I did find one reasonably good frame. Here is Venus, cropped from the full-frame video but otherwise unedited:


I then returned to Mercury. Unfortunately, due to haze in the western sky and the reduced field-of-view (FOV) at 222X, I had a lot of difficulty getting Mercury into the camera's FOV. By the time I did, it was very low and seeing was really impacted by its low altitude. I did a 30 second video recording, 1/200sec, ISO 6400. One frame had a close representation of the planet Mercury. This is that frame, cropped from the full-frame video but otherwise unedited. It is at the same scale as the Venus image above.


At 1856 MST, I took a quick look at Jupiter, 77X. Four moons were visible. I then moved to the ETX-105PE. As it was going through its Auto Align process, the batteries failed. Since the telescope has to be removed from its tripod to swap the batteries, I decided to forgo using the ETX this night.

I went back inside the observatory and viewed Mars, low in the east, at 77X with the 8" LX200-ACF. Due to poor seeing, no details were visible on the planet. At 133X, the small white spot of the North Polar Cap (NPC) was just visible. At 1915 MST, the eastern sky was beginning to brighten due to the rising waning gibbous moon. By 1930 MST, some dark areas were becoming visible on Mars at 133X but they were not clear enough to identify. At 2007 MST, seeing was still not very good, but at 133X I could see the bright area of a "sunrise cloud" on the Martian limb just south of the NPC. I switched to 206X at 2015 MST but the view was not very good. I added a moon filter, which helped a little. After a period of no wind, the breeze was now coming back. At 2018 MST, I switched back to 133X with the moon filter. I still could not identify what dark surface areas I was viewing as the seeing was still bad.

The moon was now rising over the hill to the east. At 2022 MST, I took a quick look at the moon at 77X through some tree branches. I then began closing up for the night as the breezes were getting stronger and the wind was forecast to blow all night once it started.

Closed the observatory at 2235 MST, 49°F. It was not a very productive night at Cassiopeia Observatory.


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Copyright ©2012 Michael L. Weasner /