Observing with the C-14 in early 2006
by Matt Allard and Phil Steffey
During the first half of 2006 we observed less than in the previous three years. A session in February featuring visual observing only of Saturn early and Jupiter late drew some welcome visitors. The next two sessions were more about our video recording equipment.
For over a year we had considered replacing the observatory's old PowerMac computer with a newer one running Mac OS X, e.g. a readily available iMac DV, believing this upgrade would provide better video image display, capture and raw editing capability. In order to use the new computer with either of our video cameras, which have RCA, BNC or S-Video output ports, we needed a conversion cable with a USB jack. Some searching in late March-early April led us to a unit that a local Radio Shack got in a few days and for a good price. By late April the iMac DV was installed in the observatory and in the evening of the 28th we tried the USB video cable with the Polaris camera mounted on the C14, aimed at Saturn. Nothing! Unfortunately, our newer OS X iMac DV couldn't read the input signal from our new USB video cable. At the time of writing we still don't know why, but the session wasn't a bust.
Our friend Diane Murray, a fairly frequent visitor at our observing sessions for almost a year, had brought a digital camera, and she took pictures of Saturn by just holding the camera at the telescope eyepiece. The images were small; a processed enlargement is shown following the text. But the eyepiece was the weakest we use for planetary viewing and the camera’s zoom wasn’t used, so imagery several times larger is possible, and the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus in crescent phases should yield nice pictures. To future visitors: bring a digital camera and leave with a personal record of what you see ! Diane also took digital pictures of the C-14 that are the best we have. A copy of one is shown below.
On May 27 we tried the USB video cable on the Polaris camera again, this time connected to an IBM Compatible PC running Windows XP. The target was Jupiter, and the free cross-platform VLC media player we had installed showed it well ! The planet had special treats for us. A few months earlier a small reddish oval had appeared on the disc, following the Great Red Spot and somewhat more south, and by late May the longitude separation had decreased to the equivalent of a half-hour Jovian rotation. Also, the big satellite Europa was transiting the planet, its shadow just on the disc (along with the Red Spot) when we started. We watched these phenomena for over two hours and captured some 30 still images. Six moderately processed examples are in a set below, and two wider field images show the planet with Io and Europa. The last of the first six shows a reddish blotch in the right location to be “Red Spot Junior” but the spatial resolution is marginal. We need to gain experience using the new video recording equipment, but one successful run already is encouraging.
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