Making progress

 

By Steve Marsh

 

Just over a year ago I took my first picture of Jupiter – an afocal effort holding my compact camera up to the eyepiece of my 4.5-inch reflector. Now, one year, two telescopes, three cameras and many sleepless nights later, I look back fondly at that picture… and think how terrible it is. That’s progress!

 

My first afocal picture of Jupiter, taken 13 months ago


 

At the time, I thought that image was incredible – I’d actually photographed Jupiter! It was round. It had a band of cloud and it showed the four Galilean satellites! I proudly emailed it to everyone I knew.

Right then and there I was hooked, and I wanted to take better images. From the humble compact I graduated to an SPC900 webcam, just in time for the delivery of the 8-inch SCT I now own. Now I’d really capture Jupiter as it’s meant to be seen!

My first webcam image showed Jupiter. It was round. It had a band of cloud – and the band of cloud had a slight ripple to it. This was undoubtedly the best picture ever taken of Jupiter, I thought. I proudly emailed it to everyone I knew. Looking back at it today, I’m slightly embarrassed to have made such a song and dance about it!

My first webcam shot of Jupiter – an improvement, but far from perfect


 

Around this time I took more of an interest in pictures taken by Damian Peach and Pete Lawrence with their 14-inch scopes. Why did I get a C8, I thought back then, when I could get results like theirs with a C14?

It’s safe to say there’s no way I’d have taken images like Damian and Pete do if I’d bought a C14 straight away.

Today, I feel like I’m starting to get the most from my 8-inch scope thanks to my third camera, a dedicated planetary imaging camera. My images of Jupiter this season have been better than ever, but I’m still driven to improve them.

In fact, even though I have images now that a year ago I would have thought were mind-blowing, my standards have risen with my experience level. I feel like I’m pushing my scope to its limit.

Smaller things bother me. I’m starting to get bottlenecked by aperture – I can’t always push to f/30 because the aperture can’t handle it properly. And I can’t resolve details below 5,000km wide on Jupiter because my mirror isn’t large enough.

I’m making progress step by step, picking up essential knowledge along the way and letting it sink in. It’s a good way of improving at astro imaging, and it’s why the best imagers out there don’t start with a 14-inch telescope. You risk being overwhelmed by technology before you’ve gained the experience to make the most of it. As the saying goes, you have to learn to walk before you can run.

My latest picture of Jupiter – in another year, I'll probably hate this one too…


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