Imaging Jupiter

Clear skies, reasonable seeing, and low winds afforded a good opportunity at snapping some pictures of Jupiter, on a cool March evening in Texas.  An overwhelming amount of city light pollution didn’t deter me from making an attempt, as Jupiter is still easily visible, especially as seen through a 10″ aperture.  It wasn’t an undertaking like trying to capture the Milky Way or some low magnitude nebula.

As mentioned, winds were reasonably calm, but atmospheric turbulence was leaving the King of planets in a tremulous condition (See animated gif).  While the animation shows a somewhat stable atmosphere, sometimes a gust of wind would shake the telescope to an unreasonable level.   With the use of a Televue 5X Barlow, the added magnification exacerbated the view of the atmospheric instability, but the hope was the image stacking software would align all of the images, to give an acceptable final result.

Snippet of AVI, prior to processing, from DFK 41AU02.AS.  Note: Motes, from optics, visible on image

The setup used for this imaging attempt, was a 10″ Meade LX850 ACF, on a Losmandy G11 mount with Gemini-2 GOTO system.  Camera used was an Imaging Source DFK 41AU02.AS USB camera.  In conjunction with the aforementioned Televue 5X Barlow, a Meade diagonal mirror with a 1.25″ eyepiece holder was used to house the camera.

10″ Meade LX850 ACF on Losmandy G11 Equatorial Mount

Once the mount was polar aligned, and tracking on Jupiter, I started to get to work. With my Macbook Pro running in a Win10 VM (to allow the DFK imaging software to function), I launched the IC Capture 2.4 software to control the camera.  Since this was the first time running the camera, I had to get used to the variety of settings, such as exposure, gamma levels, gain, etc…

Needless to say, it took several tries to find the right exposure, not to mention finding focus through turbulent skies is quite a challenge, and took much of my imaging time.  I would test different exposures, and recheck focus.  Another challenge was that my polar alignment was not dead on, so there was some periodic drift, not a lot, but enough to blur the image if I did a capture of more than 50 frames.  This can easily be corrected by leveraging my autoguider, and getting a better polar alignment result.  In my haste to set up the telescope and all the gear, as I started late at night, I really didn’t have a chance to run through my usual process for getting a good alignment.

The next section describes my post-processing of the final image, to stack the original 50 frames from the .AVI I created with the camera software, align those frames, and do a noise reduction and sharpening to the data.  This took much trial and effort to get a decent result.

 

Image Processing

With the Registax software, I was able to pull in the .AVI file, select my alignment points, stack the 50 frames, and get to this point below, showing how to RGB align, and then use the Wavelet tab to denoise and sharpen.  Basically, I stretched the green box about the image, and let the Registax software do the work, by clicking on the ‘Estimate’ button.

 

 

The resultant image below, doesn’t look like it does much for you, but I believe the RGB alignment is a necessary step.

 

 

Next, I pulled in the saved Wavelets scheme I named ‘Jupiter.rwv’, which allows you to save your settings and reapply them to other images, such that you have a good starting point for your next Jupiter imaging post-process.

 

 

After you select ‘Do All’, the results are somewhat dramatic, as the image is sharper and the bands of Jupiter are more defined.  As this point I saved the image, as a .TIF file.  Note:  The sharpening and denoise revealed some dust motes in my optics.  I was able to correct this in Photoshop with the ‘Spot Healing Brush Tool’.

 

 

After saving the image from Registax, I ran it through Photoshop to adjust curves, levels, Smart Sharpen, etc…  Final image below.

5x Barlow – LX850ACF 10″ f/8 – DFK 41AU02.AS – 50 Images stack – Post processed by Registax

This was my first run at this camera, and I’m happy with the results.  I plan to try other cameras and software to capture and process additional images of Jupiter and other celestial objects.  I will post those results to the site, for posterity.

Thanks for reading.

Clear skies!