I already blogged about the new Phone Skope adapter that I was able to review as a demo unit. On August 1st, I took it back out to see what I could get for Jupiter and Saturn. Between July 31st and August 1st outings (i.e., during the day on the 1st), I revisited online what various people were doing with different scopes and smartphones to get seemingly much more impressive results than I was. I knew, for example, that Andrew Symes used video, and I had experimented a bit with video, but without much luck.
But when I reviewed a whole bunch of posts online on Facebook, google images, and Cloudy Nights, I had a small eureka moment. Not only were all of them using video, they were all using WAY more power than I was. While I was going up to a 15mm Plossl on my scope, which gives me about 135x magnification, I was reluctant to go much higher at risk of introducing too much turbulence and noise in the images. Yet when I reviewed Andrew Symes’ approach with video, I realized he was using a 7mm eyepiece — IN THE SAME SCOPE AS ME! In other words, more than twice the power I was using. 290x magnification in fact. Wow, I almost NEVER go that high, not even in visual. Hmm…what were other people doing? Well, I broke out the online magnification calculator and started plugging in various people’s scopes and eyepiece combinations, and almost all of them were using above 250x. Video or stand-alone single frames, everyone was going way more power than me.
I had hoped that keeping the power low would give me more control over quality, but the difference in power also explained a problem I had when stacking images in the video. While I could get PIPP to process the videos and get them ready for AutoStakkert, when I went to do alignment points in AST, it didn’t want to do it automatically. It felt that I didn’t have enough APs in the image. Well, of course not, doh! The picture wasn’t big enough. So I headed out for a new attempt with way more power. My largest EP is a 9mm Plossl, which is only 226x magnification, but it was all I had to work with for now.
For all of the following planetary images, I’m using a Celestron NexStar 8SE, iPhone XS Max, Night Cap software, 9mm Celestron Omni Plossl, and a Phone Skope smartphone adapter. I tried a bit of a mix of video and single frames, some with digital zoom, some without.
First up is a video of Jupiter of 1m49s in length. I ran it through PIPP with planetary settings, centred the object, cropped to 250×250. I then loaded AutoStakkert, assigned 52 alignment points, kept best 25% of the photos. And flipping plus rotation to normal view.
A second video was 1m12s, same settings for PIPP and Autostakkert although I could only manage 44 alignment points. Not great, but still better than anything I was getting earlier.
A third video was 1m16s, with 35 alignment points. Ooh, progress.
A fourth video, 1m16s also, but just a single frame. Not as good as the stacked, but the best single-frame I’d had to that point, even if post-processing was still needed.
I played with it slightly, not sure it made any difference:
I tried reprocessing the video, lowering the size of the alignment points, and managed a whopping 101 APs this time.
A 1m07s video gave me 35 APs and this, which I’m QUITE happy with…definitely making progress:
Soooo, it was time to up the difficulty and go for Saturn. A single frame gave me the photo below, based on f/1.8, ISO 50, and 1/2 second duration, although I think I had some digital zooming going on in that one too. Still the best I’ve had to this point.
Then I threw on a filter, played with ISO to 64 and duration down to 1/10s, and maxed my digital zoom. I don’t know what I was thinking.
I was running out of steam for the night, and did one more frame for Saturn — nixed the digital zoom, ISO up to 320, and duration down to 1/60s. Hmm, not bad.
I definitely feel like I’m on the right track. So I got greedy. Since planets are going so well, and the moon is easy, why not try for stars? Hah!
I tried for Arcturus, ISO 10000 and 5s duration (the settings that Loren Ball suggests online), and got this:
Yep, it’s a star. Not much else in the shot though! 🙂 I attempted a cluster twice with ISO down to 8000 and still 5s duration:
Not much detail in there, alas. But at least I’m seeing SOMETHING. And then to finish things off, I went for another star. I have no memory now of what it was or which one. I thought I went for Mizar, but I don’t see anything suggesting a double star in that image below. Again, ISO of 8K and 5s duration, single frame.
I feel like there are lessons to be learned in those last few images, but there’s just one small problem. I don’t remember which eyepiece I was using. I think I went back to 25mm but I’m not positive. Kind of hard to replicate if you lose the note saying what size you’re using next. Still, I’m making progress.