As in, when a planet is opposite the sun in the night sky, offering our best and brightest views of the year.  Jupiter was in opposition yesterday, so I hauled out the big scope for some close-up work.  I couldn’t get much done with the webcam setup, was able to take some HD video with the 6D, and combining that with some full-res snapshot layers, I managed the following:

This image consists of a composite using a stack of 25 frames at 1/250 sec, ISO 6400, F/20, 4064mm (prime focus through the NexStar 8 GPS w/ 2x barlow lens).  These were somewhat dark, but got a good balance between the exposure of the planet and the 4 Galilean moons.  The best single-frame image I managed was the same setup, only at 1/100s.  With some sharpening and noise reduction applied, I ended up with this:

The enhanced cloud band patterning was captured by shooting 1920×1080 full-HD video, using PiPP to stabilize and convert the footage, and then stacking the best 500 of 5k+ frames in Registax:

When a planet is in opposition, it rises highest in the sky at midnight.  This also means that from my front yard, Jupiter would hit the gap in the trees to the South at about 12:30… which meant I had some time to kill.  I also set up the new crutch-tripod and GT-mount, and took a bunch of shots of the Rosette Nebula through the 400mm Vivitar.  I used filter reduction rings to stop the lens down from f/5.6 to f/7.27, which cleaned up a lot of the comatic aberration at the edges of the field.  Of course the Rosette was a bit too close to the nearly full moon for any spectacular detail to be captured, but I was able to confirm that the GT mount will track for a full 30-second exposure without issues, at least for a 400mm focal length.  Hopefully I can get some better shots later in the month, closer to new moon.  In any case, stacked 36 frames, each a 25 second exposure at ISO6400, and after much processing, eked out this shot:

Not terrible.  Again, too much moon for good detail, but given the conditions, I was more concerned about the performance of the mount than with the quality of the image.  Tracking is good, and I’ll try longer exposures when sky conditions allow.  So this got me to… 10:30.  2 more hours to kill before Jupiter was in the clear.  So since the moon was up above the trees already, I decided to stitch together a panorama through the big scope and 2x barlow.  The image below is a 4 megapixel down-sized version of the 36MP shot I have on my computer… which is itself a sharpened and reduced version of the original 144MP original stitch.  I didn’t feel like keeping a TIFF file that large on my computer, so I downsized to 36mp and dumped the stitch and original pieces.  Still, it turned out alright:

Clear skies!

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