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Latest News: The Stoneage Observatory is now fully operational.

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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Jupiter Posing

Neither of my telescopes are particularly suited to planetary observation, the focal lengths are a bit too short really but sometimes the planets are just to tempting to ignore, especially when they are at "Opposition" (the time in the year when a given planet is opposite the sun in the sky and therefore at its closest approach).  Such was the situation for Jupiter last month so I took this image of the King of the Planets:
I am very pleased with the outcome!

I should point out that this is not a single frame snapshot.   This picture was produced by combining several hundred frames extracted from a video and combined to produce a much sharper image than could ever be achieved with a single frame. 

First and most obvious thing to notice is the colour banding: the equatorial, tropical and temperate bands are all clearly visible along with the "Festoons" which are the the crenelations visible along the contacts between the light and dark bands.  These Festoons are essentially storm systems and occasionally they develop into full blown cyclone storms, the most famous of which is the Great Red Spot which I think is the dark spot in the upper left quadrant of the planet.

Some of you may be thinking that the GRS is in the southern equatorial belt, why is it in the upper section of the planet?  That is because my telescopes invert up and down, so Jupiter's South pole is at the top of the image! It would of course be very easy to flip the image over but I like to preserve the view through the eyepiece :) 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Taking Pictures of the Moon

Now that the observatory is working reliably I decided it was time to try out the cameras.   I decided to keep it simple for the first few images in order to avoid too many frustrations with remembering how to get all the equipment working so I took some greyscale images of the moon:

Here the prominent crater with the large central peak is Theophilus. I love the "pearls in space" effect of the sun on the mountain peaks below the main crater along the terminator (the line separating night and day) but I am most intrigued by the subtle relief features in the upper right.   The dark patches on the moon are known as Mare (latin for sea) as they were thought to resemble or even possibly be seas of water.  These days we understand them to be vast planes of volcanic lava, those relief features only become visible to us when the terminator is very close by and we can see shadows being cast across the surface.   What we are looking at here are volcanic domes and wrinkle ridges left behind as the lava cooled. I will be looking to find out more about those features and perhaps make more detailed studies at a later date.

I also took this image further along the terminator:
This is the western part of the sea of serenity with crater Posidonius prominent at the top of the frame (some of its rilles are visible too which I am pleased about), the striking snake like feature is "the great sinuous ridge" or Dorsa Smirnov.  This is an example of a wrinkle ridge which form when the lava that formed the Mare cool and contract, some of these features can extended for many hundreds of kilometres across the moons surface.

It is very easy when studying the moon to get distracted by the impact craters, they tend to be large, bright and dramatic but they don't tell you much about the moon itself.  The craters are the result of foreign objects hitting the moon but the volcanic features: the domes, the wrinkle ridges, the cinder cones and rilles tell the story of the dynamic moon that was, how she formed and cooled. So to me the more subtle features are the more fascinating to examine.