Friday, February 3, 2023

Paul Stephen's Journal

Astrophotography and More

Window of Opportunity — Mars Opposition 2022

December 8th, 2022, 10:21 p.m. local time

In the days prior, and still now for the foreseeable future, weather forecasts were and are outright lousy. Fully overcast with rain, sometimes freezing drizzle. About Monday, I thought there would be no chance to catch the Mars opposition on Thursday, December 8th.

But it is times like these that make me ponder the chance of divine intervention. For despite the all-day overcast and continual zero-chance-of-stargazing forecasts into the weekend, on Thursday night an incredible few hours of clear sky opened. If this is coincidence, it is remarkable.

And so I had, for a very brief window, a chance to see Mars, the Moon, and most of the sky. There were rumbling of clouds to the South, but I decided to take the chance, and let my Dobsonian cool outside for about 40 minutes.

The sky was still not ideal, with the Full Moon, and a bit of mist in the air. And with Mars almost due above, I had a difficult time manually nudging the telescope every 30 seconds (I have become accustomed to a more left-to-right motion at 45 degrees). The focus wasn’t quite right. But despite all of this, one set of my Mars images turned out barely passable, the final result shown above.

Back to coincidences…the sky was clear as I finished my final video shoots and began getting my gear inside. As I went back out to retrieve my Dobsonian telescope last, clouds rush from the East, and the sky was lost again, and is still lost on this Saturday afternoon as I write. I snapped a quick picture of the closing sky with my iPhone. You be the judge if this is all coincidence and amazing luck, or if the sky gods helped me out, just a bit.

Moon, Mars (about 1:30 from Moon), and Orion at the bottom right, December 8th, 2022. Taken with stock iPhone camera app.

Summary of my equipment, settings, and software used:

  • Telescope: Dobsonian reflector 254mm / 10″ (homemade)
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL3
  • Barlow: TeleVue Powermate x5 1.25″
  • Filter: Baader Neodymium 1.25″
  • Canon T ring and adapter
  • Relevant camera settings:
  • ISO 100
  • Exposure: 40
  • HD video at 60fps
  • Created from three videos of about 25–30s each, best 35% of frames (via Autostakkert)
  • Software for post-processing:
  • PIPP
  • Autostakkert
  • Registax 6
  • PaintShop Pro for minor touch-ups

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