Photography Method

Webcam Photos of Jupiter

Through the 25mm EP alone, to the naked eye Jupiter is a perfect disc, and its moons are obvious around it. Using my 2xBarlow, and then the 10mm brings its size much nearer (at 240x magnification), although on this particular occasion Jupiter was very low in the sky, and this resulted in its light having to pass through a lot of turbulent atmosphere which gave a constantly shifting image (look very carefully at the edge of the planet in the movie capture and you can see the turbulence).

I used the Philips SPC900NC Webcam to take a 640x480 resolution AVI movie (without Barlow) simply by aligning Jupiter at the leading edge of the field of view, then leaving the scope static, and just letting Jupiter traverse the field of view (which takes about 30 seconds).

The webcam Exposure and Gain have been adjusted down so that the planet does not get overexposed, and this means the orbiting moons can no longer be seen.

Next day I used K3CCDTools to align, stack and process the image. I find that using the post-processing in K3CCDTools to adjust the Channels and Gamma helps brighten or darken the image just a touch, but it is the Unsharp Mask that really makes the image “come alive”. I use a Radius of between 4 to 7, Threshold doesn’t have much effect on this small image, and Strength of anything between 500 and 800. This is probably overcooking the settings on the Unsharp Mask, but it does make the planet look a bit more as expected with such a dull movie source.

I then used Photoshop CS2 to rotate the planet image to horizontal, and apply a little bit of Levels and Curves adjustment. And these are the resulting images taken from 2 more captures. Not too bad considering the quality of the originals ! It's amazing what K3CCDTools and Photoshop can do.

With the planet so low, it was between buildings and went behind my garage roof before I could get a decent capture with the Barlow. I had been faffing around for almost half an hour just trying to get the first captures positioned and focused correctly without the Barlow, and ran out of time! So I am eager to try again with the Barlow to see if I can get in closer for extra detail in the shot - but so far the stupid British weather has given us nothing but rain and clouds, grrr!

First have a look at the movie footage captured directly through the telescope, as it gives you a real sense of what you actually see (note that this movie was shot at 640x480, but is shown here compressed to half size at 320x240).

Click for Jupiter movie footage - requires Quicktime or similar viewer. Watch the turbulence shifting the image about!

K3CCDTools was used to capture the movie and perform the post-processing to align the frames, stack them and enhance to give these single still shots (not the same as the one above which was from a different capture, the differences are very subtle).

I also tried using Registax to process the same capture, to see what sort of difference would come from using an alternative software for the job, and the following picture resulted (half size of the K3CCDTools pictures)):-

The next photo of Jupiter is one I took at the Kelling Heath Star Party 24th September 2011 aligning/stacking about 1000 frames at 5ps (320x240), using the SPC900NC on my C6-SGT XLT SCT telescope tracking on CG-EQ5 mount, and post-processed with Registax. I had also tried using K3CCDTools with this footage, but I find that Registax always seem to produce finer detail, and I was pleased to see the great red spot was evident in the final image. You can also see one of the moons off to the left of the image. On this night it was very dark and clear, and Jupiter was at about 40° above the horizon and was considerably less affected by seeing turbulence.

From an original CD: JUPITER NASA-VOYAGER SPACE SOUNDS (1990) BRAIN/MIND Research
Fascinating recording of Jupiter sounds (electromagnetic "voices") by NASA-Voyager. The complex interactions of charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind , planetary magnetosphere etc. create vibration "soundscapes". It sounds very interesting, even scary.
Jupiter is mostly composed of hydrogen and helium. The entire planet is made of gas, with no solid surface under the atmosphere. The pressures and temperatures deep in Jupiter are so high that gases form a gradual transition into liquids which are gradually compressed into a metallic "plasma" in which the molecules have been stripped of their outer electrons. The winds of Jupiter are a thousand metres per second relative to the rotating interior. Jupiter's magnetic field is four thousand times stronger than Earth's, and is tipped by 11° degrees of axis spin. This causes the magnetic field to wobble, which has a profound effect on trapped electronically charged particles. This plasma of charged particles is accelerated beyond the magnetosphere of Jupiter to speeds of tens of thousands of kilometres per second. It is these magnetic particle vibrations which generate some of the sound you hear on this recording.

Useful Links

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  • K3CCDTools - This software allows you to take better control over your webcam to capture movie footage or still shots to your computer for later enhancement by K3CCDTools, or another software such as Registax. It is reasonably priced and has many advanced features that give special control over exposure and gain that your standard Webcam software may not provide. K3CCDTools is particularly of interest because it includes settings that hook into a "long exposure modified" webcam (Note that long exposures are useless without proper equatorial tracking).