The morning of Easter Sunday found my sister Abby and I sitting in Church when the reverend asked all the children to come up to front. Abby, who like me, can be as shy as she is outgoing, decided to stay back with me and watch. The reverend talked for a few minutes about the the rise of Jesus and brought out bags filled with candy and treats that he presented to the kids. As the kids dispersed back to their parents, he walked back up to the front of the Church when it was pointed out to him that my sister had not gotten an Easter bag. He walked over to us and said “Well, it looks like we have a little girl who might have been a little shy about coming up with the other kids today, and we certainly don’t want anyone to be left out on Easter”. He then handed Abby an Easter bag and the smile on her face made for a good start to Easter Sunday.
A great Easter lead to clear skies in the evening, meaning that tonight would be the perfect opportunity for my first attempts at photo stacking images of Saturn and Mars taken through a digital camera. Photo Stacking works because the digital camera films video at 640 by 480 pixels 30 times a second. This means that in 1 second, 30 pictures are taken, and if just a few of those are good quality, they can be stacked on top of each other by photo editing software, creating a very detailed image if conditions are right. For the images of Saturn and Mars I used RegiStax 5 to capture and edit the images.
Saturn & Mars
To achieve the images of Saturn, I held the digital camera up to the eyepiece of my telescope. The hard part was finding the planets in the field of view, this is best achieved by using no optical zoom until you find the bright blur that will be the planet. Once this is found, use as much optical zoom as is feasible and then refocus your telescope so that the image in the LCD is sharp. Saturn was much easier to focus than Mars because of the sharpness of its rings being much easier to distinguish than the smaller blur of Mars’ sphere. After taking these videos, I then uploaded the video into RegiStax 5 which then analyzed and chose the best frames to stack of Saturn and Mars. The results were stunning.
In Saturn, the division between the rings can just be made out along with a faint cloud belt right below the rings.
On Mars, the polar ice cap along with some land features show up in the South West portion of the Red Planet
Note: In this example the two images of Saturn were stacked with the image of Mars being only 1 frame.