It is currently school holidays in Vicoria, Australia, but that doesn’t mean the Astronomy stops! Program founder, Dr Shane Huntington, took his telescope out last week with his 5 year old son and took a great photo of Saturn.
Some of you may have noticed that Saturday night (June 29) was particularly clear. At the moment I have a minor shoulder injury so moving my 8” Meade telescope is quite difficult. But even so, I thought it might be a good time to introduce my five year old son William to the night sky.
So I set the telescope up nice and early and aligned it with the South Celestial Pole. I have added an equatorial wedge to my scope so that if I ever want to take long exposure photos I can do this without the stars rotating in arcs across the photo. The larger 12” scopes we have supplied to all schools do not have the equatorial wedge, but because they are far more powerful than my little 8”, you can still get great shots of deep sky objects without a problem. And to be honest, the setup for the equatorial mount just takes about 5 times as long!
I aligned the scope and centred it on Saturn. We finished dinner and by this stage it was dark enough to have a look. It is quite challenging to teach a 5 year old to look down the middle of the objective, but fortunately his eyebrows gave me a hint as to when he was looking at Saturn! Why stop there I thought, so we grabbed our Thorlabs camera (the same one supplied to all schools) and hooked up the computer.
At this point I realized that it was really starting to get a bit damp, and without anything to control the dew on the telescope I knew we only had a few minutes before we would have a problem. So we quickly collected some video at about 9 frames per second. Once back inside we processed the data. We used the free Registax software which basically grabbed the best 200 frames out of the nearly 1000 we had recorded in the video. We enhanced the contrast and a few other features and ended up with a nice little picture of Saturn. William referred to it as “not bad” but I suspect he was comparing it to the one from Hubble on his wall. Personally I think it was a reasonable image given the short time we had and the likelihood that the telescope had a partial dew covering.
I certainly look forward to seeing what the larger 12” scopes in the schools can do.
Thank you Shane for sharing your photo, we hope William pesters you to take more images and begins to increase his admiration for your work!
If you would like to find out more about Saturn or see some more spectacular images, try these sites;
Saturn will remain a prominent feature in the night sky for a few more months yet!