Solar System Gallery

Shoestring Astronomy by Doug Anderson

Our local neighborhood of planets, the sun and moon, comets, and asteroids is full of great opportunites to observe and photograph. We are close enough to see detail in these objects. They are constantly moving, changing, coming, going. The calendar is full of events related to our solar system.

sunspot_10484.jpg (20 kbytes) The Sun - The sun is the closest star, but the methods to observe and photograph it are quite different than all other stars. You should not attempt to look at the sun with any optical instrument (camera, binoculars, telescope, etc.) unless you have the proper filters and training. Serious and permanent damage to your eyes can result. This photo shows the sunspot group 10484. This group, and the group 10486 caused a lot of disruption here on earth the last week of October 2003, and the press really did a nice job of publicizing it. Group 10486 was the source of several record breaking coronal mass ejections, one of which resulted in the aurora displays on the night of October 29th, 2003 (see the Aurora Gallery). Group 10486 was about the same size as this group, but it was too cloudy here to get any photos of it.
moon_10_06_2003.jpg (26 kbytes) The Moon - The moon is the easiest subject for beginning astrophotographers. It is recognizable in a photo. It gives off plenty of light which makes focusing and framing easier and keeps exposure times short. It's brightness also makes it available in even the most light polluted areas. It is the right size to conveniently fill the field of view in a camera. It is feature-rich and constantly changing throughout the month, making it interesting to photograph. This photo was taken using afocal coupling with an Olympus C-700 digital camera and a 90mm refractor telescope.
MercuryTransit_zoomed.jpg (25 kbytes) Transit of Mercury - About 13 times per century, the planet Mercury passes directly between the Sun and the Earth. When this happens, Mercury can be seen as a small black dot passing across the face of the Sun for several hours. This photo was taken on November 8, 2006. The spot on the left is actually a large sunspot. The spot off-center to the right is Mercury. This photo really gives one a sense of scale for the solar system. The sun is so much larger than Mercury, and even a spot on the sun is larger.
mercury.jpg (32 kbytes) Mercury - Because Mercury is so small and so close to the sun, it is very difficult to photograph. Even at it greatest elongation from the sun, such as this photo on September 29th, 2003, it was still so low in the sky just prior to sunrise that the dispersion of light through the atmosphere spreads the white light into a rainbow of colors.
venus_comp_ann.jpg (17 kbytes) Venus - Venus is closer to the sun than Earth. So, from our vantage point, the planet exhibits phases just like the moon. The apparent size also varies greatly as Venus and Earth revolve about the sun. This composite photo shows the difference in size and phase between Marh 9, 2004, and May 14, 2004.
mars_030904.jpg (321 kbytes) Mars near Opposition on 9/4/2003 - We all heard the hype about the great opposition of Mars on August 27th, 2003. On that date, Mars was closer to the Earth than it had been for over 60,000 years. I was out on September 4th and stumbled into a few hours of extremely stable atmosphere. This is a single raw image with no digital processing!!! Afocal projection through a Celestron C-8 telescope with 40mm eyepiece into an Olympus C-700 digital camera.
mars_moon_7_17_2003.jpg (86 kbytes) Mars/Moon Conjunction on 7/17/2003 - On July 17th, the moon and Mars got very close together The lucky folks in Florida were able to see Mars go behind the moon. Here in Iowa, they were separated by about half of a moon diameter. This is taken at the prime focus of a Celestron C-8 with f/6.3 focal reducer, Kodak Royal Gold 400 film, then digitized.
jupiter0505030102.jpg (18 kbytes) Jupiter - Photographed on May 3, 2005. All four Galilean moons can be seen in this photo. This is the shadow of Io, one of Jupiter's moons, can be seen on the planet's surface. Philips Toucam Pro at prime focus of Celestron C-8, about 300 frames stacked and processed with Registax.
jupiter0505030501.jpg (18 kbytes) Jupiter - a little later - Photographed on May 3, 2005, about a half hour after the photo above. As you can see, the moons have moved, the shadow of Io is no longer seen, and the Great Red Spot is just starting to rotate in from the left. Philips Toucam Pro at prime focus of Celestron C-8, about 300 frames stacked and processed with Registax.
jupiter_4moons.jpg (13 kbytes) The Galilean Moons of Jupiter - This was a nice arrangement of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter on May 26th, 2004. The disk of the planet Jupiter is purposefully overexposed so that the moons can be seen in this exposure. From left to right, the moons are Callisto, Io, Europa, and Ganymede. Olympus C-700 digital camera afocally coupled to a Celestron C-8 telescope.
saturn0505030101.jpg (15 kbytes) Saturn - Photographed May 3, 2005, one of the few nights of steady seeing around here. The Cassini division in the rings is apparent. One dark cloud band is also visible on the planet itself. Philips Toucam 740 at prime focus of Celestron C-8, about 300 frames stacked and processed with Registax.
Comet_McNaught1.jpg (19 kbytes) Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) - This comet made a very brief, but very beautiful appearance. For a short time, it became the brightest comet in the last 30 years. - 10-Jan-2007, Canon Digital Rebel XT, ISO800, 200mm lens, f/5.5, 0.5sec, tripod, no guiding
comet_bradfield_01.jpg (41 kbytes) Comet Bradfield (C/2004 F4) - This was a very nice comet to view with binoculars, but you had to catch it just before the sun rose. I could see a tail at least 5 degrees in length. The picture really doesn't do it justice. The comet is the streak that starts near the bottom in the middle. The other two streaks are jet contrails illuminated by the early morning twilight. That's the Andromeda Galaxy in the upper left. 27-Apr-2004, Kodak Elite Chrome 200, 55mm lens, f/2, 30 sec., tripod, no guiding
comet_neat_01.jpg (116 kbytes) Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4) - The much anticipated Comet NEAT passed close to the Beehive Cluster in Cancer on May 14th and 15th. The sky cleared here for one evening so I could finally try and get some shots. 14-May-2004, Kodak Elite Chrome 200, 135mm lens, f/4, 5 min., piggyback, guided.