Planetary Observations


Observing the planets can be both interesting and fun, sometimes very picturesque as well. Planets - derived from the Greek word 'Wanderers' explains why they are called what they are called :-). In ancient times people watched as these star like objects wandered across the 'fixed ' stars.



Venus and the Moon in the Twilight. A static camera shot.

It can be great fun just watching these as they pass through constellation to constellation with the naked eye. You can even take image using a simple static camera and a fast film with just a tripod and cable release.


Additionally of course with a pair of reasonable binoculars you can see the moons of Jupiter, and find Uranus in the night sky. With a small telescope the rings of Saturn and its brighter moon Titan appears. These gas giants also start to show their gaseous nature, and as the telescope size increase more detail can be revealed on the surface of these planets.


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Images of Jupiter, B & W showing the moons and the belts through a Meade 10" LX200 with an Astrovid 2000 video camera.

The colour shot is from an AP 6" f12 refractor, using a Sony DKC - CM30 digital camera

With a small telescope it's possible to see the phases of the inner planets Mercury Venus. They can also be seen when transiting the Sun. Here they are seen as small black discs. The next transit of Venus occurs 2004.



The phases of Venus using a Takahashi FS128, and Sony digital camera.



Transit of Mercury - Nov 15th 1999 Meade ETX 90 with 2x OM converter and JVC TK1070 video camera from Death Valley USA.




Two images of the ringed planet. The colour with an Ap 6" f12 refractor, and the B & W with an SBIG ST-7E CCD camera and a two times barlow



Our other close neighbour Mars can be seen as a disk, and when opposition is favourable features on the surface can be seen. Can you see any Canals ?

The opposition this year is very unfavourable for the Northern Hemisphere, however on a brief trip to Zimbabwe I managed a shot of the sky around the region of Scorpio including Mars using a 16mm lens from the bar area at the Kingdom Hotel - Victoria Falls.

Luckily Mars in 2003 is very close. Here is a quick shot using the FS128, 4x Powermate, and the Basler digital camera with A4I Docu software.


Both Uranus, and Neptune are resolvable in small / medium sized scope, but Pluto is a little more difficult needing a largish scope, and good Sky Charts. These are often supplied by magazines like Sky & Telescope. Regular observations will show movement against the background stars. Today's CCD imagers are capable of this. It is one of my intentions to capture both of these with ccd sometime.

Here is a picture of Uranus usingan FS128 at prime focus with a Stellacam. The magnitude of the at this time was 5.7, but not visible to the naked eye from my back garden. Image captured to DV video tape, and transfered to a Sony Wlakman using ilink.


Also don't forget the Asteroids or Minor Planets, they show up as streaks across long exposures, and details of the larger known bodies are published in the BAA handbook.

Occasionally you get an alignment of the planets where early in the dawn or evening sky it is possible to see all the naked eye planets together. Such occasion occured in May of 2002. Here is a suitably labelled image of such an alignment.


Imaged from Cirencester using an Olympus OM1 and Fuji Sensia 400 film. Scanned with a Polaroid Sprintscan 4000, and tweaked in Adobe Photoshop. A range of exposiures from 5 - 40 seconds were employed to bracket and get all the planets visible..


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