Saturn and Mars Photos
April 7, 2012

Saturn, Celestron 8SE, NexImage - Airplanes & RocketsThese images of Saturn and Mars were taken on April 7, 2012, here in Erie, PA. The sky was very clear, winds slight. The nearly full moon had not risen above the eastern horizon yet when the Mars photos was taken, but was about 5-10° above the southeastern tree line when Saturn was imaged. Mars was high in the sky, about 10° east of due south. Saturn was still pretty low at only maybe 30-35° above the southeastern horizon.

Saturn's rings are open close to their maximum due to its orbital position relative to Earth. There are times when we see the rings edge-on and they are barely detectable. In the Mars photo, you can clearly see the brighter polar ice caps that appear to make the planet bulge.

Sometime in late May or Early June, Saturn will be high in the sky, so I'll try again then. The city of Erie is to the east, so seeing conditions there are notably worse than points south and west. Images have consistently turned out much better when recorder in the south - southwest region of the sky. I attribute the blue hue in Saturn to the thick atmosphere in the lower SE sky.

Mars, Celestron 8SE, NexImage - Airplanes & RocketsMy Celestron NexImage was used with a 2x Barlow lens in my Celestron 8SE telescope. The photo is a composite of about 100 short time exposure images recorded at 5 fps. This really helped avoid atmospheric scintillation. RegiStax v2 software was used.

The 8SE was sitting on its standard tripod in alt-az mode. The alignment was exceptionally good, with images remaining within the field of view at the high magnification of the NexImage + 2x Barlow for more than 15 minutes at a time with no guiding.