How to Image Planets

There are several ways to acquire magnified views of planets: afocal imaging with digital or optical zoom, prime focus with Barlow lenses, and eyepiece projection with hi-power eyepiece.

Imaging planets with a dash camera (with lens removed) and a telescope

Afocal Imaging with Digital or Optical Zoom
Place a smart phone camera or a digital camera on top of an eyepiece. This configuration is called afocal imaging, in which a camera with its lens is mounted next to another image-forming optical system such as a telescope with an eyepiece or a pair of binoculars. You may need a smart phone to telescope adapter or a universal camera adapter especially if you plan to use the camera’s digital or optical zoom.

Prime Focus with Barlow Lenses
Remove the webcam’s lens and then connect the webcam to a telescope. This configuration is called prime focus and works with web cameras, dash cameras, and other action cameras, using a webcam-to-telescope adapter. Barlow lenses may be needed to increase magnification and reveal more details. Use a UV-IR filter if the web camera’s sensor is not equipped with a built-in filter.

Eyepiece Projection
Project an image of a planet onto a camera’s sensor, though eyepiece projection. In this configuration, an image is formed on the web camera’s sensor with the use of a high-power eyepiece. It uses an adapter called eyepiece projection adapter to hold the web camera and eyepiece together. The adapter also allows the separation between the web camera and the eyepiece to be adjusted, as it affects image magnification.

SPC900NC with Eyepiece Projection Adapter

Other Considerations in Imaging Planets
Planets, as viewed with a small telescope, are very small. Image at high magnifications (long focal lengths) within the limits of your telescope. Always double check the camera’s focus. Use a tracking mount whenever possible. Take two to three minute video recordings of the planet, making sure that the planet remains in the camera’s view for the whole duration of the recording. Process the recording using a software that registers and stack images such as IRIS.

Related links:
Processing Images with IRIS
SPC900NC Webcam
Polaroid N302 Dashcam

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

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