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

Kenko NES Mount

I use a 1990 Kenko NES equatorial mount with my refracting telescope. This mount features an RA motor drive with relatively accurate tracking, a polar scope for easy alignment with Polaris, altitude-azimuth adjustment knobs useful in performing precise polar alignment such as the declination drift alignment method, coarse and fine adjustment knobs, setting circles, and adjustable aluminum tripod. My mount has been modified to use a DIY controller to connect it with a laptop via USB and perform automated guiding needed in long-exposure photography of deep-sky objects.

To view sample images taken with the 1990 Kenko NES mount, click here.
To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related links:
Sky-Watcher 100ED Refractor
DIY Telescope Controller

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

DIY Logitech 4000 Guide Camera

The Logitech 4000 webcam is capable of imaging planets and can be modified to take long exposure images to serve as a guide camera. The modification requires a serial port to externally control the camera’s exposure time using a guiding software such as GuideMaster and PHD Guiding.

The long- exposure modification allows the camera to detect faint guide stars, which is a useful feature for a guide camera. The diagram shown here was a modified version of M. Burri’s (2002) parallel port interface for a Logitech 3000 which I have adapted to work with the newer Logitech 4000 and a serial port.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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

M57 Ring Nebula | April 2012

M57 Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula in the constellation Lyra. The nebula looks like a faint circle when viewed through a telescope. Long exposures reveal some colors, visible in this photo. M57 is relatively easy to find by scanning the region between the two bright stars in Lyra.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

M8 Lagoon Nebula | April 2012

The Lagoon Nebula is a bright region of interstellar dust in the constellation Sagittarius, near the center of the Milky Way. It is barely visible to the unaided eye and best viewed with binoculars. Long exposure photography reveals a reddish hue, as seen in this photo.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

ISS | March 2012

Image of the International Space Station (ISS) as it passes 450 km above Manila at 4:59:01 am, March 15, 2012. The main body and the solar panels of the satellite are visible in this photo. Image taken with a 4 inch f/9 refractor with Canon 450D, 1/100 sec exposure at ISO 1600.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

M13 Hercules Cluster | April 2012

M13 is a globular star cluster in the constellation Hercules. This star cluster is easy to find with binoculars and best viewed with a low-power telescope. This long-exposure photo reveals the tightly-packed stars at the core of the M13 star cluster.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

433 Eros | January 2012

433 Eros is the first asteroid to be studied with a spacecraft from orbit. Eros was orbited by Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous several times before touching down in February 2001. This image of Eros was taken during its closest approach to Earth on January 30, 2012 using a 4-in f/9 refractor and a Canon 450D DSLR.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Total Lunar Eclipse | 2011

This photo was taken in December 2011, in Antipolo, Philippines, during a total lunar eclipse. The moon appears red during totality and as it dims (in contrast to a bright full moon), the faint stars surrounding the moon becomes visible!

2011 Total Lunar Eclipse | Sky-Watcher 4 in f/9 refractor

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Transit of Io | November 2011

The Galilean moons may sometimes cross the disc of Jupiter in an event called transit. The satellite (white dot) is usually followed by the shadow (black dot) it casts on Jupiter. In this photo, Jupiter’s moon Io is already exiting, with its shadow still on the disc of the planet. Image taken on November 9, 2011 with a 4-inch f/9 refractor and a Logitech 4000 web camera.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Sky-Watcher Equinox 100 ED

The 2011 Sky-Watcher Equinox 100 ED 4 in f/9 refractor serves as my main telescope both for visual observation and astrophotography. The telescope comes with aluminum-lined wooden carrying case. It is supplied with two eyepieces: 25 mm and 5 mm. Supplied also is a 90-degree 2-inch diagonal mirror and an 8 by 50 finder scope.

The Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) features a 4-in f/9 extra-low dispersion (ED) apochromatic (APO) lens design. It has a 2-inch dual-speed Crayford focuser with a thumbscrew underneath for locking the draw tube.

To view sample photos taken with the Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, click here.
To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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