First Light With a New Planetary Camera: The ZWO ASI120MC on Mars and Jupiter – 13/04/2014
I’ve just become the owner of a new planetary camera – a ZW Optics ASI120MC.
This post is the fruits of my first efforts with it. Unfotunately, on a night of terrible seeing (the term astronomers use for he stability of the air), the results weren’t the best, but despite that, they still managed to be better than anything I’d produced previously! All taken with the ASI120MC via Firecapture, wit a 2.5x Revelation barlow lens through the 8″ F/6 newtonian, on the HEQ5 mount.
I’ll follow up with a proper writeup on the cam soon, but for now, here are a few first goes…
First up, a quick test on Jupiter. Below is the original video, just debayered in PIPP to restore the colour (it gets captured in a ‘raw’ format in mono to get more frames per second, and you have to process it to get the colour back). By the way, for some reason, Youtube messes up the thumbnail and makes it all contrasty and horrible. Play the video to see the proper look…
And the final result once the best 70% of the 3000 or so frames were stacked in Autostakkert 2 and the detail brought out using wavelets in Registax:-
One thing that’s immediately obvious from this is the about of detail that comes out of the video once the stacking has been done. It’s not perfect, as the seeing meant that a lot of detail was washed out. However, it’s still far better than I expected form the initial video!
Next up, Mars. That night, Mars was much lower in the sky, a lot nearer the horizon. That meant that the light had to travel through a much bigger slice of earth’s atmosphere before it reached me, resulting in a much wobblier video:-
And here’s the final image once processed:-
Again, despite the incredibly wobbly air, the wonders of post-processing brought out the detail extremely well. You can see quite a bit of surface detail, including the polar ice cap (positioned at around 6 o’clock on the planet). For comparison, here’s my previous best of mars with the cam I’ve been using up until now (QHY5v mono):-
This shows the massive difference between the resolution of the new and old cameras. The smaller pixels on the new camera mean that overall, I can now capture more detail, and the image is effectively magnified a lot more.
All in all, a very successful first light, despite the seeing conditions. Left me wondering what I’d be able to do once the conditions improved. Stay tuned!