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:-


Jupiter – 13/04/2014

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:-

Mars - 13/04/2014

Mars – 13/04/2014


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):-


Mars With The QHY5v Mono – Previous Best

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!

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2 Responses

  1. Dennis says:

    Very nice images ! I also just received and I am using the ASI120MC with similar results. However, I cannot figure out how to attach the included fish eye lens with the 1.25″ telescope adapter to do some deep sky observing. Any suggestions on how this is done ?

    • Adam says:

      Hi Dennis,

      The fisheye is to use ‘off scope’ as an all-sky camera or similar (for example to capture meteor showers etc…), and it can’t be put on the camera at the same time as the 1.25″ nosepiece. The ASI120MC is not really designed as a deep sky camera either, though it can be used for that, but the results are extremely noisy. Some people have added coolers to the camera to reduce the noise, but it’s not straightforward. I myself use a DSLR for deep sky, and leave the ASI for the planetary work.



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