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Second mission at the 1 meter telescope of the Pic du Midi

From August 6th to 9th, 2016, I went back to the Pic du Midi Observatory for a second planetary mission with the 1 meter telescope. It has been a great success especially with Neptune storms imaging!

For this new mission, we were three with Marc Delcroix and Jean-Philippe Cazard (the editor of our future book Planetary Astronomy). The main target was imaging Uranus and Neptune storms. A smaller part of the mission has been dedicated to Saturn and Mars that were visible shortly after sunset.

Uranus and Neptune are currently two favoured objects for advanced planetary observers, because their observation offers a real opportunity of producing a work of scientific value. Storms on Uranus are numerous, but very small most of the time and today not within amateur reach. From time to time however, a bigger thunderstorm can appear (last time in 2014), it’s then accessible by photography with telescopes from around 300 mm (12″). Although Neptune’s apparent size is only two third that of Uranus, it paradoxically presents a more intense and more accessible storm activity (possibly with only 250 mm (10″)! ). Successful infrared images systematically show brighter zones at least in its southern hemisphere (which is actually in its early ~40 terrestrial years summer) – please read this older article on the blog: Neptune, the new amateur boundary? However bright spots can be caught at other latitudes and from this point of view the Pic results are spectacular!

Neptune results

(click on all images below for full resolution)

We were blessed with excellent conditions, especially during the night from 7 to 8 August. The 1 meter telescope is so impressive that most of the storms were visible directly on the screen during raw recordings! Imaging is mostly done in near infrared with the Baader IR 685. These images have been processed by Marc.

Take a look as well as those animation made by Marc!

WinJupos globe animation on August 8th (integrated data animated as a map)

“True” animation on August 9th (different images)

WinJupos globe animation on August 9th (integrated data animated as a map)

Uranus results

We observed only once but with none the less obtained what looks to be the best IR image of Uranus taken at the Pic. The belt system is well visible and a brighter polar region dominates. Unfortunately no storm looks active… This image has been processed by myself. You can see here a moon animation made by Jean-Philippe from same data.

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Saturn results

Saturn was not observable in good conditions but some nice images have been made in infrared and methane. The polar hexagone is visible. Processing by Marc.

And one result on Mars…

Even less observable than Saturn, and unfortunately without atmospheric dispersion corrector. Still we can see the morning shadowy summits of the Tharsis volcanoes at left, and the fall north polar hood on the RGB image (Mars passed its northern fall equinoxe in early July). Processing by myself.

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The atmospheric dispersion corrector with the ASI224MC

After the IR-cut article of last time, here is another unavoidable accessory with this color cam (…and every other!): the atmospheric dispersion corrector, or ADC.

The atmospheric dispersion corrector is an accessory that allows one to correct the dispersion of light emitted by planets (or stars…) when it passes through […] Continue Reading…

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Why you should use an IR-cut filter with the ASI224MC

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Digital cameras, whether they use CCD or CMOS chips are highly sensitive in the near infrared. This wavelength domain, that the human eye can not see, is very interesting […] Continue Reading…

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Planetary Astronomy, the book: first announcement!

Have you ever wondered if there was a complete and recent book for observing and imaging planets? … Now there will be one!
In 2015 me and six skillful amateurs published a book that has won a great success in France (… and even outside France!): Astronomie Planétaire. I am […] Continue Reading…

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The JUNO workshop in Nice, May 12th-13th 2016

Getting ready for the arrival of the JUNO spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter, a workshop was held this month in Nice, France, around scientists and amateurs from various countries in the world. High quality informations now available for everyone!

Some thirty astronomers from the entire world met for this two-days workshop […] Continue Reading…

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The sampling of the ASI224MC camera

I’m beginning a serie of articles dedicated to this little imaging bomb that is the ASI224MC camera from ZWO. It’s quite different from the PLA-Mx that I have been using this past years, first because of its pixel size… Let’s take things by the beginning: the setting of the […] Continue Reading…

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JUNO needs amateurs!

In 2016, a major event in the Solar system exploration is going to take place: the arrival of a new space proble around Jupiter : JUNO. This should take place during the summer of 2016 and it will be the first since the Galileo orbiter (1996-2003). Scientists ask amateurs for […] Continue Reading…

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Meteorological conditions at AstroQueyras (3): the onset of good conditions

After the mediocre to fair nights described in (1) and (2), here are my observations during the next two following nights (August 31th to September 1st and 1st to 2nd). Those two nights have been somewhat cloudy, but with a much better seeing. Meteorological conditions had changed too !
During […] Continue Reading…

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Meteorological conditions at AstroQueyras (2): a strange wind at night

After a general review of the AstroQueyras observatory context, here are some of my notes related to the observed weather and night sky quality during my stay. On the first two nights (August 29/30 and 30/31) the  sky was clear but seeing was quite mediocre. I have note a particular […] Continue Reading…

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Meteorological conditions at AstroQueyras (1): the context

AstroQueyras is an observatory located at an altitude of 2930 meters in the deep french Alpes mountains, very close to the italian border. It welcomes one-week amateur missions as well as one-night public stays. It’s equiped with a 620 mm F/15 Cassegrain, a 500 mm F/8 Ritchey-Chrétien and a 200 mm […] Continue Reading…