This picture of Saturn was taken on May 31 2019.  I can say without a doubt that this is when I fell head over heals for astronomy.  Even with an inexpensive and small telescope, seeing Saturn’s rings for the first time is a mesmerizing experience.

Being my first picture of another planet, all the research about how to use the equipment and software really paid off (I watched a LOT of YouTube videos).  The  Astromaster 130EQ-MD, 2x Barlow lens, and 8-24mm Zoom Eyepiece produced a solid 162.5 power of magnification.  Saturn was about 859,782,619 miles away at this point, making it kinda dim for my camera.  My Nikon D3400 captured a 1080p video with enough clarity and brightness to construct this picture.

The video shows Saturn moving across the screen at a pretty good clip.  I remember thinking there was no way Saturn could move that fast in it’s orbit and to my surprise, I was correct!  The rotation of the earth and the high magnification are to blame instead.  My telescope came with a small motor to compensate for this, but my lack of experience prevented me from using it.   Patience went out the window and even after all the research:  I winged it the best I could.

Somewhere around this point I realized astro-photography is the most challenging form of photography possible.  It’s harder than one would think to focus a telescope mounted with a camera in the dark.  After taking the pictures, you have to ‘stack’ the final photo from multiple photos or in this case a video file.  The video that I took was super shaky.  The deck made from rotting wood didn’t help.  Next time, I’m definitely getting a computerized goto-mount!

For planetary pictures like Jupiter and Saturn, I use PIPP to trim, stabilize, and convert the video.  Then I use Registax to process the  finished image.  The original video is pretty clean, but the planet still wobbles a bit.  This is caused by air currents in the atmosphere.  The stacking process corrects these wobbles and spits out a nice clean picture!

Wanna see more?  I also captured Jupiter that night!

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