Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturn & Storm

Credit: HCAS Members
So there he is (Saturn is a male god). Click to enlarge for a little bit more detail. It isn't the highest quality, especially given the conditions. And I don't have the exact specs on the number of exposures and length of exposure. What I can tell is that we used the observatory's 14-inch Celestron C-14 Schmidt-Cassegrain (the telescope). The mount is an Astro-Physics 1200 GOTO computerized system. The camera used was the Orion Planetary Imager and Autoguider. And it was a lot of fun to stay out there until 2 in the morning hangout and messing with settings and such.

The reason why the picture isn't something you might see in a magazine or from NASA is because we are not NASA or highly funded. But given what we do have, this is a great photo. I do believe I linked to the Cassini image of the storm on Saturn a couple post ago. Here it is again, in case you don't feel like scrolling around looking (I don't blame you). A couple of other issues we had to deal with were a high seeing (the amount of disruption by the atmosphere) and Saturn is still pretty far away. Saturn is about two months from opposition (A.K.A. when it is closest to Earth), so this was about as large as could blow it up without distorting the image.

OK, I got some of the more technical details out of the way, now for the fun stuff. Saturn looks its usual pretty self, fitting for Valentine's Day. There is some good detail in the rings, if you look at the top and bottom of the rings, you can see a black split between them. This is the Cassini Division, a gap between the A and B rings, you can read more on Wiki about it and it's discoverer.

I also keep mentioning this storm, and it may not necessarily be obvious what it is looking at that image. The storm is the white streak near the north pole of Saturn. There is a dark band just below it, and the darker polar cap above it. Unlike storms on earth and some other planets, storms on Saturn tend to streak. This is because Saturn has really strong winds that can reach 1,800 km/h. It also has a radius about 9 times larger then the Earth's but it's day is only 10 and half hours long. So you have this huge thing rotating around really fast. Storms tend to bloom up from the lower atmosphere and when they hit the upper atmosphere they start creating the streaking seen in this image.

All in all, I think it is a beautiful and amazing process. Something lovely to see on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately none of the moon's showed up in the image, I know when we were looking at Saturn through the scope's eyepiece, we could see 5 or 6 of them. The great part about this is also that this is a tease for April, when Saturn is at opposition. Then we will be closer, hopefully Saturn will be higher in the sky and we will have less atmospheric issues (it started clouding up for us around 1 AM and was totally overcast by 2 AM) ending up with an over all better and brighter picture, and hopefully a couple moons.


8 comments:

KB said...

Very informative... love the picture. Saturn is absolutely beautiful.

Long live Hubble :D

RaZer said...

Love astrology, can't wait to see more of these posts ^^

Astronomy Pirate said...

Thanks guys, and its astronomy, not astrology.

Vegatron said...

Nice blog. I need to buy a telescope...

JR said...

Can't wait to see your next round of images!

thatguy said...

Very informative, and beautiful pic!
Keep the excellent posts rolling. :)

Leviuqse said...

wow, saturn is such a beautiful planet!

Charles said...

very cool!

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