Great Red Eye Looking Back At Us
AstroCamp Counselor Lee Keith conveys how immense celestial objects bring big joy. He writes...
The day was hot with the threat of showers and thunderstorms all day, but as the sun set, the clouds broke up and finally disappeared! This had not been forecast until the evening. So, of course, I set out the scope to cool and set up as usual.
Jupiter is now past its prime and is only 40 arcseconds (1 arcsec = 1/3600 of a degree) in diameter (down from max of 45 arcsec back in May) but it is always a great planet to observe or image. Even at its smallest, Jupiter is 20% larger than Mars will ever get (30” vs 25”) and that is only when Jupiter is behind the Sun! Jupiter is usually about 50% larger than Mars at its max when it is usually visible.
With that in mind and the fact that the Great Red Spot (GRS) would be visible, I set up expecting the seeing to be poor. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was pretty good and focusing was easy except that the mosquitoes wanted to help focus also. I could see quite a bit of detail on my screen.
The images turned out very well. I can’t tell you the thrill I get when I apply the wavelets sharpening to an image and the detail literally “pops” or in this case “explodes” out. My breath is literally taken away.
Three things that I note are that the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) is not dark all the way around the planet. It is dark upstream of the GRS and then dissipates downstream, only to gradually get dark again. Also, there is an unusual “arch” or loop across the North Equatorial Belt (NEB). Both of these are noted on the HiRes image that is attached and remember that south is on top as in a telescope. Also, if you look at the GRS, it has a “pupil” that is making the GRS look like a red eye looking back at us. Remember that the “eye” is twice as large as the entire Earth! Cool!