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Improving Planetary Visual Detail

Posted by Bill Marvin   06/25/2004 12:00AM

In the upper Mid-West, the seeing at night is a tempest in a teapot. Often, the jet stream is active overhead, causing quite unsteady seeing. Worse yet if I waited for complete dark to observe - I was often disappointed.

I have two helpful tips that will increase your observing of the planetary orbs and help you enjoy maximum detail.

First, I should say that I am using a Meade 5" F9 ED APO, well aligned on an EQ6 Equatorial mount. The following observations are even more true if you are using larger scopes. Been there, done that.

When possible, observe the bright planets 30 minutes before/after sunset/sunrise. Why? I have found that seeing isn't a factor when it's light out. Once darkness falls, seeing and contrast brightness controls what detail you see - I've often wondered if it doesn't just overload the eyes.

And here's a strange tip you too can try that works amazingly well in the dark on glaring planets.

I have found, to my delight, that the Lumicon "DeepSky" filter works wonders! I've tried basic color filters on Jupiter with minimal improvement. My 12 yr old "DeepSky" works like magic - the details jump right out at me. Yes, the color register is lost, but once my eye got accustomed to the filter, seeing and contrast glare do not control my observing anymore.

Haven't tried the wide range of other "SKY" filters. I can only speak from my experiences with the DS filter over the years on big/medium scopes(16" to 8" SCT's). My 5" F9 ED APO really gives breathtaking views once I knew when and how to tame mother nature.

Great viewing to all.

Bill ngc123