Planetary observing with telescopes

Discuss practical questions about using equipment,
finding celestial objects etc.
Posts: 110
Joined: 01 Jan 2007, 19:23
Location: Seaford, East Sussex

Planetary observing with telescopes

Postby seabay » 08 Feb 2007, 19:24

Glad to hear people have been having some success with Mercury! It took me more than 10 years to spot it for the first time - a lot depends on what sort of views you have of the horizon (I'm lucky where I am at the moment - I have a view east-south-west straight out across the English Channel!).

Re telescope views of Venus and Mercury - I've never had much success with this either. I just have a little Meade ETX 70AT and Mercury is never more than a speck, whereas Venus is a big, bright, spiky blob! No phases visible.

Maybe some of the more experienced telescope users can give some pointers about getting the best out of telescopes for planetary observing (or are there any particularly good web-sites for this kind of info?).
Emma H


Postby adt175 » 08 Feb 2007, 22:05

Can't comment on Mercury as I've only seen it in the sky and not through a scope. For visual on the planets a basic red, green, blue and yellow filter set will help you on your way. And of course the seeing when you observe and a properly cooled scope is needed for the best views. The longer you observe the more you'll see and averted vision does help (especially for Cassini in Saturn's rings).

Your ETX70 should be capable of showing quite a lot but with all things astro, aperture is king for detail.

For Venus you'll need a filter, especially if it's at a bright phase. A moon filter should help dull things down so you can see a sharp edge. I've attached the only pic I've taken of Venus from February 2004 when it was pretty high well after sunset - I think we're heading for a similar apparition this year? The pic was taken by eyepiece projection with my Nikon compact and an ETX125. It's a single shot so I hopefully will be able to do a better job with a webcam etc.

Mars looks good without a filter but a green or red will help bring out the surface detail.

Saturn looks good. With a filter or without. But a yellow one will sharpen up Cassini. A yellow filter sharpens things up a bit on the moon.

Jupiter shows different things with different filters and I guess that's just down to the dynamics of the planet. Best way I found to see the GRS ws with a light blue filter.

I've yet to catch Neptune, Uranus and Pluto but given the first two's distance the best you'll get without a ccd is the general colour of the planet.

Hope this helps, I'm sure others will have their own experiences to share!




Postby adt175 » 08 Feb 2007, 22:13

And here's the pic of Venus....


Postby adt175 » 08 Feb 2007, 22:15

Nah, doesn't like it, that's a shame because it was stunning :D !

Posts: 110
Joined: 01 Jan 2007, 19:23
Location: Seaford, East Sussex

Postby seabay » 09 Feb 2007, 19:34

This is really useful stuff, Andy - thanks a lot. Also it will hopefully help plenty of other people starting out observing the planets with telescopes.

Especially like the idea of using a moon filter (guess I need to get one first!) for observing Venus; never thought of that!

You're right about Venus being well-placed this year - during May it won't set until after midnight, so it will be a good opportunity to get a few extra bits of kit and have a really serious attempt at some proper observing of the planet.

Speaking of observing Venus under unusual conditions, maybe Solar B would like to chip in with some thoughts on seeing Venus at about 1pm in the afternoon, almost a year ago! 8)
Emma H

Solar B
Posts: 162
Joined: 07 Dec 2006, 23:00
Location: Dalgety Bay

Postby Solar B » 10 Feb 2007, 00:11

Yeah Emma i do remember seeing venus around 1pm on one day last march , i hope that i will get the opportunity to see it and other planets ,
again during the day in a couple of years time.
On observing venus , i have a polarizing filter but had not thought to use
it on this bright object .
On imaging venus , i have a calcium solar filter which can also be used to image the venusian clouds , and andys expertise will be called upon to do just that . brian

Posts: 364
Joined: 12 Jun 2008, 11:39
Location: Dunfermline

Planetery Observing

Postby Cosmic » 24 Jun 2008, 10:35


After having sold my etx90 in favour of an ETX 105PE I was very anxious to try the beast out. However after 2 weeks of cloudy nights I finall managed to get Jupiter at 2.00AM last friday for about 20mins before cloud again obscured everything. Well worth the wait cloud belts easily defined and 3 of the major moons (one must have been having a night off). The proximity of the full Moon didn't help but all credit to meades superb optics, the scope performed very well.

Still having probs setting alignment so any help with this would be appreciated.
Last night it looked really clear at 10.00pm so I set up the scope again and waited. By 11.30 it had gotten reasonably less blue than earlier and I saw Saturn low in the sky and managed to get some great views however, tried the LPI to get some shots but all I got in live mode was a black screen. -sigh- oh well back to the drawinfg board.
That was it really as shortly after that i walked into the Patio door and hit my head and nose really hard (almost concussed) so packed up for the night.

Meade 8inch  SCT. Observatory mounted on an HEQ5 Pro using EQMOD Canon 1000D modified DSLR,200mm Dobsonian, 200mm Celestron C8, 15x70 Astro Binoculars. 2x Mintron ccd cameras, lots of other stuff.

Posts: 282
Joined: 15 Nov 2006, 22:17
Location: Dalgety Bay


Postby pbholmes » 24 Jun 2008, 18:52

Hi Andy,

Gallery is probably full - its capacity is pretty small.
Best to use an external site like Flickr or Photobucket, then link to that.

See also Posting Images.


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