Saturn and Jupiter Great Conjunction 2020 — Part 2

I had three previous posts alerting readers to the December 21, 2020, Saturn and Jupiter Great Conjunction (LINK, LINK, LINK) . . . and I’m a bit behind in documenting the actual event.

This will be a “longish” post taking us From December 10th to December 21st. There will be another post documenting the days after the 21st’s closest (visual) approach of the two gas giants. But for now, let’s proceed.

This post documents days in which I was able to photograph the planets in reasonably clear skies — six days, starting with December 10th and ending with December 21st.

December 10, 2020, 17:10 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 80mm 3 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500

Impressive, no? That’s what happens when you forget to change camera settings . . . but, luckily, I shoot RAW, so I can salvage something from that.

November 10, 2020, 17:10 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 80mm 3 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500

Ain’t RAW wonderful?

I took two other photos trying to work out the best setting for the camera . . . Oh, as usual, if not on a gallery, you can click on the photos for a larger view. In the gallery, there’s also the option to view a larger version.

So, Ok, that’s what they looked like on the 10th . . .

. . . but I also took some photos specifically trying to see a bit more of Saturn and Jupiter. First up, Saturn.

A little explanation is in order because the shooting data is counterintuitive. Those photos are shot with progressively faster shutter speed. The main reason is to reduce the capture of sunlight reflecting from Saturn so that I can see the details.

But! . . . there’s a benefit from shooting RAW and very fast shutter speeds; because the photo is so dark, I can crank the exposure a whole lot (to see Saturn) and as a benefit, I also get to see more stars.

It may be some of those dots are Saturn’s moons, but I can’t swear to it.

Now, as far as Jupiter is concerned, I know I can see the moons because the photo matches the predicted locations of the Jovian moons.

December 10, 2020, 17:10 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 400mm 1/4 sec. f/5.6 ISO 100
Note Io next to the planet and Callisto almost off the right side.

It’s a match, alright.

So, that’s the 10th . . . what about the 14th?

While I could see the planets, a slight haze hindered getting good focus at full zoom. All I could muster was one passable photo (and a crop of said photo).

December 14, 2020, 17:10 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 200mm 0.8 sec. f/5.6 ISO 100
December 14, 2020, 17:10 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 200mm 0.8 sec. f/5.6 ISO 100

I think one of the next two photos was previously shared, but here’s the alignment on the 17th, a day with better conditions.

December 17, 2020, 17:14 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 80mm 1/6 sec. f/4.5 ISO 100
December 17, 2020, 17:20 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 80mm 0.6 sec. f/4.5 ISO 100

Noticeably closer to each other in just a few days. Here’s a screen capture from Stellarium for the time of the first photo:

Here’s a photo of zoomed in on the planets . . .

December 17, 2020, 17:14 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 230mm 0.6 sec. f/5.3 ISO 100

This next shot is a crop of another photo focusing just on the planets. It’s cranked up to show the moons of Jupiter, and you also get to see Titan (one of Saturn’s moon).

December 17, 2020, 17:14 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 400mm 0.8 sec. f/5.6 ISO 400

You might not see all of them if looking on a small screen, but this is what you should see if you click on the above photo.

I know this is nothing compared to amateur astronomers and what they can do, but with my camera equipment? I’m pretty happy with my captures.

So, on December 18th I once again faced thin clouds.

Nothing fantastic other than Saturn and Jupiter appear closer than the day before . . . but you might not be able to tell. Why not?

Because I should have planned to position the tripod in the same spot each evening and use the same zoom and exposure. As it is, the distance can look smaller or larger depending on the zoom I use. Except during the conjunction itself. That looks close.

The 19th was another bust, but the 20th was a clear night. Still, each night it’s like I’d had to relearn what settings worked and which didn’t. Also, sometimes the autofocus was spot on, and other times I had to manually adjust the focus.

The lens has a manual adjustment ring, but we’re talking about moving the ring in minute increments. By minute, I mean to where I wasn’t sure I actually moved it until I’d snap a test photo.

Anyway, here’s a gallery of four crops showing the two planets and some moons.

Here’s what the planets looked like (at a bit more zoom than the naked eye view). Again, multiple shots and exposures.

Note: some of the photos show color banding patterns. Not sure what that’s about. Not happy about it but since I only noticed it as I was about to publish the post, I’m not about to go back and redo all the photos with banding.

One of those crops can be compared to the Stellarium version . . . presented below for them who don’t do galleries (click for larger version).

Crop of one of the gallery photos.
December 20, 2020, 17:23 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 370mm 0.6 sec. f/5.6 ISO 100
What you see in the cropped photos.

The times don’t exactly match, but the alignment is practically the same and I’m presenting the Stellarium snapshot for the names.

And, now, we come to the 21st. And, because I want to bore everyone to tears . . . here’s a photo of the planets at 400mm zoom (600mm effective):

December 21, 2020, 17:08 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 340mm 1/6 sec. f/6.3 ISO 100

Let me show you a crop of that photo as it came out of the camera.

Crop of the previous photo.

The exposure that shows the moons of the planets is too bright to resolve details of the rings of Saturn. I mean, the shape, not actual details. In response, I usually isolate the planets (crop the photo) and apply different processing to them.

BUT . . . Lightroom has the capability of local adjustments. So, for instance, I could increase the exposure and highlights for Jupiter to show the moons, and further highlight them by darkening the background . . . and, in the same photo, decrease the exposure, the highlights, apply some dehaze and clarity adjustments, and bring out a bit of Saturn’s details . . .

Applied local adjustments to the cropped photo.

Of course, it looks weird . . . I could go the opposite way and darken the whole photo and bump up Jupiter’s immediate vicinity.

Applied local adjustments to the cropped photo.

That also looks weird . . . but I could be subtler (you can still see the difference, but you have to look for it) . . .

Local Adjustments to crop of a photo at maximum zoom.
December 21, 2020, 17:11 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 400mm 1/20 sec. f/6.3 ISO 100

by the way, here’s the Stellarium version . . .

Stellarium snapshot

For whatever reason, I couldn’t get Titan to show up, but that’s the way it goes.

Now, that don’t mean nothing to nobody because there’s no frame of reference . . . so here’s a photo that includes a few branches of a tree.

December 21, 2020, 17:11 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 400mm 1/20 sec. f/6.3 ISO 320

Usually, I’d do a crop of the above, but I can also do a crop and overlay it on the photo . . .

December 21, 2020, 17:11 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 400mm 1/20 sec. f/6.3 ISO 320

Click on the photo, and you get to see the overall and the cropped local area.

Here’s another photo with an insert showing what they looked like when standing outside looking up.

December 21, 2020, 17:14 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 86mm 1/8 sec. f/6.3 ISO 160

Again, clicking on the photo gets you a larger version.

Let’s look at Stellarium for a moment, and zoom it out to see what else is in the sky . . .

Stellarium 21december2020 17 23 48

Well, that is the moon up there . . . You know what? I have a wide-angle lens . . .

December 21, 2020, 17:24 — Marion, Illinois
Sigma DC 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX HSM 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 19mm 0.6 sec. f/5.6 ISO 100

You really need to click on the image to see the overexposed Moon on the top left, and the two planets at the bottom right, just above the trees. By the way, the basketball hoop came with the house and I’m trying to figure out how to take it down.

I could have joined the above photo with this one (Hey! There’s Titan!) . . .

December 21, 2020, 17:28 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 86mm 0.6 sec. f/5.3 ISO 100

. . . and get this composite (notice the little red square on the bottom right; them be where the planets were in that photo).

Wide-angle and close-up zoom composite

Need I say it? Click for a larger view.

Anyway, that’s Part 2 of my Saturn-Jupiter Grand Conjunction of 2020.

Part 3 will cover the days after and a few other things.

I know this was long and probably boring, but I enjoyed putting this together for the three people who will read it all. What? Oh . . . for the two people who will read it all.

Most of the above photos are in a SmugMug. Specifically in THIS<<link gallery. I didn’t annotate them because . . . well, it takes time, and people interested can read the post.

WAIT! . . . I be botz one other photo I want to share . . .

December 21, 2020, 17:17 — Marion, Illinois
Nikon D7500, Nikon AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6D
Photo: 370mm 1/15 sec. f/6.3 ISO 100

Obviously, a plane going by under the conjunction . . . its contrail high enough to catch the rays of the already-set Sun.

Here’s a gallery of the above . . . that’s another way you can compare photos to their Stellarium counterparts.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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