Saturn is probably the single most imaged planet, besides Earth of course. The rings are just mesmerizing. Imaging planets is a lot different than my normal fare of DSOs, it uses a video camera instead of a normal DSLR/CCD. Because of the unsteady air and extreme magnification you have to take thousands of images and stack them keeping the best parts of each and discarding the rest. The result, can be very nice:
I bought an Orion Starshoot Solar System Imager IV for about $99 just for this and am using a Celestron CPC 1100 XLT 11 inch SCT at about 2800mm focal length with a 2x barlow. The magnification of this scope is nice but man, what a pain in the rear to use compared to my refractors!
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Supernova SN2012aw was one of those times where you just get lucky. I was fortunate enough to image M95 on February 25th and just discovered there was a supernova in the very outer lanes of that galaxy so I imaged it again, the supernova is clearly visible. This was probably one of the closest supernova to Earth in the history of humans.
Almost exactly a month apart and the difference is obvious. One interesting thing to put this into perspective is that this did not happen in March 2013, in fact, not in this year, not in this century, and indeed, it happened some 38 million years ago. The distance of M95 is approximately 38 million light years away. This means somewhere between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the evolution of the Homo species is when the event happened but the light from it is just now reaching the Earth. Really makes you think.
The other amazing thing to me is how obvious it really is. You hear about how bright and violent a supernova explosion is but it takes something like this to really show you. That little dot is not much larger than any of the other stars in the image, except the other stars are not in that galaxy. If you look close at the galaxy and see the hazy dust that forms it’s structure, that dust is millions of stars. One of those little particles of dust way out on the edge of the galaxy exploded with such force that it is as bright as the central core of the galaxy it is in. Wow.
The magnitude of this supernova was around 13 when this image was shot.
Hopefully there weren’t any life supporting planets anywhere in that area! There is a fantastic little article on this spectacular supernova in the M95 galaxy on National Geographic’s website.
I hope you enjoyed my image of SN2012aw!
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