Friday, 22 April 2016


Photo from WinJupos - as it looked on the 19th April
Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the one closest to the Sun, with an orbital period of about 88 Earth days, which is much faster than any other planet in the Solar System. Seen from Earth, it appears to move around its orbit in about 116 days. It has no known natural satellites. It is named after the Roman deity Mercurythe messenger to the gods.

On the 19th of April we had exceptionally great clear weather in London, no clouds and the atmosphere was calm. Because Mercury was nearly the farthest it can be from the Sun, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take an image of it. 

I must admit, that my 127/1500 maksutov tube isn't probably the most suitable instrument for the job, but ever since I bought it keep surprising me with it's performance. Once again it happened.

Waiting for Mercury - equipment ready

Sunset was at 8:06pm, but a good 40 mins went past till I finally could spot it. Mercury's visual magnitude was only +0.4. The equipment was long ready for shooting, managed to get sharpness and the proper alignment of the main scope/red dot finder on Jupiter.
The photo at the beginning of this post is from WinJupos, a free software that can show current phases and the actual precise look of any solid body (does not work on gaseous planets as their surface change all the time). 

So I was looking for a crescent shape when I was looking for Mercury on the laptop screen. When I first found it, is was a big relief. Didn't really know what to expect... I must admit visually is wasn't the greatest, due it's low position on the sky made it look distorted and color dispersion was present as well, the blue and red was on the top and bottom separately.

I took a few videos, but knew time wasn't on my side as Mercury kept sinking lower and lower.
The first process of my video gave my this result.

The color does not match, but I'm not surprised at all. By the time I took my first video (at 20:48), Mercury was only 10° above horizon. Mainly this must be the reason, why not many of the amateur astronomers taking photos of it, very low and very small, not a good pain for sure.

My best image processing result is this one, saturation is set to nearly zero. I did a few reprocessing, did all the videos I've captured just to compare them. Reason is that black line close to north pole. First I assumed to be a stacking error, but after reprocessing all the other videos they show it too. So I only guess that must be surface detail, which still hard to believe with this size scope.

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