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NEPTUNE

Neptune is the outermost planet in our Solar System – now that Pluto is no longer considered to be a planet…although the recent NASA mission to Pluto has certainly added enormously to the knowledge of this particular member of the Solar System!

For planetary imagers like us Neptune is the ultimate challenge: even at very high magnification it appears as just a tiny disk through our telescope…to achieve even the most shadowy details on this planet is an outstanding achievement – hardly surprising when you consider that it is 4.5 billion kilometres away!!! (4,503,443,661 kms from the Sun)

At times it is even possible (under very good conditions) to pick up enormous storms raging in Neptune’s upper atmosphere…these appear as bright, white spots which are plotted for their progress, with the information being used by professional astronomers to assist their own studies…

Note:               Some images on this page are “clickable” and will open up as “full scale images” in a new tab.
                        Depending on the size of your monitor you may have to click again on this image to enlarge it.
                        All the images should respond favourably to the use of the “zoom” tool of your browser page if
                        you want to up the scale further!

2017

14th July 2017

 

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10th July 2017

 

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2016

26th November 2016

 

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23rd November 2016

 

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3rd November 2016

 

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5th October 2016

The images below were captured on the 4th & 5th October: “BWC’s” or Bright White Complexes is the name given to the bright white spots on Neptune’s cloud-surface that signify storms in this planet’s upper atmosphere.

We were successful in detecting these BCW’s in our images on both these 2 nights as the still & animated images below indicate.

Of special satisfaction to us is that for these images & those taken on 21st September (further down this page) we increased the “magnification” or “image scale” (also known as “focal length”) to create larger planetary images during capture.

The results of 21st September showed us this could be done very successfully - but for these October images we ALSO lowered the exposure rates we used in capturing the videos AND ran the captures at faster frame rates…all this in pretty poor “seeing” conditions..! ;)

This might sound simple enough, but increasing the apparent size of these tiny-looking planetary disks that are so far away with additional magnification…as well as the other alterations to camera settings effectively makes Neptune look little more than a faint “fuzz-ball” on the laptop screen

This makes focusing very demanding (focus is extremely important with Neptune & Uranus) but also for when we “tune” the telescope immediately before any imaging session (known as “collimating”) which becomes even harder in poor seeing…the 4th image below (animated) shows just what Neptune looks like onscreen when we focus & start the video capture in such conditions…& the 5th image below shows the appearance of the star we collimate on in those conditions – for us it taught us some very valuable new ideas on how to use this camera to best effect as well as providing much satisfaction with these outcomes in weather etc situations that were so tough..! J

Remember the advice about clicking on images! J

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Here is the animation from the 5th October showing at least 2 bright spots (BWC’s) as the move with the rotation of Neptune during the night – Triton can also be seen in this animated image.

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4th October 2016

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Animated image showing a “BWC” or bright storm spot appearing to move as Neptune rotates – Triton (Neptune’s largest moon) can also be seen as it moves around the planet for a small section of its’ orbit.

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The animation above is another display of exactly what Neptune looked like after we focused & during the capture…the animation below shows just what the star we collimated on looked like when we decided that we had tuned the telescope to the best we could in such demanding conditions..!

If you compare these 2 to the similar ones further up for the 5th you might be able to see that these here were in slightly better conditions than those for the 5th October..!

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21st September 2016

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The animations above & below were made from the Neptune image captures on 21st September in good (but not excellent) seeing conditions that night: we managed to capture numerous videos which were made into still images & these (reversing) animations were created from them…even though we originally capture video images you cannot make an animation directly from these videos…something I will explain briefly a bit below. ;)

A “not-so-bright” white spot can be seen high up on the left-hand side of the disk of Neptune (about 11:30 as a clock position) & a very interesting “twin-complex” of 2 bright spots nearer the disk’s mid-sections.

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Here are the stacked images from the 6 videos we captured that night. For each video we select the best frames, stack & enhance these “best frames” then create a single end-image from this “processing.”

For the animated sequences you see regularly throughout the website we then use each of these final stacked end-images as the frames for an animated gif…the 6 below were turned into the animated sequences just above. J

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This is how Neptune looked onscreen while we were capturing one of 6 captures we made that night…..it does not take too much to see that the appearance of the planet onscreen was far better on this night than for the examples further up this page for 4th & 5th October – this is all due to the much better seeing for the 21st September..! J

This is NOT an animation like those I have described just above…the one below& those higher up this page are actual “onscreen” video sequences – or rather small “cuts” from the full videos – that show EXACTLY what we deal with when focusing & recording this planet…to show more than a small cut or section of each entire video would take up far too much file-space on the pc..! J

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24th August 2016

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13th August 2016

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14th July 2016

Our 2nd imaging attempt of Neptune for 2016…we were hoping to image the bright storm spots we had imaged on 11th June (further down the page) but for some reason they were not recorded in our image…but we did image another bright spot/area on Neptune’s disk.

Due to the scarcity of Neptune images so early in the apparition we have not had any confirmation from professionals or other amateurs – but because we recorded this bright spot in 5 consecutive image captures we are very confident that it is a “real” feature. Below is an animation of the 3 best images, as well as each individual image from that night’s/morning’s session: in the animation you can see the movement of this “spot” as well as Triton’s motion as it orbits Neptune.

Storm spots on Neptune & Uranus can be quite ephemeral/temporary…..hopefully we can image this spot again, but that will depend upon numerous factors! ;)

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11th June 2016

On June 11th 2016 we captured our first 2016 image of Neptune & its main moon, Triton. A very cold, very early morning session but we were also very pleased to see 2 clear, bright spots on the tiny disk when we processed our captures. J

We sent these images off to a professional organisation in Europe that we collaborate with & got a very quick response back telling us that these 2 spots were indeed storms on Neptune.

They had been imaged by the Hubble orbiting telescope as well as a large professional scope in the Canary Islands not long before we captured these images – we were told that the reason why they had not sent out any “alerts” to amateur imagers about them was because they considered they were too difficult for amateurs to image so early in the apparition: we were of course very flattered to realise we had done so - & confounded their expectations of what amateurs were capable of..! J

A “false colour” image is displayed below the iR610nm (infrared) image, which appears as the black & white (mono) image directly below this text.

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2015

For the imaging of Neptune (& Uranus) in 2015, advent of the ASI224MC colour camera became a literal “game-changer” in that it could also be used extremely effectively with infra-red filters to record details on these 2 planets much more easily - due to the camera’s high sensitivity & very low noise characteristics!

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2015 was the first year we attempted to image Neptune & in mid-September we were very successful – picking up several image sets that revealed bright spots, as well as some of the banding etc on Neptune’s disk! J

Some of these storms had been recorded by other imagers in the preceding weeks but a couple visible in this image are considered “new.”

One storm spot (the brighter, whiter spots on the disk) has not been picked up in any images except those taken with large professional telescopes…in fact the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) imaged Neptune around the same time as the images to the left & below & confirmed our own images’ accuracies almost “point-by-point” in comparison to the HST – as one professional explained the situation..! J

This colour image to the left combines an image using the camera in colour mode plus an overlay using an infra-red filter (iR610nm) to reveal the details visible in the iR. It was created in a very similar manner to the images at the top of the Uranus webpage & gives as accurate a depiction as to what the planet might look like if we could view it through a very large telescope on a night of exceptional seeing conditions…remembering that like the Uranus images it relied on the iR (infra-red) recordings to reveal what are in fact enormous storms in Neptune’s upper atmosphere!

This is the mono equivalent of the preceding image – only the infra-red filter data is used to create the image…thus it is mono. (ie, black & white)

To give viewers an idea of the challenges in imaging this planet, the top image in both the colour & mono ones here display the actual size of Neptune’s disk on our computer screen when we capture these images – but none of the detail shown here is revealed at that time & we must rely upon getting that little disk/circle of not-very-bright-light & very fuzzy appearance to appear as sharp as possible around the edges whilst focusing: if we do this very well then we “might” be very lucky & get the sort of images shown here – if there is storm activity visible, like there was when we took these images..! J

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Here we see an animation of the mono iR (infra-red) image from the night where our own images emulated the Hubble’s…animating 2 or more frames is a very good way to “test” the veracity of any images…due to many factors in capturing & processing planetary data there can be quite a lot of false or spurious “artefacts” in the images.

With animations one can see whether any particular aspects/details are consistent throughout however many frames are in the animation...on that night we captured 4 different images of Neptune revealing these details, showing that but for one small “artefact” they were identical to the HST’s images, proving their veracity! J

At the bottom of the animation you will see the motion of Neptune’s largest moon Triton (diameter 2,700km) during this period…

The simpler 2-frame animations (right & below) are the result of using the 2 best images of Neptune we took on this particular night, the top animation being the colour composition & the bottom the mono (iR only) composition.

We used these 2 “best” images, slowed the motion down somewhat & enlarged & processed the results a bit more aggressively to enhance the detail at this larger size to help assist with their appearances here

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The set of images below display all the Neptune images we captured during the 2015 “apparition” (season) that displayed the various storm spots…the bottom right image being a WinJUPOS construction from some of our images depicting how the planet would look  if we could view it from above the South Pole of Neptune: note one bright spot near the South Pole. (ie, the area directly centred in the image)

This is one of the bright storms we picked up on September 18th 2015 & also imaged by Hubble.

Like our Polar View of Uranus in those webpages, we understand that this is the first time an amateur has created such an image! J

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