A Primer on Imaging Saturn and Its Ring System

Part of the Astronomers’ Observing Guides book series (OBSERVING)


Experience has shown that no matter how disciplined and well seasoned a visual observer is, the eye can be notoriously unreliable when interpreting planetary phenomena at or near the threshold of vision. Seasoned visual observers generally acknowledge the fact that it is nearly impossible to be completely objective in describing delicate contrasts and patterns seen or suspected on the surfaces and in the atmospheres of planets, and deducing the absolute color of different features. It is easy to misjudge what is seen in the eyepiece, which is one of the reasons why, as mentioned earlier in this book, simultaneous observations are so critically important for those who do mainly visual work. So, in addition to long-term systematic visual work described previously, which includes full-disk drawings, intensity estimates, central meridian (CM) transit timings, latitude measurements, and comprehensive descriptive reports, observers have periodically taken black and white as well as color photographs of Saturn using 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras in an attempt to reduce subjectivity in the data. Through trial-and-error efforts employing different types of film and a variety of photographic setups and techniques, conscientious amateur enthusiasts with a lot of patience have produced superb, high-resolution images of the planet (Fig. 9.1). Astrophotography of Saturn, nevertheless, always offers a momentous challenge because of the lack of clearly discernible features that show up on film, whereby most first-rate photographs of the planet depict perhaps only the south equatorial belt (SEB) or north equatorial belt (NEB), the equatorial zone (EZ), Cassini’s division, the ring or globe shadow, and maybe a couple of the more conspicuous major ring components.


Equatorial Zone Color Balance Short Focal Length Amateur Astronomer Visual Observer 
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© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2005

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