Damian Peach Lecture - The Giant Planet Jupiter

Our lecturer for November was Damian Peach. Damian is very well known in Astronomy for his amazing astronomical images. We invited members of other Astronomical Societies in the area to attend the lecture. Sixty three of our members, and twenty visitors came along to hear him. He called his lecture "The Giant Planet Jupiter".

Damian lives in West Sussex now, but used to live locally to us. He has been interested in Astronomy for about a decade, and produces the most amazing planetary images, and has won Astrophotographer of the year in the past.

Damian started by saying that a good telescope is essential regardless of what type it is, from a 4" to a 16" and told us of the effects of obstruction by the central mirror. He said that larger telescopes are more affected by atmospheric turbulence. The lecture was all about the most important aspects for getting good planetary and deep sky images. He said that there is no "best type" of telescope, but to try and get the best optics that you can afford. He also said that he prefers to use reflecting telescopes. He suggested that when buying a telescope choose one you can use frequently.

He stressed the importance of allowing the telescope to cool down for 2-3 hours before use, particularly if it has been stored in a warm place as thermal problems will produce poor images.

He also said how important it is to make sure that the telescope is collimated correctly. He then showed us the different types of high resolution camera available, saying that fast cameras and good software make for the sharpest images.

It is also necessary to have good focussing, and if possible a motorised focusser, and that Batinov masks are only really helpful when used for deep sky and not planetary imaging.

He then mentioned the different types of software available including firecapture. wonderplanets, Autoskakkert2 and Registax 6 which are all free. WinJUPOS is more technical and Adobe Photoshop www.adobe.com are all good.

Damian also talked about the best times for observing and taking images. High Pressure systems give good weather, while the jet stream is particularly bad. We saw images on screen of both good and bad conditions. We saw a single frame and stacked frames of Jupiter sharpened using Registax 6. and showing the great red spot.

We then saw a map showing the various places across the globe that Damian observes from, and he showed us the equipment that he takes with him when travelling

We saw a some amazing images of Jupiter taken between 2005 and 2014 on his larger telescopes, including transits of Jupiter's moons. The 2014 image showed a double shadow transit. We saw an animation of the changes in the great red spot within one year. 

Damian took an image of Saturn in 2014 overseas showing the polar hexagon jet stream. We also saw images of Mars. He said that the storms on Uranus and Neptune were recorded for the first time recently. We also saw sunspots taken by a 14" full solar filter. A reflector shows the very fine detail. The moon is one of Damian's targets and we saw images of Plato, Copernicus and Humbold,t and Asteroids and Double Stars. 

We saw images of other Astronomers from the Phillipines who he has contact with.

He summed up his lecture by listing the most important things to remember when observing:- 

  1. A good telescope is essential regardless of the type.
  2. Choose one you can use frequently.
  3. Give the telescope plenty of time to cool down
  4. Good collimation
  5. Make the effort to go out observing when good seeing is likely
  6. Take your time to experiment with image processing
  7. Submit your images to the BAA, ALPO etc.

Members had lots of questions to ask, and Neil our Chairman asked Damian what would be the one thing he would recommend to help us get an extra 10% from our images, and after much thought he said "A trip to Barbados" which made us all laugh. Neil then thanked him for such an interesting and informative lecture. We hope that he will lecture to us in the future.