Viewing the Clouds of Venus (There is more to see on Venus than you think)

In this article I am going to try and capture some detail on Venus, which is quite a difficult task as it is such a featureless planet being completely covering with white clouds that block out any surface features. But that is where the opportunity comes in, I am going to show you how to capture the dynamic and ever changing clouds of Venus.

I originally got into astronomy due to the planets, I loved our nearest neighbours the great astronomical targets being big and brilliant in the eyepiece usually showing off a lot of detail. I also find it completely fascinating that all these different worlds are accessible to us through a amateur telescope.

Venus has always been one of the more difficult planets to see clearly not because it is hard to find in the night sky, it is not, but because it is usually always so low in the sky that atmospheric turbulence affects the quality of the image you see.

However, it will be one of the first astronomical objects to appear in the night sky after sunset. When viewing planets what is visible at a particular time of year is always changing so you will need to check some astronomy software to see when Venus is visible in your part of the world. There are also some particular challenges when viewing the inferior planets.

But when it is visible it will always be visible in the western sky shortly after sunset and as Venus and the eastern sky shortly before sunrise. Venus is also only ever visible for a short period of time I always advise setting up your equipment in advance to avoid a rush before the Venus's falls below the horizon.

To do this I removed the focal reducer, which is often attached to my SCT telescope for deep sky targets, such as the Dumbbell Nebula. Instead, using the full F10 focal length of the telescope to get a good close-up view of Venus. I also used a Wratten 47 filter, this is a blue filter that should enhance the clouds, however blue light is more affected by atmospheric disturbance so it will cause the image to flicker more as you can see in the episode below.

If you wanted to see Venus as still as possible you would use a red filter, or an Infrared Pass filter, however this will completely block out any of the cloud features and when you do astronomy ideally you want to see as much detail as possible.

I also decided to change my capture software instead of going for FireCapture rather than SharpCap the main reason is because FireCapture can auto guide on a planet even without a Guidescope. All you need is a cheap USB to ST4 cable and it will do the rest following the planet through the night sky.

I was outside as soon as Venus became visible and managed to get a massive 22,000 images of the planet, I then ran this through PIPP to crop and stabilize the image as well as make this great video you can see below. Finally, I took this footage imported through AutoStakkert! and altered the wavelets in Registax to get this great image of Venus showing several clouds moving across the illuminated disk would you believe that out of those 22,000 images only about 100 of the best images were used to create the final image I am particularly proud of this though as seeing any features on Venus is quite a difficult.

To see all the footage and the final image of the clouds of Venus, please watch the episode below.

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