Mars - at least I tried !

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Mars - at least I tried !

Postby Aratus » Fri May 27, 2016 11:18 pm

On the 26th May, the sky cleared at around 11pm local time, giving me my first chance to observe Mars this year. One disadvantage of an observatory is that you have to wait until an object gets passed a tree or a house, rather than simply moving the telescope! The other problem is that the lip of the aperture limits how low down an object can be seen. Mars at only 15 degrees above the horizon means that only half of the light gets to the telescope. Normally I wouldn't bother to observe an object so low down anyway, but Mars will not get any higher this year.

First of all a photo of the sky taken from the top of the telescope through the aperture - Centred on Mars. ISO 1600 10sec

Then I took around 30 sets of exposures of Mars. Although in focus, the seeing was so bad that only 1 was any good. Even that was pretty poor. It doesn't help that the 'boring' side of Mars is facing us at the moment. There will be far more dark features visible in 7 - 14 days time.

Well, what can we see? The tiniest northern polar cap is visible (north is top left diagonal) Look carefully or you will miss it! Most of what is seen on the planet is the Tharsis Amazonis desert. At the bottom of the image is the darker Mare Sirenum. The dark area to the right is a very fore shortened Solis Lacus and Mare Acidalum. The brighter area on the limb of the planet to the top right is Xanthe. (I thought it was the polar cap at first!)
The frustrating thing about these features is that very few of them correspond to anything significant on the surface of the planet. They are just light and dark areas.

Since Saturn was so close I took a couple of sets of images. Again pretty poor images, (Saturn is lower than Mars!) but it is still a pretty sight through the telescope.


One good tip is to view Saturn first, and get a good focus before observing Mars. It is easier to focus on Saturn with its sharp edges.

While you have the telescope in that area take a look at Graffias, (Beta Scorpii) it is a nice double star. Again you could use that to focus the telescope before looking at Mars. I took a stacked photo of it.

I got inside at around 2am. Chocky the Cat was fast asleep, but Mrs Aratus was still wide awake - oh dear! :o
I'll give Mars another go in a week or so.
I use an 11" reflector (Celestron CPC 1100) and a 3" refractor, (Sky-Watcher ST80) mounted on an equatorial wedge, housed in a 2.2m Pulsar observatory. I use a ZWO ASI 120MM, ZWO ASI1600MC and Canon 1300D for imaging.
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