Monday, February 8, 2010

Observing at last ~ Mars!

It has been awhile since my last post, as the weather here in Tucson has been quite wet, limiting observing opportunities.  In addition, I have been busy with my "training" for the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo mountain bike race which is happening this coming weekend.  Finally, Beth and I escaped Tucson this past weekend to the winter wonderland that is Flagstaff.  We had just enough time to do a little snowshoeing and skiing before returning to Tucson.

Tonight the atmosphere proved to be quite stable and the sky was fairly dark with no moon during my observation of Mars.  As during recent observations, the North polar cap is bright, although it is noticeably smaller than several weeks ago.  The proceeding limb is quite bright tonight (on the left in the sketch) and the following limb (on the right) also shows distinctly bright regions, with the brightest being just below the polar cap.  As an interesting aside, since the opposition of Mars on 1/29, it is taking the light from Mars .2 minutes longer to reach us, or about 12 more seconds!

Instrument: TEC 140mm APO
Time of sketch 0325 UT, Feb. 9, 2010
Central Meridian: 358.8
RA: 8h 37m 35s Dec: 4 deg 54' 10"

Illumination: 100%      Magnitude: -1.1
Distance: .681 AU (5.7 light mins.)      Size: 13.8 arcseconds

Comparing my sketch to the Mars A.L.P.O. Albedo Map, I believe that the dark feature to the upper right is Mare Acidalium; the extremely bright region following Mare Acidalium is Eden; the dark feature to the lower right is Mare Erythraeum; the dark area near the bottom on the central meridian is Solis Lacus, with the extension to the left of Solis Lacus being Aonius Sinus.

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