Friday, January 27, 2012

Mars update

Ares(Roman), god of war
As January winds down, Mars is becoming increasingly convenient to observe.  By about 11:00 PM local time, Mars is high enough for decent views, and it remains in the sky all night...meaning that if I miss the opportunity for the late night observation I can always get up an hour before sunrise to make an observation.  In addition, as Mars moves towards close approach, its apparent size is now increasing rapidly.  Closest approach will occur at 1701 UT (10:01 AM MST) on March 05, 2012 with an apparent planetary disk diameter of 13.9' arcseconds.  Mars will be at a distance of 0.673678350248 astronomical units (AU) or 62,622,315 miles (100,780,847 km).

Mars, as most of you know, was the Greek mythological god of war. In 1877 astronomer Asaph Hall discovered two very small moons and named them “Phobos” and “Deimos.” These were appropriate names as in reality, war is accompanied by "fear" and "terror."

I have made two sketches of Mars over the past week.  The first sketch, on January 20th was made in the early morning hours and was completed at 1325 UT (6:25 AM local time).  The Sketch was made using my TEC 140mm APO at 196 power.  Seeing conditions were excellent, with only occasional seconds of unsteady seeing.  Dominating the view is the North Polar Cap (NPC)  at top.

Central meridian:     111.7 degrees
Diameter:                10.7 arceseconds
Magnitude:              -0.3
Distance:                .875 AU (7.3 light minutes)

I made another observation on January 27th at 0552 UT (10:52 PM MST on Jan. 26th), using the same telescope and magnification.  The sketch at left is the more interesting side of Mars.  In addition to the NPC, Syrits Major is nearing the central meridian.  To the lower left, I believe, is Mare Tyrrhenum, and the dark streak on the lower right is, I believe, Sinus Sabaeus.

Central meridian:     297.74 degrees
Diameter:                11.35 arceseconds
Magnitude:              -0.4
Distance:                .82.48 AU (6.8 light minutes)

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