Last night I made my first decent sketch of Mars with my TEC 8 inch f/20 Maksutov Cassegrain. I plan to write a review of this scope one day, but it is really a very specialized instrument that delivers excellent contrast, a large image scale, and sharp views. It is well regarded as a high end planetary instrument. The telescope is about 16 years old, and I believe that it is slightly out of collimation. I do mean slightly, and I will likely wait until this summer when I am in Colorado to personally deliver the scope to TEC for a tune-up. You can see from these pictures that despite its age, it is in good used shape.
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This by the way, is the allure of observing Mars. It is the only planet in our solar system where we can directly observe the surface. Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune...these planets only show us their cloud tops. It is fun while sitting and observing Mars through a telescope to think back to the times when Astronomers such as Percival Lowell were making detailed visual observations of Mars and speculating on canals, water and plant life. Without the benefit of missions to Mars to see the Martian environment up-close we would still be wondering. Who knows what secrets Mars has yet to share with us? I, for one, remain curious.