Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mars Drawing

Today was a strange day at work...too many people not getting along with each other; a colleague who had a death in the family; and our department saddened by the suicide of a student.  It was one of those days where I felt that "I'd like to buy the world a coke"...Maybe I am showing my age with that little jingle, but certainly everyone needs to take a deep breath and look up at the night sky we are so fortunate to have here in Arizona.

And, while I never thought I would say something like this, a big shout out to the Governor of AZ for vetoing the electronic billboard legislation!  Our legislature quickly passed this asinine bill at the urging of Clear Channel Communications, and fortunately the Governor had a rare moment of clarity and realized that not only was the multi-million dollar astronomy related industry threatened, but these electronic billboards are safety hazards as well.  But I digress...back to the night skies...

While it is nearly full moon, I opened up my observatory and spent a little time observing Mars again this evening.  Using my 12" LX200 SCT I was treated to a night of exceptionally good seeing.  Using an 8mm eyepiece I was observing Mars at a magnification of 380X without any image breakdown.  I did try a 5mm eyepiece (608X), however, there was nothing visible at that power that I could not see much sharper at 380X.  Below left is my sketch, and at right a simulated view courtesy of CalSky.

Mars is currently 12.11 arcseconds in diameter and still shining at magnitude -0.6.  Mars is .773 astronomical units from Earth, or 6 minutes 25.6 seconds in light time.  My sketch was completed this evening at 8:44 PM MST (0344 UT, April 6th).  At the top is the North Polar Cap, and there was quite a bit of haze in the southern polar region.

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