Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mars approaches!

No, this is not a blog post to let you know that Mars will pass closer to Earth than at any point in the history of our solar system in early April.  You can find that story circulating on the internet as it does approximately every two years as Mars approaches opposition.  This year, Mars will be at opposition on April 8th and will have an apparent diameter of approximately 15" (arcseconds).  Currently, Mars is .73 astronomical units from Earth and is 96.7% illuminated with an apparent diameter of 12.74"

A few months ago I purchased my first astronomical camera in order to learn to take planetary images in a run up to this Mars apparition.  Mars has always been my favorite planet to observe visually and I want to be able to capture some nice images as well.  Two nights ago I was out observing and imaging Jupiter and was impressed with how steady the seeing conditions were.  Below is an image of Jupiter I captured with my 11" Celestron Edge SCT and a 1.8x barlow lens.
As the seeing conditions were so favorable I decided to stay up far too late and try my hand at my first image of Mars.  I will not go into detail about the trials and tribulations of the process, but keep in mind that Mars is much smaller in apparent size than Jupiter, that its details are quite subtle, and the seeing conditions had deteriorated quite a bit by 1 AM.  I was not able to use the Barlow lens to increase the image scale so the picture below is straight through the C11.
All in all I am happy with the first effort.  I pushed the processing a little too hard but may go back and try again if I have some time.  Of note, you can see clouds in the Olympus Mons region on the right side! Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in our solar system and these are likely orographic clouds.  For comparison, below is a simulated image from the website

1 comment:

  1. Very nice Alan! I'd be hard pressed to believe you are new to this! -Dean