Mars Observing Log : 8th January 2010

Well Sydney could not ask for a better night for observing than the one we had last night.  A cloud free sky and relatively good seeing conditions over all.

At 9pm last night, I ran an updated forecast of cloud movement for eastern Australia. The results were good and there was absolutely no chance of cloud showing any time during the night. I went outside into the garden and just had a look at the stars, no scope. It is good every once in a while to just do some naked eye observing to take the whole night sky in without being limited to the region of sky your telescope is looking at. I also witnessed the iridium flare of satellite Iridium 43 at 10:06pm where the satellite flared from a magnitude of -1 to a magnitude of -8 for a second or two. An incredible flare to see.

As the night promised to be a cloud free one, I decided to repeat my last observing session. In other words  I would bring my scope out 3 or 4 hours before dawn and try to finally observe Mars through the telescope. As you might remember, the last time I tried to do this I was disappointed as the Moon, Mars and Saturn were all behind tree branches and not easily visible. But since then I had worked out that Mars could be visible in a small gap between two trees at a specific time so I decided to have another go at Mars.

Mars January 9 2010 (Click to Enlarge)

3:35Am.  I was a little tired but determined to observe Mars. I went outside and looked for Mars and it was perfectly visible in the gap where I thought it would be.However to see it I would need to have the telescope legs at their minimum height.

After setting up the scope, I battled power issues where every time I tried to move the scopes’s motor to face Mars the scope would lose power. But I managed to get that under control and took my first look at Mars in almost a year.

Mars through the scope was fairly bright with 98% of it’s surface illuminated. Over the next week it will eventually be 100% lit with it’s closest distance to us being on the 27th of January. The planet was a nice orange red color and was the best view I had of Mars so far.

I probably had a period of half an hour to observe Mars and in that time I experimented with different size lenses and viewed the planet with and without a barlow lens. I also tried my light glow filter on Mars to see what difference in view would be.

So for me it was a great night as I was able to run all the tests on the scope that I had wanted to do.

I also managed to take a number of pictures of Mars . I took about 20 pictures of Mars and have processed some of the best. The first picture above is pretty much the view I had through the scope using my zoom lens at it’s highest magnification. I had to clean up the image a little but was very happy with the result.

The image below was a blown up view of that shot. I am not sure what the shade of grey is in the bottom left of Mars. I have seen a number of NASA pictures showing grey bands almost like clouds on Mars….. but I am not sure if this is what the picture has captured. I suspect it is more a shadow or other optical issue as a result of pointing the digital camera manually down the zoom lense. It is possibly a reflection off the left side of the lens. But I still like the photo considering the camera I am using.

After Mars I then spent the rest of the night studying the Moon. The Moon is always a favourite subject of mine to observe as the craters are always crisp and detailed to look at. I will examine the lunar pictures I took last night and see if any came out which are good enough to showcase in the blog. However I was getting a little bit of glare from the moon for some reason so I don’t think the lunar pictures will be too impressive.

I received a message from someone early yesterday via Ice In space who was planning a group observing session and wanted to get my opinion on the cloud situation for the night. Well the night delivered all that it promised so I hope your observing group had a great observing session . I know that last night, or early this morning should I say, was one of my best nights in a while.

Now my next step is to try and push my scope to it’s limits….. and try and produce photos of these results.

Mars January 9 2010

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~ by sydneystargazers on January 9, 2010.

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