Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mars Vacation

From X-Minus One:

Countdown to blastoff.

X minus 5, 4, 3, 2,  . . .

ZWO ASI224MC + Shorty Barlow and NexImage 5

Well, they kinda look like space capsules from days of yore, don't they?

Sadly, my application for astronaut training hasn't been approved yet -- a vacation trip to Mars is probably something I'll never have.

I did, however, take a vacation day from work to do an astronomy session Friday morning.  I went out a little after midnight and stayed out until dawn.

The two pieces of equipment in the photo above are items with which I've had great success using lucky imaging techniques to capture images of planets and the moon.

Mars rise from my driveway is effectively around 3am.

By then, my scope and related equipment will have cooled down enough that I'll not be fighting with thermals in my local optical path.

From my latitude, at 3am, Mars is only about 20 degrees above the horizon.  That means there is an awful lot of atmospheric murk to peer through.

Usually, I'll take images as soon as I see Mars and then periodically as time passes during the observation session.  Perhaps I'll be lucky and stumble across a stable column of air between me and Mars.  This also provides a little bit of insurance if the viewing conditions go completely to heck.

So, this is what I captured at 0348 on May 11th, 2018:

Mars, May 11th, 2018 at 0348

Features are starting to be visible across the entire face of Mars!

I'm especially encouraged by this screen capture from the Virtual Planet Atlas showing its prediction of Mars for my viewing session capture!

Mars, from the Virtual Planet Atlas for May 11th, 2018 at 0348.

There is remarkable consistency between the the Atlas' model and my image.

It will only get better between now and the end of July.

More to come! 

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