Sunday, November 8, 2020

Farewell, Mars! See Ya, Next Time Around!

This opposition of Mars was actually more challenging than that of 2016. 

It's always about the clouds, isn't it? With the last opposition, Mars had a global dust storm that made it really hard for us poor Earthbound astronomers to see any of its surface features. The entire planet was coated in a dust cloud. 

This time, though, no dust storm. It was Earth's water vapor clouds and upper level winds that made observing Mars difficult. At least for me from my Central Virginia, Bortle 4/5, backyard observing spot. 

Last night was different, however. It was to be a clear dark sky with above average seeing. Mars was to be at the meridian by 2230. I could easily have all of the equipment outside and a couple of cups of coffee consumed by then. 

 But what could I expect to see? The online Mars Mapper had the answer.

I put my planetary imager, the ZWO ASI224MC, on my Cat and captured 5 minutes of video to a .ser file and processed the thousand of frames with AutoStakkert3.  I kept only the best 20 percent of the frames for the resultant image. 

Mars, 11/08/2020, at 0300 UTC
I think there is a really good match between the model and my image.

We are a few weeks past Mars' opposition.  It is interesting to me to see how much smaller Mars appears in the sky since my last image of it.

Here is what I captured on 10/22/2020 using the same equipment and settings.

Mars, 10/22/2020, at 0403 UTC

Fun fact:  The bright spot in the lower right of this image is Olympus Mons, which is a very large shield volcano.  It has a height of over 21 km (13.6 miles).

Deep Space Bonus Image

Well, it's not Mars, it's an image that I captured while waiting for Mars to reach the meridian.  It's a deep space object known as NGC 40.  It's pretty and I like it.

NGC 40  (Click to make it bigger)

It is also known as the "Bow-Tie Nebula" and is composed of a hot gas around a dying star.

More deep space objects to come as I turn my focus away from planetary objects and start to enjoy Winter deep space sky!


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