Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mars' Neighbors

Another cloudy weekend.

Friday morning looked good, however.  I took yet another vacation day from work so I could take a long post-astronomy nap after staying out all night with the telescope.

Mars rise was actually just a few minutes after midnight.  By the time I had all of the equipment outside and set up, Mars was already high enough in the sky that I could start observing.

Its southern polar ice cap was visible and so brilliantly white through my eyepiece that my jaw dropped.  I quickly put the imager on and captured a few tens of thousands of frames for insurance's sake; I wanted images of Mars, but I'd rather have them when Mars is higher in the sky -- less atmospheric murk through which to peer. 

While the Astrospheric forecast said that seeing was going to get better as dawn approached, if I'd waited and the clouds rolled in, I'd be really unhappy.

Mars was to cross the meridian shortly before 0500 and that would probably be optimum for imaging.

So, I bided my time by exploring the neighborhood around Mars.
Well, at least the neighborhood of Mars from our perspective here on Earth.  Mars is currently in the constellation, Capricornus.

There are some interesting things to see around Capricornus.  Some images to follow after the jump break and, of course, the latest image of Mars!

NGC 7009

Here is an image of a planetary nebula, NGC 7009, also known as the "Saturn Nebula."   It's small and bright so it is difficult to tease out details with electronically assisted astronomy (EAA) techniques, but I think you can see the structure from which it gets its name.

The Saturn Nebula

M 30

Nearby was the globular cluster, M 30, also known as the "Jellyfish Cluster."

The Jellyfish Cluster
M 75

Also nearby was another globular cluster, M 75.  I took advantage of this one to sharpen the focus of the telescope before slewing over to the final target of the session, Mars!

M 75 -- sadly, it has no "also known as . . ."

I started capturing many more tens of thousands of frames of Mars (think "lucky imaging techniques") starting at 0459.  This is one of resulting images.

Mars, the Red Planet, June 8th, 2018 at 0459.
Here is what the Virtual Planet Atlas calculates for the face of Mars on June 8th, 2018 at 0459.

Virtual Planet Atlas image of Mars for the viewing date and time.

Next weekend,  I'll be out there again to capture another image of Mars.  There is still over a month to go until opposition and Mars' visual observations and imaging are shaping up nicely!


  1. I like that you can see the southern polar ice cap so well in your image. Good post!

    1. Thanks! We are planning our next ski trip to be on the slopes of the southern pole of Mars. ;-)

  2. Wow!! A Jelly Fish Neb!! Thanks for the details and sharing your work.... downloaded Registax and Stackkert. So ready for a new scope! Hoping to see M57 tonight.

    1. Yes! The Jellyfish Cluster. Beware of the giant tentacles from outer space.

      If you want some data with which to practice processing, here is a resource, courtesy of a nice person on Cloudy Nights: Data, data, and more data!


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