Saturday, June 16, 2018

Weekly Mars, a Double, a Little Gem, and the Lagoon

The astronomy weather forecast for this morning by Astrospheric was right on the money.  The sky was nearly cloudless, completely moonless, had average seeing, and had average transparency.

Good enough to bring the telescope out.  And, I didn't have to burn a vacation day from work to do it.


 After getting the equipment situated, I attached the imager and immediately captured many tens of thousands of frames of Mars for "seeing conditions going south" insurance purposes.  I then continued my survey of the sky surrounding Mars -- like I did in last week's post, "Mars' Neighbors."

Mars is still in Capricornus so I thought I'd take a look at the stars that define that constellation's shape.  I'm pretty pleased that I did!  At least one of Capricornus' stars is a double.  These two stars, Algedi Secunda and Algedi Prima, are separated by only a little over 6 minutes.  To the unaided eye, they appear as one star!

Algedi Secunda and Algedi Prima

Diffraction spikes are pretty!

Just to the right of this double, by about 8 degrees, is another gem of a find!

NGC 6818, The Little Gem Nebula

This is apparently also known as the "Green Mars Nebula," making it entirely fitting to be mentioned in this blog.

It's a beautiful bluish-green!

The Milky Way arches completely across my sky when the moon isn't out.  It starts in the constellation Sagittarius, which always beckons exploration.  With Mars so nearby, the allure is strong . . . Sometimes, I point the telescope at Sagittarius and just slowly move it upwards, seeing whatever happens to come into view.  But, not this morning.  I stopped at the Lagoon Nebula and admired its pool of pinkish-purple.

M 8, The Lagoon Nebula

Pinkish-purple!  To the unassisted eye, the Lagoon Nebula doesn't have any color.  It merely appears as a light gray dim pool of light.  It was exciting to watch as each successive frame added by SharpCap brought out the color and detail.  If you don't have SharpCap, what are you waiting for?  Purchase a pro license to support its author.  It's only £10 (GBP) for a year of great Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA). (Note that I have no affiliation with SharpCap.  I'm just a very satisfied user.)

And dust lanes, too!

And then, finally, Mars was at its apex around 0424.  The seeing conditions had not deteriorated since I made my "insurance" captures a few hours previously.

Mars, The Red Planet

So far, the huge dust storm on Mars has not yet obscured all of Mars' features.  There may be sad days ahead of us, though.

Dusty Mars?  Please, No!

Here is what the Virtual Planet Atlas calculates for Mars on June 16th, 2018.

Mars, courtesy of the Virtual Planet Atlas.

More to come next week!



  1. Oh dear, I hope the dust storm doesn't cover up all of Mars just as it's getting closer!

    1. It looks pretty grim. But, I'm still planning on taking a week off near the end of July to maximize my observing opportunities. ;-)

  2. I'm sort of smitten with that Little Gem Nebula!

    I thought about you when I went outside on Saturday night and noticed the waxing crescent moon setting around 9:00 or so and the clear skies.

    1. The Little Gem Nebula is one of those that stand out when you are looking at it through the eyepiece sans electronic aid. It appears bluish-green visually rather than as wispy shades of difficult to see gray, like most other deep space objects.


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