Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Incredible Shrinking Mars, Revisited!

This is a follow up to my previous post, The Incredible Shrinking Mars!

The TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read) version of my post is:  Mars is moving further away from us and from our perspective is appearing smaller in the sky.

From last night's observation session, subject of this post, I have a new image of Mars with which to compare apparent sizes.

This is a composite of three of my Mars image captures.  The bottom Mars image is from last night.  The next image up was captured only eighteen days ago!

Shrinking Mars
Mars is rapidly shrinking.  If you haven't yet seen it through a telescope, don't miss it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Mars' Giant Impact Crater!

We finally had a break in the clouds last night.

The moon was shining brightly and the gusts in the breeze were enough to nudge the telescope.

Not optimum astronomy conditions, but I persevered.

The break in the clouds was brief.  Clouds started rolling in again about an hour after I had all of the equipment set up.

Just enough time to take a visual peek at Mars and then attach the imager to capture a few tens of thousands of frames of video.

I'm pretty happy that with the results.  I have never captured a full image of Hellas Planitia before.

Hellas Planitia is a huge meteorite impact  basin located in Mars' southern hemisphere. This landmark has an impact crater ring 1,400 miles (2,300 km) in diameter.  It is easily visible from Earth when Mars is not undergoing a huge planet encircling dust storm! 

This is what the Virtual Planet Atlas model predicts for Mars at last night's observing date and time.
Virtual Plant Atlas, Sept 22nd, 2018 at 0120 UTC
And here is the image that I captured.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

No Mars, How About a Nice Sombrero Instead?

No new activity with the telescope last week. 

Clouds, wind, and rain prevailed on the East Coast.

While I was planning future astronomy sessions, I rummaged through my hard drive and found this image from March of this year.

It's the Sombrero Galaxy, M104, and it's one of my favorites. 

Sombrero Galaxy, M104, March 2018 from my backyard.
Pretty isn't it?

The imager that I used was my ZWO ASI224MC.

The image was created using electronically assisted astronomy techniques.  I used SharpCap to perform the image capture and used its live stacking capability.  Exposure time of each frame was only 2 seconds and 110 frames were stacked.

So, this image was fully formed in 220 seconds.  No post processing necessary.  I just selected "Save as viewed" from SharpCap's live stacking menu.

While the image is pretty, it does illustrate one of the shortcomings of my imager.  Some of the stars are bloated.  This is a consequence of cranking up the gain and the exposure time so that dimmer parts of the object can be seen -- parts of the object and nearby stars are overexposed.

I'm thinking that I need to upgrade from this imager to one that has greater sensitivity, a "deeper well," and a greater field of view.  🤓

If I do this, I will need to revisit all of the objects that I've ever imaged and do a compare and contrast analysis . . .

Next time?  More Mars?  I want to capture lots of Mars images as it shrinks into the distance from us.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Incredible Shrinking Mars!

If you haven't had a chance to take a peek at Mars through a telescope yet, you'd better hurry!  Mars is shrinking into nothingness.

Shrinking?  Well, not really.  But from our perspective on Earth, Mars is now noticeably smaller than as it appeared in July when it was at opposition.

Soon, Mars will be just a little tiny red dot in the sky.  It'll be too small to see any features and all of the fun I've had with Mars will be over.


This image is a composite of two of my Mars captures.  Each Mars in this composite was captured from my backyard at the same magnification with my usual equipment and processed in the usual way.  No additional zooming or scaling was applied.

I merely copied and pasted an image of Mars from July 27th into a file with an image of Mars from last weekend, September 3rd's image, to be specific. And then I added some expository text and graphics.

Look! Mars is shrinking!

Mars's Apparent Size, Now Versus Opposition 

Over the next several months, I'll sadly be watching as Mars continues to get further away from us, knowing that it'll be another two years and fifty days until Mars' next opposition.

Next week? Assuming the sky isn't pouring buckets of rain down on us as it is now, more (smaller) Mars.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Mars and Guatemala Antigua

Best Mars image, yet!

At least for this opposition, anyway.

The astronomy forecast wasn't great, but I went outside to check the sky regardless.  I'm kind of a Luddite that way; Rather than trust what that little phone screen is telling me, sometimes I take a peek for myself.

I'm glad I did.  It was a dark clear sky.  Mars was beckoning brightly with steady intensity.

The number one problem was that I didn't plan for an astronomy session.  I didn't have the equipment staged and ready to go out the door and I was dead tired from the day's activity.  I didn't even get a chance to nap . . . 

Tired?  That was easily taken care of with a pot of my favorite coffee.  This is my preferred astronomy coffee!
Guatemala Antigua, Astronomer's Choice!
I dragged the equipment outside in a piecemeal fashion, got the telescope aligned, and focused on Mars!

Five weeks or so post opposition and the volcanoes on Mars haven't ever been so clearly evident in one of my Mars images.  I counted four of them.  And, I think that I can make out the Valles Marineris system of canyons

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