Monday, June 8, 2020

Mars, on Fire

Clear sky was forecast for this morning, along with below average seeing.

I had a vibrate only alarm set on my Garmin.  I planned to test the forecast.  I used the "silent" alarm on the Garmin so the kitties wouldn't be confused and think it was breakfast time for them.

Yes, we are a multi-cat family.  We have the furry kind of cats.  And we have my Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, which is a member of the catadioptric family.

 Buzz.  The alarm did its job.  I dutifully went outside to check the sky.

It was clear.  Nary a wisp of a cloud.  Blessed with a clear sky.

I moved the car out of the garage into the driveway.  I put the ramp down over the step from the house to the garage.  I rolled the Cat over the ramp, through the garage, to its location on the driveway.  Next, the observing table, on wheels, too.  And finally, the chair.  All of the equipment was out.

Ten minutes later, the Cat was leveled and powered up.  Laptop was booted and USB cable attached to the Cat.

I looked up, ready to start the alignment.  Gotta build a good model of the sky to be able to find objects.

This is what I saw.  Horrors.  Cloudy horrors.

Hey!  Where did the clouds come from?
I sat, dejectedly, in the observing chair, observing clouds.

Occasionally, a hole would open and I could briefly see a star or two.

More importantly, Polaris would peak through to torment me.  At least I could use that to tell the Cat where true north was.  That's the first step of alignment, anyway.

The laptop was running CPWI, Celestron's telescope control software, taking place of the old handheld controller.  I used CPWI's representation of the sky to find other alignment stars as they peeked through the holes.

Finally, the Cat was aligned.

I sat waiting.  Hopes were not high.  More coffee.  

The clouds were moving quickly, though.  That tempered my expectations as to seeing conditions should the sky clear.

Finally.

Look closely.  Mars.

Mars.

I pointed the Cat at Mars and it was beautiful.  Polar icecap was evident.

But, the turbulence made it look like Mars was dancing and on fire.

Here are a couple of frames from the imager. Click to make bigger.

Mars, on Fire, imager frame

Mars, on Fire, another frame

I ran the imager for dozens of minutes, hoping to be able use "lucky imaging" to tease something useful out of the data.

I think I was successful.

Mars
Mars is tiny and its opposition is still four months away.  Here, you can see hints of some of Mars' surface features, including the northern polar icecap.











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