Jump to content


Photo

Mars on the Rise


  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 Lenny

Lenny

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 23 posts
  • LocationUSA, West Virginia, Clarksburg

Posted 15 March 2014 - 12:16 AM

The last month, while observing Jupiter and other such brighter objects from my front yard, I turned my attention due East in an effort to locate Mars.  I knew it was about the time for the planet to break the Horizon.  Thus, with my naked eye I found it clinging low to the edge of the earth.   Since then, I have turned two scopes to the planet,  my Orion 8" F6 DOB, and my Orion 80MM F7.5 APO.  Neither revealed much detail due to the planet's position.  Placed that low in the sky, where seeing and transparency are generally terrible, the image broke down as I upped the mag to 200X.  I had to settle for a small pinkish dot. 

 

None the less within the next few months Mars should rise to a higher and better observational altitude and at a more decent hour.    Perhaps during one of those observing attempts everything will come together and Mars will let me have a good look.  That is the allure of Mars; almost everything has to work out for good views.  One needs good optics, good sky conditions, and good position in the sky.  Finally, if all that works out, the planet itself has to cooperate.  There are times when one may have all of those before mentioned points, and the  planet will not give up views, as when dust storms obscure the globe.  On  rare occasions, everything works out and one may get a nice view of surface detail.   You probably know this, but it bares repeating, Mars is the only planet on which the amateur may observe surface detail.    

 

Since I started in this hobby December of 2000,  I have observed such detail on Mars about two or three times.   To realize the extent of my futility, you need to consider how often I have made attempts at the Red planet.  That would be many, many times; too difficult to number, but surely a success rate of less then 5 %.   Most often I would struggle to get a quick view of one surface point.  But, on those few nights when everything works out, well those become legendary  nights.  

 

 So, I will dutifully take out my scopes, and train them on the red planet with the hope of a "wow" moment.   If that fails, well there will be Saturn...

 

Lenny 


  • Neil likes this

#2 Neil

Neil

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 1,493 posts
  • LocationThe Netherlands

Posted 15 March 2014 - 05:16 PM

Excellent write up Lenny,

 

I must admit that I too have never had too much time for Mars. I think thats because most astronomer know that its such a difficult target, since its so small!

 

As you say Lenny, once it starts to rise more out of the lower layers of the atmosphere I'll also have another go.

 

Clear Skies

 

 

Neil.



#3 Lenny

Lenny

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 23 posts
  • LocationUSA, West Virginia, Clarksburg

Posted 15 March 2014 - 09:48 PM

I On the other hand, observing Mars has taught me some important observing skills such as:  1) Patience - It may take most of the night, but usually I will get some type of view.  Mars is one reason I purchased a goto mount.   2) The advantage of a goto mount - I used to push my DOB or use my slow mo controls on the mount supporting my 114MM reflector to track Mars.  I really didn't mind pushing etc, but I missed some decent views while manually tracking due to the vibrations caused by this motion,  and the time it takes to reset the object within the FOV.  Another advantage of a goto, keeping in the object in the center of the FOV where eyepieces perform better.  3) Good observing techniques - One has to really see, and not expect the details to jump out at you.  Observing is a skill that is slowly learned.  4) Proper use of observing equipment - One needs to get every bit of use from the equipment used when observing Mars.  I once purchased a Variable Polarizing Filter because I needed to dim the view.  This inexpensive accessory really works.  5) Appreciation and contentment - When I first got into this hobby and older astronomer once sent the comment via email, " You should appreciate and enjoy what you can see tonight and not what you wish you could see."  That is how I approach Mars, in fact every night I go out I keep this one thing in mind,  I want to have fun, to enjoy myself.  If I am not doing so, I will quit.

 

That concept of enjoyment rules my outlook concerning amateur astronomer.  It is what I consider whenever I go out to observe, read material such as equipment reviews, even when I write about observing, or report on equipment, or purchase equipment.   Recently I purchased three eyepieces and a barlow.  With the exception of the barlow none were needful for me.   I bought three Meade Series 4000 Super Plossls; a 20MM, a 12.4MM, and a 9.7MM.  To be sure, they filled a few niches, and I will enjoy using them, but otherwise I did not have any compelling reason to purchase them.   The barlow was a TPO 5X.  I actually need it when using my 80MM APO because of the short FL of 600MM.  This is one reason why I have never took up imaging.  I knew I would cease to enjoy the hobby and work to obtain a good image.

 

So, I am glad for Mars.  One usually learns lessons during difficult times.  Mars sure makes it difficult to observe....

 

Lenny          


  • Neil likes this

#4 Neil

Neil

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • 1,493 posts
  • LocationThe Netherlands

Posted 17 March 2014 - 02:55 PM

Humm... You actually hit a bit of a sore point here Lenny but its OK with me. I think your attitude to ''going out and enjoying what you can see" is very admirable  and not pining over what you wish you could see etc... The issue that imaging bring is the immediate ability to compare results rather than arguing over differing view points of two observers. Unfortunately, this is self defeating since you very quick realize the limitation of your location and weather conditions which you can do nothing about, other that move somewhere else? I do enjoy imaging and astronomy... Here it comes... I just wish that I could get the most from my equipment! Sadly the equipment is not the limiting factor!

 

Like you, I do enjoy simply observing the universe and will do so on nights that are not suitable for imaging, since the human eye is more tolerant than a CCD camera, I just wish that I had your flair for writing up your observations from your eyepiece. Some of my best observations are made with the Mewlon on marginal nights simply scanning lunar craters, fantastic. At times, you almost feel like you can reach out and touch them. Saturn and Jupiter look great too, however, in all of the time that I have own this telescope I have never turned it towards Mars? Well that's going to change next month.

 

I have made the table on Mars for April 2014 using python and pyephem for reference.

 

Mars April 2014.JPG

 

Looks like the middle of April 2014 Mars will reach its maximum apparent size.

 

Clear Skies

 

 

Neil.



#5 WarriorsDrink

WarriorsDrink

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 187 posts

Posted 17 March 2014 - 06:21 PM

I must say having seen mars on one of those special nights when conditions are almost perfect, it's quite a sight and totally blew me away. Now don't get me wrong Jupiter and Saturn are awesome as well and I'll never tire of looking at them but for me because it has so many earth like features it really struck a chord and I fully understand why Sir Patrick Moore was so in love with the Red planet

#6 Lenny

Lenny

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 23 posts
  • LocationUSA, West Virginia, Clarksburg

Posted 25 March 2014 - 12:35 AM

HI:

 

I really enjoyed both of  those last two posts.  Neil, I understand the love one might have for imaging.  I have seen many pics in the various astronomy mags that are just amazing and I wonder if I have the patience for such an endeavor.   The following post by WarriorsDrink was also nice.  Mars just seems special. 

 

 

Having replied to those very nice posts I would like to add a subset to this line.  Saturday night I took out my 80MM F7.5 Orion APO.  I had noticed Jupiter high in the sky and even though I had to get up early Sunday morning I decided to take out my grab and go for a look.   The views were nice and clear as the sky was very stable.  So stable that I easily pushed the mag to 180X using my Celestron 10MM x cell EP with a 3X TeleVue barlow.    I enjoyed that view for a while than turned the scope to the Orion Nebulae.  Using my 18MM x cell and my 14MM Meade Series 5000 plossl provided very nice, aesthetically pleasing views. 

 

It was getting late so I began to pack things up when I noticed Mars peaking over my neighbor's house.  It was so bright and the sky so stable I decided to take a look.  At 60X (the 10MM x cell alone) the planet showed no detail, but shined steady with a clear outline.  I upped the mag to 100X, the 18MM and the 3X barlow, which gave me a very nice view at which I could detect some detail.  Pushing to 128X, the 14MM EP with the 3x barlow, revealed more surface detail.  The Northern pole area was brighter then other sections of the globe while the Southern pole had a grayish white tint.  The gray area continued up in a narrow strip on both side of the planet to mid globe.  Within the outline of both poles were darken areas easily viewable.  I cannot be sure and have not had the time to verify the observation, but it might have been Sinus Meridiani or Major.  At any rate the view was extraordinary. 

 

I pushed the scope to 163X with an 11MM TeleVue plossl and the 3X barlow and finally up to 200X using my 9MM Antaries Ortho and the 3X.  Even at 200X the view was stable.  However, at that mag the planet was quickly moving out of the FOV.  I settled on the 11MM at 163X for a great view that I could keep in the FOV for a decent amount of time before adjusting the scope/mount.   The sky was so stable I seldom had to adjust the focus.   Unfortunately as I earlier wrote, I had to get up in the morning so I was pressed for time. If that was not the case, I would have tried other means to obtain higher magnifications such as pairing my 5X Barlolw with my 18MM, 17MM or 15MM EPs.  I also gave some thought to using my variable polarizing filter to dim the view just a bit.  However I had to go in so I packed up the scope.

 

Finally, after I came in and gave some thought to what I had observed I was reminded of the recent posts just made a few days earlier concerning the subject of Mars.   It is really special when one is able to observe the surface detail.  I hope there are many more opportunities this year.

 

Lenny






Thank you for your interest in our Astronomy Forum...
It looks like you haven't joined us yet?
Why don't you register to get all the features of being a member! Its free!