I find the recent events concerning a few posts and the planet Mars very interesting. We had wrote about the difficulty in observing Mars. Yet, when all the conditions were right and Mars revealed itself, the results could be memorable. A few nights after those posts, I had an observing session on which the images of Mars were just great. I posted that observing session. I ended my post by writing "I hope there are more opportunities this year..." I had know way of knowing how soon that would occur.
On 3/26/14 I again noticed the sky looked very good for observing. It was getting late, and I had to get up early for work so I decided to take out my Orion 80MM F7.5 APO. I used the following eyepieces: 18MM and 10MM Celestron x cells, a 14MM Meade series 5000 plossl, a 12.4MM Meade series 4000 plossl, a Tele Vue 11MM plossl, a Meade 9.7 series 4000 plossl, and a 9MM Antares Ortho. Also, I used a Tele Vue 3X Barlow, and a Celestron 2x Ultima Barlow. I know that is a good bit of oculars, but I find that even the smallest change in magnification can greatly effect the image of a planet. Also, it is helpful to change the way you produce a specific magnification, IE, a 10MM EP with a 2X barlow or a 15MM EP with a 3X barlow. At times, even using a barlow/EP combo or achieving the specific magnification with an EP alone makes a difference.
I turned the scope to Jupiter. It was very clear at 60X, and than at 100X (the 18MM and the 3X barlow). I found I could push the mag to 180x (the 10MM with the 3X barlow) without much breakdown of image. The keys here are clarity and stability. Since I could see all the four observable Moons, and the GRS was not visible, I decided to turn my attention to Mars which again was rising high above my neighbors house.
I located Mars with the 14MM Meade Series 5000 plossl. As it has an FOV of 60 degrees it provides very nice if marginally wide views. With the 3X TV Barlow, it gave a mag of 128X. At that mag I could make out some surface detail. Upping the mag to 180X was good, but I lost some detail. So, I backed down to 164X, the 11MM TV plossl and the 3X TV barlow. At that mag I had some great views.
I could barely discern a light area on the North polar region. I was able to observe dark markings on both the East and Western areas or the planet. Between those markings and the edge of the globe was a grayish area the ran from the South polar region up to the mid latitudes. This observing session was much like the previous nights except the middle of the planet. There I observed a lighter area without any dark marks. It had a light peach color. In the upper left area of that mid region I noticed a small tubular object. It was about 1/10 of the size of the rest of the middle region. What made this tubular area stand out was the color. It was almost white. For whatever reason that tube was difficult to observe. When it dimmed I resorted to adverted vision. I am not sure why this occurred, or what I was observing. I think it was the result of some type of distortion caused by the planet's atmosphere and a possible dust storm because I cannot place a white area in the mid Northern temperate region of Mars. Whatever I was observing, it was very interesting.
I stayed out later than I anticipated, taking an hour on Mars as again the surface detail was marvelous. Also, I want to mention my equipment as it performed very well. As always the Orion APO did a first rate job. The Tele Vue 15MM and 11MM plossls, the Celestron 18MM x cell, and Meade 14MM oculars provided excellent views.
It was another nice night. I hope there are many more to come this year....