Mars Observation Feb 5, 2010 UT

Mars Feb 05, 2010 UT 0:15 – 1:00 UT
CM : 349.8 – 1.0
Instrument: 9.5-inch (241.3-mm) f/15 A. Clark Refractor
Magnification: 172x and 241x
Filters: Blue W80 and Yellow W15
Seeing: 6-7
Transparency (SAC): 4

The first views of 2010 opposition of Mars with the 9.5 inch f/15 A. Clark Refractor

My main objective of the night was imaging various Messier Objects with the RC-20, a project of one of the Astronomy Class students. A thin layer of clouds turned the sky to grayish color. Only the brighter stars of Orion and stars of the other constellations made their way through the clouds. No chance getting acceptable photos of galaxies and planetary nebula on the schedule tonight.

However this made Mars a prime visual observing target with the Clark Refractor. Having missed out looking at the planet with telescopes because of the long periods of overcast skies and single digit temps, this would be a chance to get a look at the planet. Even with the small halo around the planet, seeing conditions were over all very good. Better views as the planet climbed higher.

By the time I arrived most of the 15 or so Astronomy Class students had already taken a look through the eyepiece. When it was my turn at the eyepiece the view was not good at all, slightly out of focus and over magnified for the seeing conditions at the time. A 21mm plossel improved the view considerably. The seeing settled down and the edges of the planet were sharp. The right angle diagonal was removed, so I could view it straight through the scope. I prefer this setup over the other.

The NPC stood out as a very bright white easy target, bordered by a darker collar surface. Above the NPC and rotating into view Mare Acidalium was an easy dusty region. Further south a bright white feature hugging the limb. Half the size of the NPC it was the second brightest feature seen tonight. I have never seen a bright marking as this before close to the equatorial region of Mars, I assumed it to be a very bright morning cloud on the limb. It was surprising easy to see without the use of a filter. It was slightly brighter when viewed with blue and green filters. Near the CM, Sinus Sabaeus stretch across the southern hemisphere of Mars. Rotating out of view was Syrtis Major, marked only as a darker feature close to the limb. Seeing was acceptable when the magnification was increased with a 15 mm Panoptic eyepiece. Steady views more that unstable conditions. More of Sinus Sabawus was seen and the bright white clouds on the limb still an easy target.

Overall I was very pleased with tonight’s first long awaited view of the 2010 opposition of Mars. The students enjoyed the view also their second time around.

This web site has a photo closely matches the eyepiece view.

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