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Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
 DESTINATION MARS
 
No, not a new scifi movie, but an honest to goodness observing and imaging session from my driveway.  It has been a while.....since mid December that the weather has permitted anything but a quick peak at the sky.   I tried imaging a couple of nights before, but gave up due to terrible seeing conditions.
 
Last night, the views were variable.....from light clouds to fog to crystal clear.   A small mishap with a broken power cord delayed me until about 10:30pm.   A screw driver, sissors, kitchen knife, and some duct tape solved that problem.
 
Mars is a tiny target.....the disk being less than 14 arcseconds in apparent size.   Not expecting much, I set up my son's 6" Dob.   At 44x, Mars is a tiny featureless dot.   At 120x, after the scope cooled down, the disk was large enough to see some detail.....dark markings in the northern and southern hemispheres as well as the south polar cap.  About this time, my friend Neil Heacock came by.......while I got my webcam imaging gear up and running, Neil got some great intermittent views at 200x.  The seeing would come and go, but the clear periods were really quite amazing.   They were the best views of Mars in my memory.
 
The imaging session wasn't quite as successful.  To get any scale on the planet with my little 4" Maksutov-Cassegrain scope, I need to shoot at magnifications well past the scope's limits.  Tonight I imaged at 795x!  The webcam is the approximate equivalent of a 5mm eyepiece,
 
1325mm focal length x 3x barlow / 5mm = 795x  
 
The attached photo is 1466 frames at 33 frames per second  at 1/25th of a second exposure time.  11:30pm PST 2/9/10
 
Celestron NexStar 4se
Celestron CG5 GT mount
Philips ToUcam Pro II
cheapo 3x barlow
 
 
* Boy, would I love more aperture and a high quality barlow.  I think this image would better reflect the seeing conditions.
 
This is the result of a rather fast trip through Registax 5, and a little cleaning up in Paint Shop Pro Photo.
 
* oops.....Mars was incorrectly labeled.  corrected now.
 
The last image added (Mars_E_2b label) is a re-processing of the above video clip.  I don't think the extra care improved the image much, if at all.   The raw video is what it is.   Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. 
 


Image Gallery For This Session
Mars 2 9 10 1130pm PST b2 Mars E 2b label
Mars d Mars d correct labels
   

Mars_2_9_10_11.30pm_PST_b2.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
|
  



Comments:
On 02/13/10 at 09:48pm Barry wrote:
I know what you meant Neil. Every now and then a night of exceptional seeing comes along, but it is rare to be set up on one of those nights. This night was above average, but with my equipment, I need one of those rare nights to get a really good image. The first goal is always to equal the view through the eyepiece. I think it does that, but you always hope for better.

Our weather has been so poor that it is nearly impossible to be out on the right night. If you get a week or two of clear weather, you can be out often enough to have a chance of being out when the seeing is great. I would love more aperture and a quality 5x barlow (almost mandatory with Mars this small). 2003 must have been something!

On 02/13/10 at 05:51pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Yes, you're right Barr. The photo has much more detail in it then we were seeing at the eyepiece. But it also matches my description of what I did see and describe in my entry (is what I meant).

I think all things considered it's a great picture and certainly better then any picture of Mars I've ever taken.

-Neil


On 02/13/10 at 04:03pm Barry wrote:
When I looked in the eyepiece....I didn't see as much detail in the southern (north in the photo) hemisphere dark area....was more of a blotch. I didn't see any of the faint streaks crossing the equator. I also didn't see the hint of the south (north in photo) polar cap that is just barely evident in the images. The eyepiece view was crisper in some respects.....800x is asking a lot of a 4" scope. LOL

On 02/13/10 at 01:30pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Barr, this didn't turn out half bad. It definitely shows the details that I posted I was seeing in my entry. I suppose it was crisper in the eyepiece, but it wasn't 800x power!

-Neil

On 02/10/10 at 07:34pm Barry wrote:
Thanks Jeff. I had high hopes that they would be better, but Mars is so darn small. Even with good seeing, my equipment is just not quite up to the challenge.

On 02/10/10 at 05:54pm Jeff W wrote:
Those are great images of mars. I like the labeled version as well. Keep up the great work.

Jeff W.



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