Mars Elusive

From urban Phoenix, this is probably as good as it’s going to get during the “apparition” or current period of closeness.

Viewers with a 3″ Tasco or AC Gilbert scope and a good viewing location will no doubt get a visually more satisfying image than this. However, the image to the left is a faithful reproduction of what we’re seeing through our 8″ LX-90 from the back yard in Phoenix.

This is the best of five images, focused as carefully as the LX-90 allows. We see an essentially featureless, blurry, yellow to sandy red ball. We see a hint of albedo that shows up as a false banding. Nothing so encouraging as a south polar ice cap, though it is late in the season and we’ve seen it earlier in the year.

The image on this page would probably be great if available visual detail were great. The blurriness and image size on this page is about what we were seeing with very careful focussing of the LX-90 with a 7.5mm Orion Lanthanum eyepiece. It was taken with a D100 digital camera at ISO 1000, 1/100 second. Coupler was a Meade variable-projection camera adapter. No camera lens or eyepiece is used in this setup. The raw JPG image was cropped and magnified to 200% (2x) in PhotoShop, but otherwise unprocessed.

In the SF Bay Area, strong winds had produced clearer than normal night skies (when it was not foggy). Due to our own schedules, our last hope for Mars this year is up north, whenever OPT is able to ship the new CG5-GT mount for our 10″ Big Bertha.

“We have a 4″ (or so) reflector, and I was able to convince myself that I could see a central spot and a white cap.  The mind does wondrous things.” — Dave N.”… and we had an 8″ reflector, and were therefore twice as convinced.” — Alex

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