Friday, May 20, 2016

Mars Opposition 2016

An opposition of Mars is when the planet is on the opposite side of earth from the sun. This makes the planet shine brighter as we are seeing it fully illuminated. This also coincides with the point of closest approach of Mars to earth, making it appear larger.

Though the true opposition of Mars is supposed to be on Sunday evening, tonight was likely my only chance at a clear night.  I set up a Canon 60Da with a 5x Televue barlow on a TMB-130ss 5 inch refractor for this shot. I had some difficulty getting good seeing due to a combination of the early evening and limited time for the dome to equalize in temperature. I grabbed a few 2 minute movies at 60 fps in the special 640x480 video crop mode offered in the 60Da and selected the best of these. I used Registax v6 to align, stack, and sharpen the movie frames into a single still image. I made additional tweaks to the alignment of color channels, as well as contrast and brightness in Photoshop.

Despite the poor seeing, the image certainly has recognizable features. You can discern Syrtis Major Planum as the dark projection on the west side of the image. The dark region near the north pole is Utopia Planitia. The light patch in the northeast is in the region of Elysium Mons, perhaps due to clouds or a dust storm. Both the north and south polar caps are visible with the southern cap appearing larger to me. This is consistent with the fact that season in the northern hemisphere of Mars is currently late summer.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled El Nino rains and clouds here in Texas.

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