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11/30/-1
    
Thursday, October 27th, 2005
Boy... being an amateur astronomer in the Northwest is a lave hate kind of thing. We have pretty mild light polution as far as long distance saturation goes, as well as some phenomenal viewing locations... but the clouds.. sheesh! This tim eof year we go weeks without observing anyting other than interesting cloud formations!
 
Anyway, tonight was excellent as far as October weather goes. Though the ground fog was think from time to time, over the course of 2 hours I had an excellent observation session. My brother came by and shared some views with me taht made it even better.
 
The seeing was spotty, but about every minute or two the views would crisp up for a few seconds and offer some excellent detail.
 
Mars 
There was only one object on the agenda again tonight: Mars. It's reaching full opposition and getting bigger and brighter by the week. I purchased a 1.25" Red filter (GSO Red #25 - $15.00) for bringing down the brightness of Mars while raising the contrast between the dark and light potions of the planets surface.
 
One of the things I noticed right away when observing Mars is that once again, my expectations were too high. Most of the detail on the planet came out only after staring at it for 40 minutes! Initially, if I could see any variation on the surface, I saw very little - and certainly nothing I'd call "detail". Splotchiness is more descriptive of what I saw after the first 10 minutes of staring. Slowly, I could make out more and more detail. Part of it was the seeing conditions, but I think most of it was just knowing what to expect.
 
I ended up bumping the magnification up to 600x and spent the remainder of the evening looking at it at that power. When the seeing crisped up, it was amazing. The blotches became features where I could see edge detail that reminded me of a Mandlebrot fractal.
 
I don't know all of the features on Mars, so I can't really speak to what I was seeing, but suffice it to say that after really trying to spend time absorbing the detail (which isn't so easy), I'll remember the views for many years to come.





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