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!
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.
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.
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
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.