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twotter

Jupiter & Mars 18 April 2014

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I've taken quite a break from observing over the last year, with only the odd session, but with Mars coming back into view it was time for me to get back out under the stars. January 2010 is one of my most memorable observing highlights with wonderful views of Mars firmly fixed in my minds eye. Back then I was using my 200P dob with GSO & Meade 4000 plossls. This time I've also got my TAL100R and my Hyperion eyepieces.

Last night I was out from 23:00 using the TAL on it's AZ4 mount. Jupiter looked quite pale but with clear bands on the disc - NEB, SEB & NTB especially. The GRS wasn't visible, but Io, Europa, Ganymede & Callisto were spread evenly, 2 moons on either side of the planet. Given that Jupiter was quite low and heading into the LP from Peterborough I was pleased with the view :)

Mars was peaking around our conservatory so it was time for the TAL to 'see' the red planet for the first time. This was more of a challenge as the view was quite intermittent, with some moments of clarity. The AZ4 proved itself yet again with smooth movement that allowed me to track the target easily. In the clear moments Mars showed a bright polar ice cap, dusty reds to the centre and darker surface features around the edge of the disc. I could have spent hours drinking in the view and enjoying every second, but I had a question in my mind...was tonight better than my memory of that 2010 session?

The only fair comparison was to bring out my 200P dob. I was committing the cardinal sin of not allowing time for the dob to cool enough, but I thought it would be okay coming from an unheated room which had been open to the night air for the last hour. Turned out I was wrong, but only for a while :)

A quick lift and the dob was on the patio. Jupiter was too low for the dob to view but this was all about Mars. I was really excited about this and the first view was highly anticipated but proved to be very disappointing. Mars was a very bright, almost yellow, blob with no surface detail and strange lines coming off it! Defocussing showed swirling heat patterns, and I remembered those strange lines were diffraction spikes...I'd forgotten about those. The only answer was to wait for the OTA to cool and try again...but I'm impatient, so I kept looking until things improved. The view was still intermittent but in the moments of clarity there was more detail than the TAL could show. Lovely colours and the polar ice cap was quite beautiful. There was even a suggestion of a moon just by the disc, but was I imagining that....probably! 

All was going so well then reality struck in the form of our neighbour's dog needing to use their garden, together with two bright spotlights to light it's way, which put a stop to the session.

So, how was it?

Brilliant!

Mars was a beautiful sight through both telescopes. As expected the 200P dob showed more detail than the TAL but I did find the diffraction spikes to be a distraction. Both telescopes were easy to use and the Hyperions worked very well in both the F6 reflector and F10 refractor. The viewing conditions were not as good as in 2010 but in the clear moments Mars was a great sight....just that 2010 was even better :)

For the future I may look at a bigger refractor, or perhaps a SCT...though I will have to remember to let it cool!

Happy observing everyone :D

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