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The best way to view Mars...


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By the time you finish reading this sentence, you'll be 25 miles closer to the planet Mars.

Earth is racing toward Mars at a speed of 23,500 mph, which means the red planet is getting bigger and brighter by the minute. In October, when the two planets are closest together, Mars will outshine everything in the night sky except Venus and the Moon. (You're another 50 miles closer: keep reading!). http://tinyurl.com/asy9k

Perhaps the planetary observers here could prepare the rest of us for this event. 

What is the ideal telescope for observing Mars?

What is the best magnification?

What type of eyepiece should we be using?

Will filters help?

Anything else we should know when viewing Mars?

It'll be over a decade before we get another opportunity to see Mars this close ... so lets make the most of it :)

Thanks,

Steve :)

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Good post Steve. And you're definately right, everyone should take the opportunity to view Mars.

My number 1 tip is this:

*****PLEASE DO NOT WAIT UNTIL NOVEMBER TO SEE MARS. ESPECIALLY DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE 7TH NOVEMBER*****

Mars is ready NOW. Get out there start enjoying THE show of the year. It's already started. I keep hearing so many people saying isn't Mars going to be great in November. Well there's a good chance that no it won't be. There's a very real chance that it'll rain through the entire month of November. And definitely don't build yourself up for the 7th November.......chances of good night...not much!

Most scopes will show surface features and a reasonable disk. I certainly wouldn't recommend going out to buy a 127 Mak just for this event. But if i was going to recommend a really good value scope for planetary use, the Skywatcher Skymax 127 would be the one.

If you want a good view then one idea maybe to visit your local astro club. They will almost certainly be running Mars viewing evenings. Our local club has a 14" LX200. These days most local clubs have benefited from a lottery grant, so there's normally some juicy kit to view through.

A nice orthoscopic eyepiece is a good choice for planetary observing. And they are not too expensive either. Perhaps go for a 9mm and buy a good quality 2x Apo barlow with it. Checkout www.scopesnskies.co.uk for some keen prices on both items.

Filters definitely help. My personal tip here is checkout the Baader Moon & Skyglow filter. This filter ROCKS on Mars and Jupiter. And best of all its pretty cheap too for the 1.25" version. I ditched my planetary filters in favour of this one filter. £26 from www.dhinds.co.uk

Magnification - just go as high as your scope and the conditions allow. I find 150x-200x is the sweet spot most nights. But on nights like we have just had, i was able to push 400x-500x. WOW did Mars look awesome! Off course not all telescopes will be capable of this regardless of the conditions. 50x per inch is the old saying but a lot of scopes easily exceed this on perfect nights.

Remember to let the telescope cool outside before using. Especially on closed tube types.

Also remember the best time to observe is when Mars has risen high above the horizon. At the moment that means an early start, 5am is good time if you can handle an early start.

But just remember to enjoy the whole thing!

Russ

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No, that's the Fringe Killer. This is purely a contrast boost. And they work better with reflectors.

Here's the spill from Baader:

Many companies claim the Neodymium fi lter being their idea in the meantime – here is the

real story. When Baader Planetarium had taken over responsibility for Zeiss Amateur Astro

Products Division in 1996, among many other product ideas (which are gradually entering the

market…), one of the most intriguing was a selective bandpass-filter to cut a good part of light

pollution and greatly intensify the H-a wavelength of the visual spectrum – working as a whole

like an RGB-Intensifier.

This was achieved with the help of the rare earth element NEODYMIUM, whose effect as

astronomical filter never had been tested before.The effect is very impressive though,

especially if applied on the planets Jupiter and Mars, while at the same time considerably

darkening the sky back-ground. Many thousands of Neodymium Filters have been distributed

since then, being one of the most effective, while priceworthy tools for the amateur.

One thing of note here. The NEODYMIUM seems to have a poor reputation amoung some amateurs. They quote all sorts of charts and the fact it can't possibly work. Sod the charts, I know first hand it works. I've had a few filters and never really used any of them but this one is different. It does cut out Light Pollution and it does work with Jupiter/Mars. But it's not so severe that it cuts of valuable light and also retains a near natural colour, perhaps slightly yellow.

I hate recommending things though. Someone will buy one now and think i'm barking mad.

Regards

Russ

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... I hate recommending things though. Someone will buy one now and think i'm barking mad.

Regards

Russ

I wouldnt worry Russ, you are speaking from personal experience and for the benefit of others - I'll be buying one :)

Steve :)

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Before you all rush out and spend £26, I had better point out I raised this another forum and got totally FLAMED!

This filter is mega unpopular on that forum. But trust me its worth every penny of that £26.

When you get it try it on some bright DSO's. Notice how it blackens the background sky and makes the object stand out more. I think this is where the 'hard core' imagers dislike this filter because it's not a proper LPR filter. Merely a contrast booster.

Russ

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I think primary use would be for DSO & Mars / Jupiter observing to be honest!.. lets see how this works out then.

Mind you David Hinds offer 2!!... one is the £26 (Neodymium 31.7mm)

The other is £35 as is actually called a 'Contrast Booster'... whats the difference?.

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I thought the Contrast Booster was mainly for planetary viewing and reducing false colour on cheap achro refractors. But according to the blurb it seems to have a long list of uses. I've never used one, so have no idea how good it is.

The Neodymium is a good all round filter, acting as an LPR and contrast boost. Mainly designed for reflectors, hence it has no fringe killing abilities.

Both get good ratings on Excelsis, although the Contrast Booster gets a higher score because some idiot has given the Neodymium a low score because it didn't help his refractor. Hmmm there are some real dipsticks about who just don't read what it says on the box. So i flamed him good and proper!!! :x

Russ

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Best way to view Mars?

Through binovewiers at he highest mag you can get away with before you start sacrificing detail!!

My yellow/orange filters seem to bring out the detail as well, I'll try a few more colours tonight, blue for the icecaps is supposed to be a good 'un.

I've got a Baader Fringe Killer, I've on'y ever tried with archros but it certainly does what it claims to do, thers a very noticable difference on the like of Jupiter/Venus/Saturn. It's does give everthing a slight yellowwy hue, but nothing too bad.

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I had the Fringe Killer (now with Ant). Worked well with the 120 f8.3 but couldn't help any of the Startravels i've owned. They are beyond help. So no fault of the filter.

Btw according to a few sources (Sky & Telescope, Cloudynights being a couple), if you combine the Neodymium and the Fringe Killer, you have the best possible filter for a refractor. With the exception of an ARIES Chromacor but then thats not a filter.

Russ

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I've used mine on my 127mmm f9 and my old 120mm f8, it works well on both esp the f8. As you say russ, with the f5's your wasting your time, bright objects will show CA no matter what.

It's still nice to have a small f5 tucked away in your setup though.

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TBH james I've only tried it on the 120 and 150 ST which would show a lot more CA at f5 than your 102mm, next time I'm out (not tonight by the looks of it!! :)) I'll try it on my ST80, I've got around to using it on that yet as I only tend to use it on the Moon and open clusterswhere the CA doesn't bother me.

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False colour with the f5 is not so much of problem because you know from the outset that planets are off the menu. And false colour on any bright object will be present. But it doesn't matter because the Startravels don't pretend to be good with those targets. They are simply awesome low power widefield viewers. And as you say Gaz, always good to have one in the collection.

James, lining the dew will certainly help with light scatter. Plus you've probably got a real one too. My 80 and 120 f5 were crackers. The 102 and 150 were not. Just the way it goes.

Russ

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I have had some luck with the Skywatcher scope's never a dumb one yet but like you have said there are some poor ones out there.

Flocking the dew shield is most reccomened for none APO refractors the differance whilst observing at least is really worth the effort, better contrast etc etc.

Wouldnt bother with planets with the ST102 but i would with a Skymax 200 if i had one :) :)

James :)

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The yellow and the orange worked for me James, they add contrast and seperate the different features. The blue is supposed to be good for the icecaps but I never got around to using it.

I just got a 16 piece boxed set of planetary filters (bought while drunk on Ebay, don't say you've never done it!! :)), from America for £40, so I'm spoiled for choice at the moment!!.

Gaz

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