Through Your Telescope: Mars

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Sun, Dec 30 - 5:32 pm EDT | 8 years ago by
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Now is an excellent time to view Mars. If you just got a new telescope for Christmas, you’ll be able to get excellent views of Mars throughout January.

Here’s where it is (click on it to see a bigger one):

Marsevening
Mars is visible over the eastern horizon in the early evening.

Most telescopes will show you a nice, bright red disk and sometimes you can see white dots, the polar ice caps, at either the top or bottom.

OK, so I was disappointed in Stellarium for this little demo. The images below aren’t quite representative of what you’ll see. For example, Mars looks bigger in an AstroScan than in the LX200. That’s because Stellarium switched rendering modes and started showing a Hubble image when the FOV got small.

Still, you can sometimes see the moons of Mars through a 10 inch SCT, so that was accurate.

Here’s a general idea of what you’d see through an Astroscan:

Marsastroscan-1
Take this one with a grain of salt. Mars doesn’t look this big in an Astroscan. You can see a bright red disk though and sometimes the polar caps.

Here’s Mars through an 8-inch Dobsonian:

Marsdobsonian
With an 8-inch Dobsonian, polar caps are sometimes visible on really steady and clear nights.

Finally, the LX200:

Marslx200
Mars is excellent through a 10-inch SCT, like the LX200. I often see dark regions marking the surface on clear, still nights. I never thought they were canals, though.

It used to be that refractors offered better views of the planets because of their long focal lengths, optics free of aberrations typical in mirror telescopes and higher magnifications. Over the years, the optics in reflecting telescopes has gotten so much better that I now think they do every bit as good on the planets as a refractor.

Congrats on your new scope, now get out there and start using it!

Next up: The Andromeda Galaxy. It’s heading right for us you know…

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