Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mars is approaching opposition meaning it is in the opposite side of the sky from the sun and the closest it will be to Earth this year. It's not a very good opposition this time due to Mars being in an elliptical orbit.

This was my first attempt with my 8" telescope. I was hoping for more detail, but it turned out I was looking at a fairly 'blank' side of Mars. You can easily see the polar cap made up of mostly frozen carbon dioxide.

We had another clear night (Feb 11, 2010)) and I was able to get a shot in before yet more high clouds rolled in. This time it was a little underexposed and if I'd had more time would have taken some spectacular images. But this was the best I could manage this time.

Compare it to the CalSky model of what it should have looked like.

Friday, January 22, 2010

There's a webcam orbiting Mars!

The European Space Agency has a probe orbiting Mars called The Mars Express. It's job is to:
  • image the entire surface at high resolution (10 metres/pixel) and selected areas at super resolution (2 metres/pixel);
  • produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 metre resolution;
  • map the composition of the atmosphere and determine its global circulation;
  • determine the structure of the sub-surface to a depth of a few kilometres;
  • determine the effect of the atmosphere on the surface;
  • determine the interaction of the atmosphere with the solar wind.
Then there is this camera that was on board to watch the deployment of a lander. That was it's sole purpose. Thing is, it still works. The science team has little or no use for it. But it's still taking pictures and the ESA releases sets of these every few days. But they are raw pictures. Several amateurs, like myself, take these images and process them to bring out the detail. Like I did here.

Anyway, here's the link to my images on the ESA website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Near Earth Asteroid 2010 AL30

On January 13, 2010 an 'object' whizzed past Earth just 1/3 the distance to the moon. It turned out to be a small asteroid about 10 meters across. Had it hit Earth, it would have likely burned up very brightly in the atmosphere.

The night before closest approach I was able to image it. I put together several dozen 5 second exposures to make this movie. It comes in from the left side of the field near the center moving right. Actual time it took to travel through the frame was about 4 minutes. It's hard to see, because it was the size of a house 80,000 miles away!