The rock next from earth, as seen from the sun, is Mars.
26 December 2022
In December I acquired a new camera, the ZWO ASI290MM. Using this camera I wanted to test whether I could gain some more detail when imaging at f/20. The camera that I usually use, the ZWO ASI174MM, has a 5.9 micron pixel size. According to theory this would require a scope with a focal ratio of 3.7 x 5.9 = 21.83. As the C11 with 2x PowerMate equals f/20, I am imaging slighty under the optimal focal ratio. But as seeing affects sampling the factor 3.7 should more likely be 3.0 - 3.2 here in the Netherlands.
On 26 December I could finally put it to the test. In order to compare both cameras, I decided to image with them both. Adjacent image was taken with the ASI174MM at around 22:23UTC.
Data was captured in LRGB (60s each) and processed with AutoStakkert!3 and PSP. In the end the image was 200% resized to match the size of the ASI290MM which has roughly half the pixel size.
Above image with the ASI174MM was taken after adjacent image that I had taken with the ZWO ASI290MM (2.9 micron pixel size) at around 22:08UTC. Again a series of LRGB captures was made (again 60s each). Processing was done the same way as was used for the ASI174MM image, but with the difference that during stacking no Raw Blend was applied, whereas the ASI174MM data was stacked with 30% Raw Blend.
We see a central large bright plain called Arabia Terra, with the dark Terra Meridiani to its left and the dark Syrtis Major Planum to its right. There are no ice caps to be seen, but blueish clouds in several places.
8 December 2022
On 8 December 2022 Mars was at opposition (i.e. the Sun, Earth and Mars were on one line with each other). In the early morning Mars was eclipsed by the Moon, but sadly enough it was fully overcast. In the evening the sky cleared, but as the weather was calm, fog started to appear. Luckily InFINNity Deck is seven metres above ground level, so imaging could continue until the fog reached that level. After a few sessions on Jupiter, Mars was imaged on 20:07 and 20:20UTC. Seeing was better during the second session, so that is the one shown here.
At the upper left Olympus Mons can be seen as a bright spot. The central dark area near the bottom limb is Aonia, the dark basin directly above it is Solis Planum.
The image was captured with the C11 EdgeHD @ f/20. Four series of 60 seconds were recorded in LRGB at 4ms (L) and 10ms (RGB) @ gain 250. Post-processing done in PSP after which the image was resized by 200%.
26 November 2022
Almost exactly five days before its closest approach in 2022 (12 days before 2022 opposition) the weather was clear enough to image Mars again. During this session Mars had an apparent diameter of 17.12 arc-seconds, which will grow to 17.20 arc-seconds on the first of December.
The most prominent feature, in the centre just below the clouds around Vastitas Borealis (the north pole), is Syrtis Major Planum. Below that stretching from west to east is Terra Cimmeria. The bright spot in that is the impact basin Hellas.
Imaging done with the Celestron C11 XLT EdgeHD, TeleVue 2x PowerMate, ZWO EFW with ZWO filters, ZWO ADC and ZWO ASI174MM. Focusing was done on a nearby star using a Bahtinov-mask after the ADC was adjusted using a ZWO ASI290MC.
Four SER-movies were recorded of 60 seconds each at gain 300. The luminance movie was shot at 2ms, RGB was shot at 6ms. At the end darks were recorded to correct for hot pixels.
Processing was done with AutoStakkert! (with sharpening and 30% blend), post-processing with PSP (RGB combine, L added as luminance layer, added saturation, decreased green level, little bit sharpening with Sharpen More, 200% bicubic resize).
9 November 2022
After a week of fully overcast skies 9 November 2022 finally had a more or less clear sky over InFINNity Deck. Seeing was quite good this evening and I started imaging Jupiter around 20:38UTC, followed by Mars at around 22:02UTC. Imaging was done with the Celestron C11 XLT EdgeHD, TeleVue 2x Powermate, ZWO EFW mini with ZWO LRGB filters, ZWO ADC and ZWO ASI174MM. The ADC was adjusted using a ZWO ASI290MC, focussing was done using a Bahtinov mask and Elnath as target.
Using FireCapture four LRGB-sequences of 60 seconds per filter at 200FPS were collected. The first two were done at a gain of 300, resulting in exposure times of 2ms for L and 5ms for RGB, the second two sequences where shot at a gain of 250, resulting in 3ms and 5ms exposure times.
Processing was done in AutoStakkert!, stacking 45% of the frames (25% for blue), and with sharpening at a 30% blend. Postprocessing was done in PSP using RGB-combine and adding L as a luminance layer. The images were resized by 200% (Mars had an apparent diameter of only 16"), given 30% saturation, -15% green to adjust white-balance and given some vibrancy. The animation was made with EzGif. WinJupos was not used in the processing.
The four images were taken at 22:02UTC, 22:09UTC, 22:31UTC and 23:11UTC. For some reason the animated gif messes up the blues, so here are the four images separately.
15 December 2020
On 15 December 2020 I imaged Mars for the last time this season. Mars is getting increasingly smaller (this evening its apparent diameter was only 12.36") and it will take another two years (around 30 November 2022) before Mars gets anything close again.
With an apparent diameter of 17.20" it will then be larger than it currently is, but significantly smaller than it was last October. It will take another 15 years (around 10 September 2035) before its apparent diameter will be large again (24.62″), but by that time it will reach an altitude of only 25 degrees.
Of the two surrounding years, 5 July 2033 (apparent diameter 22.14″, altitude only 8.5 degrees) and 11 November 2037 (apparent diameter 18.98″, altitude well over 51 degrees!) only the second occasion will be good enough for imaging.
4 December 2020
On 4 December 2020 the skies cleared again and another attempt was done around 21:15 UTC on Mars. In the meanwhile (since its opposition on 13 October) Mars and Earth had moved on, adding some 37 million kilometres to our mutual distance, making it 100 million km now. As a result Mars' apparent diameter reduced from 22.34″ in October to 13.96″ now. At the right right Aeria is visible as an orange plain with below it Sinus Sabaeus. Mare Australe (the area around the south pole) can clearly be distinguished against the surrounding Mare Erythraeum.
13 October 2020
On 13 October 2020 Mars reached opposition, but was already getting smaller with an apparent diameter of 22.34". Using the Celestron C11 XLT EdgeHD, a 2" TeleVue 2x PowerMate, ZWO ADC, ZWO EFW mini and ZWO ASI174MM camera five series of recordings, each consisting of 120 seconds of data in LRGB, were shot, four of which made it to adjacent animation. Stacking was done in AutoStakkert3 using between 5% and 25% of the data (on average 25k frames per recording).
Olympus Mons, with a height of 22km the largest mountain in the solar system, can clearly be seen in the northern hemisphere. The animation runs from 22:33 to 23:51 UTC.
3 October 2020
On 3 October 2020 we had a few hours of clear weather. Mars was a week and a half before its opposition on the 13th and had already grown to an apparent diameter of 22.54". It will be getting closer for another 3 days (grows to 22.57") before reducing again in apparent size.
Between 10:34pm and 11:15pm UTC I took five series of images using the ZWO ASI290MC in colour and the ZWO ASI174MM in monochrome with LRGB filters and a ZWO ADC. The latter camera gave much better results than the former and is shown here.
This image was taken at 11:01pm UTC using the Celestron C11 XLT EdgeHD (collimated prior to the imaging session on a nearby star) and a 2" 2x TeleVue PowerMate. Four movies of 120s each were shot for LRGB. Each movie contained some 20k frames, 10% of which were stacked using AutoStakkert3!. These four resulting stacks were then first sharpenend using an unsharp mask, then RGB combined using the L as an luminance layer, enlarged by 200% with bicubic interpolation, and finally sharpened using high pass sharpen.
The south pole (at the lower left) shows a small icecap, while the north pole is hidden below a layer of fog. At the dawn and dusk sides of Mars another two regions can be discerned where mist is present.
6 August 2020
On 6 August 2020 around 01:37 UTC I gave Mars another try. Imaging was done with the Celestron C11 XLT EdgeHD using a TeleVue 2x PowerMate and ZWO ASI290MC colour camera. In 60 seconds 18k frames were captured, 10% of which were stacked in AutoStakkert. Post-processing done in PSP. This evening Mars had an apparent diameter of 15.32" and is still getting closer.
First attempt on 21 July 2018
This month (31 July 2018) Mars will be in opposition, which means it reaches its closest distance from earth. This year it even reaches the closest distance for the last and coming 20 years. Sadly enough Mars is experiencing the perfect storm. It started on 19 June 2018 and is expected to last until September this year. These storms on Mars cause dust to cover the whole globe, making the planet a dull orange ball. The adjacent image was my first attempt, taken on 21 July 2018 with the C11 using a 2 x Barlow and ZWO ASI174 camera. Seeing was far from great (a warm summer night), resulting in this rather blurry image. Despite the poor image quality the polar regions are visible.
If you have any questions and/or remarks please let me know.
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