Observing Report 10th-11th December 2009 (Frosty Mars)

Posted by @ 1:40 pm on Sunday 13th December, 2009.
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The weather here on Thursday evening was a bit odd - periods of thick fog alternating with cold clear spells. I got the scope set up early and while waiting for the longer clear bits I used the odd short bits of good visibility to get good focus and tracking. Oh, and to fight the battle against condensation on the kit.

Some time after midnight the fog lifted and everything was clear and still, not a breath of wind and the seeing was brilliant. All of the condensation froze within minutes. Undeterred by the layer of ice on the kit, I had a good look at Mars before nabbing some webcam footage of it. Visually, I'd never seen it so good - the polar cap was really bright and the planet was almost motionless, unlike the previous Mars session when the thing was moving around like a demented Morris Dancer. I spent a good hour or so just studying the surface detail, something I've never been able to do before. Here's some of that webcam footage after selecting a 256x256px region of interest around the planet:

Soon it was time to move on. I changed the eyepiece setup and this caused some melting of the ice on the kit. Figuring that it would be best to let the temperature settle down a bit I nipped in for a cuppa and then sat outside for twenty minutes watching a fair few meteors blazing across from East to West - they were mostly Geminids but there were a few others up there. I did contemplate setting up the D50 with the 35mm prime in order to get some images, but the camera was by now well-frozen and I wasn't going to risk trashing the mechanics inside the lens.

When all was settled I slewed the scope around to Saturn, which had risen to a reasonable height above the horizon. It looked a bit dimmer than I've seen it before but I could still see the rings, not far past being edge-on. A couple of dim moons were visible but not much else. I grabbed a fair few avis with the webcam but they didn't look much good.

After another half-hour of visual, watching Saturn and some more meteors, the fog returned. This time it was thick, freezing, and obviously here to stay. I ended the session and closed the obsy roof. The next hour was spent mopping up meltwater from the kit and from the underside of the roof. I returned to the house at 06:00 vowing to get a cheap dehumidifier in the post-Christmas sales.

Anyway, I did some preliminary processing of the Mars data and sent the pics to a learned friend. He's confident that he's identified the surface features correctly, and pointed out the tiny clouds in the vicinity of Olympus Mons. He also reckons that the colours are fine, but I'm not so sure:

 

 

Again, you'll have to wait for me to find time to process the Saturn data.

I'll finish with a reminder - don't forget that Geminid meteor shower.

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