December 15, 2007

Mars Is Putting On It's Best Face For The Holidays!

Hello again, and welcome to The Star Deck!  Hope everyone is set to have a good holiday season over the Christmas, New Years, and such holidays!  So what's going on over here on The Star Deck!??  Well unfortunately not a lot this past few weeks, the local weather just has not been very good for much in the way of astronomical observations and such for the past few weeks!  Only one or two nights where the rain or overcast skies have broken up enough to get out for a few quick glimpses of the night skies!  I hope where ever you are visiting from has had some better sky conditions!

So, what is happening in our skies this month??!  Well perhaps the most notable thing at least for the amateur observer is Mars! Mars is making another close approach this month, and will be at .589 AU (approximately 55 million miles) from Earth.  Mars will be one of the brightest objects in the evening sky at a magnitude of -1.6 continuing to get slightly brighter until it reaches opposition on the 24th at a mag -1.64.  It will be very easy to spot should your skies be clear.  Look to the constellation of Gemini, Mars will be on the boarder of Gemini, Taurus, and Auriga in Gemini.  The southern horn of Taurus coming off of the Bull's Eye, Alderbaran will point almost straight to Mars in Gemini.

This will be well worth a few minutes of observation time in a small telescope, but have realistic expectations!  It will show some of it's more interesting features available to observe dependant upon the seeing, but it will still appear relatively small in your telescope!
Here is a recent image (Mars) I managed to capture for a brief few minutes during a break in the clouds.  The image was captured using my 8 inch Orion Sky View Pro Newtonian with a TeleVue 4X Powermate and a Philips 900nc webcam.  It was processed out of 90 seconds of a .AVI file of 900 frames.  My telescope setup can be seen HERE, for a little better ideal of what I used to get the capture.  The inexpensive webcam is a great way to get started into photographing some of the solar system objects!  Perhaps there will be an upcoming article on getting started into photographing the planets with a webcam in future Star Deck Observatory site updates!

Try to take a few minutes to visit the DSO Of The Month page if you have the time.  The night sky is absolutely loaded with really bright and easily viewable objects through out this month and the early winter season!  A multitude of bright binocular star clusters, a couple of large bright galaxies yet still viewable in the early evening sky with a set of good 7X binoculars, and a nebula or two to be seen easily with those same binocs.  Hopefully we get at least a few good clear nights this month to get out and observe some of these beautiful sights this month!


Clear Skies!
The Mad One

Mark Jordan
39 47' 06" North X 85 46' 10" West

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