|August 6, 2003, 09:15 UT|
Instrument: 10-inch Starfinder
This morning, Mars cleared the trees behind my house and I made my best observation of the great perihelic opposition of 2003, to date. It is 2:15am MST, 9:15 UT, on August 6. The seeing is just good enough to allow 388X (Meade 8.8-mm paired with a TeleVue 3X Barlow) in the 10-inch. What I wouldn't give for a night of excellent seeing during this apparition!
Commonly called the red planet, Mars usually presents a flesh tone or peach hue in my Starfinder. This night is no exception. His most prominent feature is easily the South Polar Cap. It glows bright white and features a dark collar around most of the northern boundary. The collar is broken only by an indentation or notch just west of the central meridian. The eastern edge of the cap appears duskier to the eye, almost as if much of the ice layer has sublimated.
Hellas, the large southern hemisphere impact basin, is prominent as an oval feature of lighter tone surrounded by darker features. Immediately to the north of Hellas is Mare Tyrrhenum. This region, noticeably lighter in tone, runs longitudinally across the disk from the central meridian toward the preceding edge. Syrtis Major, arguably Mars' most recognizable albedo feature, is north of Mare Tyrrhenum. It bears a strong resemblance to Earth's African continent in my Newtonian. It has just transited and is within hours of rotating off the Earth-facing hemisphere. Viewed through a 23A (light red) color filter, the inner portion of Mars' dark continent displays a darker hue than the border regions.
Sinus Sabaeus extends from Syrtis Major toward the following limb, a long dark finger reaching for sunrise. It ends in bulbous Sinus Meridiani. Other visible features include Mare Serpentis, Noachis and Hellespontus. It's amazing to think that Mars, still almost four-weeks from opposition, already appears 23" in size. Let the show begin!
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Revised: August 13, 2003 [WDF]