As the Moon reaches first quarter, and a day or two past, the Sun casts a dramatic shadow across the Mare Imbrium and a selection of prominent craters, mountains, and an unmistakable lunar valley. Even a tiny telescope will help you see these features as shown in the image above [Read more…] about Lunar Tour – Plato and RegionShare This:
Solar System Observing
Articles about how to understand, find and see solar system objects including planets, the Moon, the Sun, asteroids, meteors, and comets with binoculars, telescopes, and the naked eye.
The planet Mars is coy. It spends most of its time as a relatively inconspicuous star-like object, only moderately bright, drifting barely noticed though the sky, little seen, or sometimes hiding behind the Sun.
Once every two years it grows bolder. It decides to put on a show. But even then, it’s sneaky about it, gathering its glory in the late hours of the night, seen mainly by dedicated astronomers, those who know what to expect and where to look.
And then, at the apex of its splendor, it rises at sunset, blazing across the sky all night for a few brief weeks, revealing itself in a level of detail far beyond what it will normally display [Read more…] about Mars MeditationsShare This:
The planet Mars is one of the most interesting planets to observe with a small telescope, but also one of the most difficult. The planet only gets close enough to Earth to give up much detail just once every 780 days (about two years and two months), and when it does make an apparition, it still appears relatively small compared to Jupiter or Saturn. But observing Mars is worth the effort. It’s the only planet to reveal an appreciable amount of surface detail in a small telescope, and it also features occasional surprises such as dust storms and local fogs and cloud banks.
Seeing Mars takes a little practice, however, as well as the right tools for the job. This guide will help you understand what you can see on the surface of Mars, especially during the time before and after the opposition of July 27, 2018, when Mars makes its closest approach to Earth since 2003. And it will help you get the best view of this remarkable world with a telescope and a few essential accessories [Read more…] about How to See Mars in 2018Share This:
Many casual observers get hooked on amateur astronomy after a first look at Saturn through a telescope. More than a few have looked through my small refractor on a night of good seeing and asked of Saturn, “Is it real?” Yes, it is real. And it’s one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. The color of Saturn, the proportions, the apparent 3D perspective of this grand icy world make it arguably the finest sight accessible with a small telescope. The planet reaches opposition on June 27, 2018 and will remain bright and large in a telescope over the next few months. Here’s how to find it and see it in a small telescope.
I looked out the window this morning and saw the Moon hanging clear and bright in a crisp and dry winter sky. So, of course, I had to take a picture!
Here you see the history of the ancient solar system etched like geological hieroglyphs into the face of our nearest celestial neighbor. The dark regions, the maria (or seas), are younger than the heavily cratered light-colored regions of the terrae (or highlands). The large dark region at the upper left is Oceanus Procellarum (the Ocean of Storms), which is capped by Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) to the north and Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds) and Mare Humorum (Sea of Moisture) to the south. To the right in this image, closer to the shadow beyond the terminator, the line between night and day on the Moon, you can see the circular Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity), below which is Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility). All these seas are lowlands flooded with lava after major meteor impacts some 3 billion years ago. The highlands are older and heavily peppered with craters from the days when the solar system was a more crowded and dangerous place.
You can see a few large craters here also. At the extreme western edge of the Moon (left in this image) you see the dark and worn crater Grimaldi. Copernicus, above and left of center, is a white bulls-eye bathed in full sunlight. Artistotle and Eudoxus are stacked on top of each other at the top, near the terminator. Theophilus is beautifully shadowed along the terminator just below center, while Maurolycus and Tycho grace the highlands to the south.
In this image, the Moon is nearly 5 days past full and 71% illuminated. The image was snapped by aiming a Nikon D750 camera out the window with a Nikon 200mm-500mm f/5.6 lens at 500mm, f/8, 1/2000s, ISO400. Cropped and lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom. Who says astrophotography has to be hard?Share This: