Popular Astronomy

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A selection of Mars images by SPA members:

A few images taken by Steve Norrie in March this year. As Mars moved from spring into summer the North Pole, tilted towards us, started to melt and extensive morning mists formed across the planet as well as bright white cloud over higher ground.

An exceptional image below from Martin Lewis showing changes to the North Polar Cap (NPC) particularly well.

 In the image below taken by Alan Clitherow you can see cloud at the limb.

Dave Finnigan took this image (right) of Mars on 9th March 2012 with his 8'' Meade LX200 classic at f50 using a DBK21AU04.AS colour camera and Baader UV/IR filter. The white areas on the extreme left hand limb and just inside the limb are areas of cloud forming over the great Tharsis bulge and over the extinct volcano Nix Olympica.

Mars reached opposition on 3rd March 2012 when it was a mere 13.9" in diameter. It shrank below 10" in diameter at the start of May. This is the diameter at which I consider useful observations can be made visually with amateur telescopes although imagers are able to extract more detail at smaller diameters. Having said that, Peter Grego managed this decent sketch shown below with his 300mm Newtonian at a power of x170 whilst it's diameter was only 5.7".     

By the end of May 2012 Mars is becoming increasingly difficult as a visual target however imagers using large aperture telescopes and modern fast cameras are able to capture some detail as shown in this image below taken by SPA member Mike Brown. Visually you can see its distinct phase with the morning terminator to the left as well as major surface details. For the rest of the year Mars will continue to shrink in apparent size until, by December, it will be less than half this size.