Entries tagged as Mars

Mars at Closest Approach in 2018

Mars as seen in 10-minute intervals starting from the midnight of August 1, 2018

Mars comes close to Earth every two years or so, but due to the elliptical orbit the closeness varies a lot. It came as close as 0.373 AU in 2003, while it was 0.674 AU away at its approach in 2012. The closest approaches happen every 15 or 17 years, and the latest one happened on 16:50 KST, July 31, 2018, at a distance of 0.385 AU. The next one will happen in 2035. Since this year's occurrence happened during the day, I did the next best thing and got my telescope set up that night to take a good look.

Unfortunately, Mars is experiencing a planet-level dust storm since early June and it has not subsided yet. A peek at the planet during last week's lunar eclipse indeed showed a mostly uniform orange disk, confirming my fears. I wasn't about to give up, so I got my Baader filter out and hoped for the best. Thankfully, the two-hour shooting session did not go to waste as the hours of post-processing finally revealed some discernible surface details, as you can see here.


You can even observe the planet visibly rotating in this video that incorporates all the photos I took. It's similar to what I made two years ago, but the continuous shooting made for a more fluid animation.

Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE
Device: Sony A5000 (prime focus)
Settings: (1500mm) - ISO 100 - 1/100s - (f/10)
Filters: Baader Moon & Skyglow
Time: 2018-07-31 23:59 - 2018-08-01 01:50 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
481 photos processed with PIPP 2.5.9 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8

Moon-Mars-Venus conjunction of 2017

Moon, Mars, and Venus line up in the western sky

As I dropped by Gwangju to catch a movie (I'll be posting a comic tomorrow), the western sky was adorned with an alignment of some of the bright bodies of the solar system as seen from the Earth - the Moon, Mars, and Venus. The occurrence was relatively well-publicized, but I forgot to carry a dedicated camera tonight. Luckily, the telephoto lens of the iPhone 7 Plus pulled through and I was able to capture this sight over the neighbourhood just before Venus dropped behind the buildings.

Device: iPhone 7 Plus
Settings: 56mm - ISO 1000 - 1/12s - f/2.8
Filters: None
Time: 2017-02-01 21:12 KST
Location: Gwangju, Korea
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Looking out the window to see the Milky Way

The Milky Way Galaxy adorns the southern sky, atop the apartments (13.5% size)

A few hours after walking in the rain to see a movie yesterday, I was getting ready to sleep. Then I noticed that the sky was crystal clear, something I haven't seen in more than nearly two weeks (or three, in the night). Not to pass up this opportunity, I got my camera out. With so many stars visible, I wondered if the Milky Way Galaxy could be captured even with all the lights from the apartment buildings nearby.

After a few tries, it became clear that indeed it could be done, if somewhat faintly. Adjusting the levels, curves, and contrast brought out further details. Individual colour channels were untouched, yet the sky showed a very nice gradient. This may be an unintended affect of the light pollution near the horizon and I like how it turned out.

Device: Sony A5000 + SELP1650 (E PZ 16โ€“50 mm F3.5โ€“5.6 OSS)
Settings: 16mm - ISO 2000 - 20s - f/3.5
Filters: None
Time: 2016-07-08 00:44 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
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Watching the rotation of Mars

Mars photographed in 30-minute intervals on May 30 - 31, 2016 (200% size)

Mars rotates once every 24 hours and 37 minutes, so the look of the planet would visibly change as you keep an eye on the planet during the night. Owing to the fact that Mars is at its closest to Earth in more than ten years as I write this, this phenomenon had become relatively easy to photograph with my equipment. In fact, yesterday's post already illustrated this point.

Animation of the Mars RotationHowever, I wanted to see if this could be made into an animation. So I managed to take photos of Mars in 30-minute intervals in the span of 4 hours. I wanted to stay up longer, but practical considerations like sleep and humidity prevailed. As you can see at the top, I ended up with a total of eight frames after post-processing nearly 3,000 burst mode photos taken with my iPhone 6S Plus mounted on the telescope. They were then put together into GIF animation that you see on the left.

The frames preserve the 2x digital zoom that I used while taking the photos because it allows you to discern the major features of Mars easier. The dark spot that sticks out on the right side of the planet in the first four frames is Syrtis Major Planum. The brighter area at the center of the planet in all the frames is Arabia Terra. Left side of the dark area just below the Arabia Terra is Meridiani Planum, where the Opportunity rover (MER-B) is currently operating (for more than 12 Earth years as of this writing). The dark area to the left of Arabia Terra visible on the last frame is Acidalia Planitia.

Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE + X-Cel LX 9mm eyepiece
Device: iPhone 6S Plus (afocal, 29mm - f/2.2 fixed)
Filters: Baader Moon & Skyglow
Location: Naju, Korea (time in KST)
Stacked with PIPP 2.5.6 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8

#1 (114 photos): ISO 200 - 1/25s @ 2016-05-30 22:10-22:11
#2 (116 photos): ISO 125 - 1/60s @ 2016-05-30 22:44-22:45
#3 (142 photos): ISO 100 - 1/50s @ 2016-05-30 23:12
#4 (130 photos): ISO 100 - 1/50s @ 2016-05-30 23:42
#5 (103 photos): ISO 100 - 1/50s @ 2016-05-31 00:10-00:11
#6 (106 photos): ISO 100 - 1/50s @ 2016-05-31 00:39-00:40
#7 (85 photos): ISO 100 - 1/50s @ 2016-05-31 01:09-01:10
#8 (118 photos): ISO 100 - 1/40s @ 2016-05-31 01:40

Triple planet observation 2016

Photographing Mars out the window on a clear night

With a nearly perfect weather returning last night, I set out to point the telescope out the window once again. This time, I installed the Baader M&S filter as I planned last week. It was an excellent time to take photos of the planets - it was not only about 42 to 44 hours away from the closest approach of Mars in 2016, but Jupiter's Great Red Spot was in view. At this approach, Mars will be at its largest apparent diameter since November 20, 2005 and it won't be surpassed until June 19, 2018. For future reference, next closest approach will happen on July 31, 2018 and that itself won't be surpassed until the one in September 2035.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars observed on May 29 & 30, 2016

I planned just for Jupiter and Mars at first, but Saturn edged into the view at the left of the window after midnight. In the end I was able to take photos of all three planets in a single session similar to what I did a year ago, except that Venus was replaced with Mars. The filter did seem to work okay, giving me a better look at the clouds of Jupiter and the dark features of Mars.

Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE + X-Cel LX 9mm eyepiece
Device: iPhone 6S Plus (afocal)
Filters: Baader Moon & Skyglow
Location: Naju, Korea
Stacked with PIPP 2.5.6 and RegiStax 6.1.0.8

Jupiter (200 photos): 29mm - ISO 160 - 1/25s - f/2.2 @ 2016-05-29 21:54-21:56 KST
Saturn (200 photos): 29mm - ISO 250 - 1/15s - f/2.2 @ 2016-05-30 00:16-00:17 KST
Mars #1 (150 photos): 29mm - ISO 80 - 1/30s - f/2.2 @ 2016-05-29 22:02-22:03 KST
Mars #2 (300 photos): 29mm - ISO 50 - 1/40s - f/2.2 @ 2016-05-30 00:21-00:22 KST

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