RECENT OBSERVATIONS OF MARS AND SATURN – JAY ALBERT


Astronomical observing is tough in South Florida in the summer. It’s hot, steamy and the mosquitos are
on the prowl. The night skies are usually cloudy or, at best, hazy. Nevertheless, I was able to get out a
few times in recent weeks. I observed Mars on June 25th and July 3rd. Mars is shrinking after reaching
opposition in late May. Those of us who participated in the trip to Lowell Observatory in late May had a
chance to see Mars at its closest this year through Percival Lowell’s famous 24” Clark Refractor. My
views of Mars here at home were through my Celestron 11” SCT. The drawing made on July 3rd was of
the “dull” side of Mars and doesn’t show much detail. Accordingly, I’m only including the drawing done
on June 25th when Mars was still as large as 16.9 arcseconds. This sketch shows Syrtis Major, one of
Mars’ most prominent features (south is up). Syrtis Major can be seen near the terminator on the upper
right side of the drawing. To its left are Syrtis Minor and immediately to its south, Tyrrhenum Mare. To
the left of Tyrrhenum is Cimmerium and the lighter strip separating the two is Hesperia. The bright area
on the south limb is the clouds of the south polar hood. The dark regions in the northern hemisphere
were not clearly seen, except for Utopia at the edge of the terminator just north of Syrtis Major. The
north polar cap had shrunk in the northern summer was not visible.


By waiting until I had completed visual observations of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn before trying to image
them, I managed to make sure that they had passed the meridian and were sinking over the roof of my
house. This time of year, the cement barrel tiles of my roof act as a heat sink during the day and release
the heat at night. The result is a major deterioration in seeing. The video files I took of Mars were
beyond redemption and deleted. Saturn was almost as bad, but I made an attempt to get an image from
the best of the video files. The fuzzy, grainy image above right is a stack of the 30 best frames out of the
298 in the video file. They were taken through the C11 with the Celestron Neximage 5 Solar System
Camera and processed in Registax and Photoshop Elements.


Jay Albert
July 11, 2016

See August 2016 newsletter for photos!