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Monday, April 7, 2014

Mars Opposition

If you have never seen the red planet Mars through a telescope and would like to do so, then there is no better time than when the planet reaches opposition. Why is this so important? Simply because Mars will be closer to the Earth, and this means that Mars will appear larger when viewed or imaged through telescopes. A larger planet presents better opportunities for viewing small features that are usually hard to see: polar caps become easily visible, and larger features like Syrtis Major have more clarity and structure is easier to discern.

image of Mars Imaged by Michael Petrasko on 10-02-2005 with a C11 SCT and Celestron NexImage Planetary Camera
Mars Imaged by Michael Petrasko on 10-02-2005 with
a C11 SCT and Celestron NexImage  Planetary Camera

Luckily this spring Mars will reach opposition on April 8, 2014. So now's your chance to take advantage of this opportune moment. Keep in mind, however, that Mars still appears fairly small in scopes (when compared to the likes of Jupiter or Saturn, that is). We have had the opportunity to observe and image Mars ourselves many times in the past from our backyard remote robotic telescopes and it has always been an fascinating object... Viewing the surface of another planet does wonders in stirring up the imagination! Find out for yourself what Percival Lowell and Carl Sagan found so alluring about our red neighbor. 

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