Mars as observed from Naples, Florida. The white spot in the southeast corner of this photo is the southern polar cap. Mars was photographed with a Philips ToUcam webcam attached to a laptop computer and eight-inch Meade LX90 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
The final image is the result of processing my webcam video of Mars with a program named Registax. Registax software allows you to align, stack and process your astrophotography video. With Registax I was able to capture the wonderful colors in this photo. I shot the image from the driveway of my home.
Mars can be anywhere from 34 million to 294 million miles away from Earth. The Greeks and Romans observed the blood red hue of Mars and aptly named the planet after their gods of war, Ares and Mars. Since then, Mars has been associated with the color red and is often referred to as the “red planet.”
Indeed, casual observations of Mars does give the impression it is red. However, closer observation through a telescope reveals much more subtle colors that sky watchers describe as brown, salmon, yellowish brown, peach and butterscotch.
Whatever color you see, the fact is, Martian terrain and atmosphere is dominated by Martian dust. The dust is primarily made of oxidized iron from Martian rocks that absorb blue and green wavelengths of sunlight and then reflect the red ones, giving the planet its red tint.
In the summer of 2003 Earth orbited closer to Mars than it has in almost 60,000 years. The last time Earth and Mars were this close Neanderthals ruled the planet. On August 27, 2003, the butterscotch planet and Earth were 34,646,418 miles apart – closer than they have ever been in recorded history. The next time Earth and Mars get this close will be the year 2287.
During the 2003 Mars/Earth Opposition (see footnote ) the southern hemisphere of Mars was tipped towards the earth giving backyard astronomers an excellent view of the south polar cap.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), have recently established that the southern ice cap is mostly ice water and not carbon dioxide (co2) as previously believed.
Global dust storms expected to block views of the Martian landscape didn’t materialize and the subtle markings of deserts, rocky plains and clouds remained excellent throughout the summer. However, as predicted, the polar ice caps began to thaw and shrink in July and August as the Martian spring and summer arrived.
The summer of 2003 proved to be an excellent time for astrophotographers to test their skills. Thousands of photos of the butterscotch planet were captured with digital cameras, web cams, CCD and on film.
copyright – Mark Mathosian
Tagged: , Mars Red planet Registax , LX90 , Meade , telescope