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First View of Mars: 2012

2012 April 3
by Russ

The top image is a view of Mars from my backyard in Edmond, Oklahoma USA on the night of March 31st (morning of April 1st UT).  This was my first look at Mars for the 2011-2012 close-approach season.

In this image, clouds are visible over the Tharsis region on Mars’ eastern limb. There are also some high clouds over the western limb.   South is at the top.  Wayne Jaeschke, over at Exosky.net, has some great images of the Tharsis region with the tops of several martian volcanoes poking through the clouds.

It is early summer in Mars’ northern hemisphere right now so the North Polar Cap has shrunk to a tiny size, at least as viewed from this angle.

Mars was at opposition on March 3rd, and at its closest approach for this two year cycle on March 5th.  At that time Mars’  equatorial diameter as seen from Earth was 13.9 arcseconds.  By the time this image was taken, the distance between Earth and Mars had increased and Mars’ apparent size had shrunk to 12.6 arcseconds.  At the time of this observation, Mars and Earth were nearly 112 million kilometers apart.

This image is a stack of 161 frames from a video sequence taken with a Meade Lunar Planetary Imager (LPI). The telescope was a 203mm Celestron 8 (C8) with a 3X Barlow lens (full details below).

For comparison, the bottom image is from the NASA/JPL Solar System Simulator.  It shows the predicted view of Mars as seen from Earth at the time of my image.

Image Details:

01 April 2012  02:55:46 UT
203mm SCT (C8) f/10, 3X Barlow, Meade LPI  161 frames
Seeing 2/10, Trans 3/5,  Edmond, Oklahoma  USA
CM  42 degrees, Eq. Diameter 12.6 arcsec, Distance 111.529 mil km
see also http://www.arksky.org/alpo/alpoimg/Mar170DB8B9.jpg
Image captured using K3CCDTools.

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