March 5, 2004

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What's All The Excitement About Mars?


Image Credit: Christine Churchill

What's All The Excitement About Mars?

During the last year, bright Mars has performed numerous pirouettes with our Moon - approaching and even passing behind it at times. And well Mars should seek to hide, for the massive hype last summer about the closest approach since Neanderthal times overlooked the fact that Mars at its best is smaller than hundreds of undistinguished craters on the Moon. Christine Churchill's nice view of the Moon and Mars in the same field of view shows how piddly Mars is from our Earthly shores. Sure, a spacecraft can make it into a fascinating world, but thru a telescope it looks like a battered old button with some smudges of dark and light. I've inserted Christine's original resolution image of Mars in a corner to show a typical backyard view. Let me make a boost for our own Moon: there is more to see in its little half degree of sky than in all the rest combined! Well, this can't be completely true for a small telescope can probably see millions of stars - but they mostly look the same. Compare the intricate detail of the Humorum LPOD Feb 18 Basin, with its ridges and rilles LPOD Jan 26, craters LPOD Jan 15 and hills, and realize that its 500 km width is about 4 minutes of arc wide, about the same as the Double Double in Lyra! And every time you look at Humorum, as the sun moves across the lunar sky, the view changes - but in Lyra its just the same four little dots... Don't get me wrong - I enjoy being a tourist in the rest of the cosmos, but only on the Moon can I personally explore the nooks and crannies of another world.

Technical Details:
Christine says, Photo taken when Mars was at opposition on July 16, 2003, 11:06:19 p.m. (Pacific daylight time), latitude N 38.5. Mars is the russet speck at the upper left. Even though from Earth, Mars pales in comparison to our satellite. Homemade 10" Dobsonian telescope, Sony Mavica 4M pixel camera attached to the 40 mm eyepiece (afocal photography).

Yesterday's LPOD: Ptolemaeus Peak Heights

Tomorrow's LPOD: Goodacre's Imbrium

Author & Editor:
Charles A. Wood



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