Mars (now) through a small scope

by Walt McNab

I'm new to TAC but thought I'd mention that Mars is starting to present a large enough disk to make observations by small telescope owners worth the effort (the effort being a very early wake up). I was up at 4:30 on Sunday (this morning) to have a first look at Mars through my Orion 5.1-inch f5 Newtonian from my backyard in Concord. Mars was fairly low in the SSE sky (I'd say less than 30 degrees above the horizon). I expected Mars to be boiling from poor seeing at that angle (I did at least leave the scope sitting outside during the night). Much to my surprise, while the seeing at that low angle was not great, I was amazed by what was visible with some patience at 156X and 195X with #21 and #80A filters. The south polar cap was clearly evident as was some surface mottling, although the disk was still a little small (around 10 or 11 arcseconds) for me to positively identify the geographic region(s).

The moonlight and approaching dawn precluding looking at any DSOs so I went back to bed after a half-hour. Earlier, before the moon came up Saturday night, I did manage to bag NGC4596, M89, M91, M99, AND M61 in Virgo.