Wed. night, Mars from the Peak

by Rich Neuschaefer

This is a hard report to write after seeing the notice on the SJAA Board list that Dr. Gene Schmidt has passed on. He loved observing Mars. I was looking forward to seeing him at Mars star parties this month. He loved getting out with his Takahashi FS-102. That was an amazing 4" Tak. A couple of years ago he was getting very nice Mars detail with it. At Coe one night he was showing the closer component of Nu Scorpio as a double, with his Tak. Just for fun he tried a 5x Powermate and a high power eyepiece to get the power well over 600x. The image of Nu still looked good.

I got to the Peak about 7 pm. I set up the mount in the parking lot next to the restroom that's below the hill to the Observatory. A light wind. A little fog in the valley to the southeast of the Peak.

After sunset I looked at the Moon. The seeing was quite good, as it usually is shortly after sunset. Nice little craters next to Rimma Birt.

When it got dark the seeing softened. I looked at M22 and a few other objects, just waiting for Mars. By 10:30 pm Mars was starting to look interesting. The edges of the disk were badly disturbed by the seeing. By midnight the detail was quite good but the seeing was still soft. I stuck it out until about 1:30 am, lots of dark features but the contrast was not as good as it had been. I packed up the AP 180EDT and headed down the hill by 2:10 am.

A couple of guys were using a pad next to the Observatory. They were taking images using a Meade 10" SCT and a CoolPic camera. They left a little after 12:30 am.

The dew slowly got things pretty damp by midnight. I was using a dew heater on the scope and had the lens cap on when I wasn't observing.