Mars Attacks at Fremont Peak

by John Gleason

Just back from a night of imaging and observing Mars from Fremont Peak. What a great night on this historic occasion. Transparency was near perfection with fog covering all of the local light domes. M33 was an easy visual target. Temps very mild, 68 F most of the night, light breeze. Seeing was in the + arc second range but not solid, very fast motion. Early on Mars held steady for some good CCD imaging. While major low contrast surface details held ok, the planet disk was rapidly shifting which made CCD focus difficult but visual a delight with the bino viewer, 5mm Tak LE's,AP barlow, all with the AP 180 f/7 refractor. The planet disk was indeed HUGE as I observed through the historic close approach and there were short moments where more fine shading and structure appeared - very nice. Hey, this is as close to Mars as I am ever going to get!

Only a handful of visitors. Two gentleman from NASA Ames were set up near the observatory with video cameras to record meteors. No other amateur astronomers, no one at the 30". Very odd to have such a big instrument unused during prime nights like this one. I should have booked it for a private Mars party. I packed up and rolled out at 5 am, sorry to see such a perfect night come to an end. I suspect Saturday will be another zoo, you won't find me there.

On a more serious note, I did chat with Ranger Price concerning the continued use of Ranger Row. I got the impression that the current process of booking this area in advance with him is working. He indicated that the FPOA was working out the details of the contract but he didn't offer any more information other than there should be some conclusion - soon. The expectation is that the FPOA would oversee access to the area and the use of the observing pads as the managing concessionaire of the facility. How they will do that would be anybody's guess at this time.