The Romans called the red planet Mars, the God Of War. The red color that is clear to the
naked eye becomes vivid through the eye of the telescope. The polar ice caps....yes that is
real water ice....can be seen through even small telescopes as a white cap, clearly evident in
this picture. These polar ice caps grow and recede with the Martian seasons. Surface
features on Mars change with the rotation of the planet, which has a day slightly longer
On Aug. 27, 2003, Mars was less than 35 million miles away -- closer to our planet than itâ
€™s been in nearly 60,000 years. This close approach is not a trivial fact for astronomers.
Every 2 years, earths orbit around the sun catches up and passes Mars. Because Mars has
a highly elliptical orbit, the earth may pass anywhere from 35 million to twice that distance
from Mars. The pass by Mars in late August is exceptionally close, and worthy of a view.
This top left image is a combination of 10 red, 11 green, and 16 blue exposures using a 4"
refractor, a 4x barlow lens to provide additional magnification, with an ST-10MXE digital
camera. I began with 20 red, 20 green, and 30 blue exposures, but discarded about half of
the images that were blurred by atmospheric turbulence. The upper right image, taken 8
later, began with 60 exposures in each color. The result is a combination of the best 32
red, 26 green, and 28 blue exposures. The third image, lower leftt, began with 45 images
in each color, ending with 20 red, 20 green and 13 blue exposures. Windy conditions and
unsteady air over the roof of my house contributed to slightly more blurring than my first
image despite more exposures. The last image included just the best 10 red, 10 green, and
11 blue images out of 75 in each color. I shorted individual exposure times to 0.11 second
for red and green and 0.2 seconds for blue. I removed the telescope from the pier, imaging
from a tripod in the backyard to avoid heat currents from the roof of my house. I think the
results show that the effort was worthwhile.
Music: Ziggy Stardust and the
Spiders from Mars, by David Bowie