Visit Mars

Mars Captured in RGB on 06 April 2014 at 12:16 UT

Mars was in opposition through April 2014. At its closest approach the planet was 96 million km from earth and presenting a minuscule disc of 15.2" in diameter. Passing through Virgo, this opposition slightly favoured Southern observers, like myself. Fortunately we experienced some nice weather through our autumn, allowing me to capture well over 100 images of the red planet. Most of the images were recorded in IR and have sufficient coverage to allow me to build a smoothly rotating globe. I have included limited animated GIF examples below. I also captured several RGB image sets too. The image to the left (South up) shows some recognizable features including the giant cloud-filled impact crater Hellas (2,300 km) in the South (top), which has a rim to floor depth of 9 km! The dark basaltic shield volcano Syrtis Major (1,000 km East-West) lies on the equator and the permanent Northern polar cap (bottom), which is composed largely of water ice. The bluish clouds on the left side surround the massive volcano Elysium Mons.

Mars imaged in IR on 05 April 2014 at 11:58 UT

Imaging in IR emphasizes the dark basalt features and the red sand deserts, and also lessens the impact of (our) atmospheric turbulence. Martian clouds however are difficult to see in IR and require RGB imaging. I prepared the animated GIF with a series of back-to-back images; the movement and the sepia tinting helps the eye to bring out some of the finer dark details - resolution is down to ~150 km. The rotation of Mars is quite obvious during an observing/imaging session. Syrtis Major Planum, the dark "Indian" shaped feature in the centre of the image is an extinct shield volcano that is probably ~3 billion years old. Its name reflects that it was once assumed to be a "sea", but in fact it is a basaltic structure. The East-West dimension is 1,000 km and the North-South dimension 1,500 km. The light coloured plain to the right of Sytris Major is Arabia Terra, one of the oldest land foms on Mars. The numerous visits to Mars show this to be heavily cratered though that cannot be seen from Earth. In RGB Arabia Terra has the distinctive red colouration of Mars.

Mars Captured in RGB on 17 April 2014 at 10:43 UT

The so called "boring side of Mars" though the white cloud just to the left of centre shrouds Olympus Mons, the giant shield volcano that rises ~22 km above its immediate surrounds. This is the largest volcano in the solar system. To the left are brilliant white clouds associated with the three giant volcanoes that comprise the Tharsis Montes.

Mars imaged in IR on 30 March 2014 at 11:48 UT