I haven’t blogged too much about things having to do with astronomy as of late, but last Friday I took time out of my normal telescope making activities to actually stare through one: actually the 8″ Alvan Clark refractor (nicknamed Leah) that’s at the Chabot Space and Science Center. Mars is currently closing on its closest approach to the earth on October 29-30th, and is currently well placed for observation. The air conditions were slightly foggy but rather still, so I could see lots of good detail on Mars. If you need help identifying features on Mars, you can use the Java Marslet, a cool little applet that shows the features of Mars as they appear through a telescope. An example view (corresponding to what I saw on Friday) appears on the right. I could see just the hint of the polar cap appearing as a very bright white dot near the bottom of the disk, and could easily see Serpentis and Meridiani Margaritfer as horizontal features crossing the disc. Syrtis Major was just coming up over the limb, and could be seen when seeing becomes particularly still. Overall, one of the nicer views of Mars I’ve seen in recent years.
If you get a chance to see Mars through a telescope, take advantage. It’s pretty cool.