Mars 2003

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Mars - July 19
Celestron C11

Where is Mars
located in the Sky?

(29 Aug. 2003)
And where was Mars
at the last opposition
At left are some images taken during the 2003 close approach of Mars. I'm using this occasion to get some experience using video to acquire planetary images. Unless noted otherwise, all imaging was done with a Celestron C11 mounted on a Losmandy G11 mount from the Orange County Astronomers site in Anza, CA.

The July image was done very differently from the August images. The camcorder was used only as a recorder, recording monochrome video output from an STV autoguider fitted (manually) with B,V,R photometric filters to get R,G,B tri-color components. Due to the long delay between acquiring the R and B components (manually switching filters, re-focusing, adjusting gain, and recording 5-minutes of video), there is probably blurring due to planetary rotation, so this was abandoned for later images. However, the July image is also not as sharp as the August image because it has not been processed with the wavelet filters of Registax.

As you look down the sequence of images at left, notice:

  • The size of the polar cap is shrinking dramatically as summer progresses in that hemisphere.
  • The illuminated portion (phase) of Mars changes as we overtake Mars in its orbit. The fullest phase is at opposition (Aug. 28).
Mars is also varying in size, reaching a maximum at the closest point to us (Aug. 27), though it's not reflected in the image sequence at left. Here's a graph over 2003. Much had been made about viewing Mars exactly on the night of closest approach, but as indicated on the graph, for a few weeks the size difference is not discernible to visual observers. This graph is based on information listed in the RASC Observer's Handbook 2003.

For August and later images, the camcorder was used to directly image as well as record the signal. Because the camcorder's lens is not removable, a 16mm eyepiece was used for afocal imaging as detailed at left.

For all images, the video sequence was brought into my PC using a Firewire (iLink) digital video interface. The resulting DV AVI file had to then be re-encoded into an Indeo 5.10 AVI file for compatibility with K3CCD and Registax which are being used for post processing.


Mars - Aug. 17
Celestron C11


Mars - Aug. 24
Celestron C11


Mars - Aug. 30
Celestron C11


Mars - Sept. 13
Celestron C11


Mars - Aug. 16
Borg 76ED (3") refractor.


Video recording setup (direct imaging)

Copyright 2003 by David A. Kodama, All Rights Reserved