I woke up at 3:30 this morning to catch my first glimpse and image of Mars as it approaches its March 3, 2012 opposition. I easily distinguished the red planet glowing conspicuously at magnitude 1.2 in the constellation Cancer. The sky was stunningly clear but seeing was mediocre at best so the view through my 16 inch Newtonian and high power eyepiece revealed an undulating rust colored disk with indistinct dark markings and a prominently white polar cap. It felt good to see an old friend again! Very little else could be observed on Mars with such poor seeing. The planet is still also a tiny 5.5 arc seconds in diameter at a distant 1.6 Astronomical Units from Earth.
A quick image reveals slightly more details. The large dark region directly under the north polar cap is Mare Acidalium. An extensive blanket of clouds is evident on the eastern left side of the planet that faces the Sun. The South Polar Region also exhibits either some cloud cover, ice, or a combination of both clouds and ice.
Date Imaged :
October 17, 2011
Stardust Observatory, Baguio