Of course we had to observe Mars’ closest approach to Earth in 15 years! That occurred on July 31 when it was a “mere” 35.8 million miles from us. I was able to capture it right at that time from the Talavera Space Hut! Unfortunately it is not favorably positioned for Northern Hemisphere imagers as it’s maximum elevation is only 29 degrees. Seeing at this low altitude even in the best conditions is not that great. Consequently it was very difficult to obtain quality images, but loads of fun to record the event! Interestingly I compared the images I took in 2005 when it was at around 43 million miles (7 million miles further) and at that time the planet elevation was much higher. You can see how even with way more modest equipment the resolution is better!
Mars is at “opposition” now in terms of it’s orbital position relative to Earth, meaning we are between Mars and the Sun. When the Sun sets, Mars is rising and at sunrise Mars is setting.
Here is a schematic diagram of Mars in 2018 with simulated images courtesy of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers website:
Of course this isn’t exactly what I saw but the other complicating factor was a dust storm that raged on the planet for months obscuring all surface features. Considering that and the low altitude position we didn’t do too badly. Note that the South polar cap is at the top here. One thing I did see that isn’t shown here is the North polar cap! You can barely see it in the fully processed images below but note the appearance in the blue filtered image. You can really see it there!
Well that’s about it for Mars opposition 2018! Until next time. Thanks for reading!