The Red Planet Up Close

October 13, 2020


Photographer: John Chumack 
Summary Author:  John Chumack

I just love it when Mars gets close to the Earth every two years. When Mars is nearer, of course, it gets larger in telescopic view, allowing the viewer to see a number of impressive surface features that are otherwise extremely challenging to observe. Luckily, there have been no Martian dust storms yet to compromise seeing conditions. The red planet reaches opposition today and won’t be as bright as it is this October until 2035. See the Related Link below to see how Mars appeared in 2016.

The above photo shows one of my most detailed Mars shots this season. Terra Meridiani and the Arabia Terra region are front and center. A lot of blue limb clouds and the blue north polar hood are also looking good, as well as the southern ice cap, now shrinking in size.

If you haven't had a good look at Mars before, step outside this evening. Mars is that very bright orange/red planet that’s currently up all night long. This is a great time to peer at Mars through binoculars. Or if you have a small telescope, hold your smartphone up to the eyepiece and try to grab a shot -- it’s worth a try. Photo taken on October 5, 2020, at 06:41:40 UT. At the time, Mars’ magnitude was -2.55.

Photo Details: QHY5III290M, LRGB camera; Scope: C-11 SCT telescope; 3x Barlow lens; 8000 mm; 28 F ratio; seeing conditions about 7/10 -- well above average for me in Dayton, Ohio.