The last two moonless nights have been perfect for Mars-watching.
Yesterday morning at 3 AM, the red planet was a huge dollop of peach ice cream in the southern sky. This morning I got up at 2 AM to view Mars again. Both times, telescope observation revealed very little. There were more features visible a few weeks ago, including a polar ice cap. Apparently there have been dust storms. Also, the planet is hanging lower and lower in the sky, leading to ever-blurrier images.
Still, at 200× and 250× magnification, the disk was large and orange in my eyepiece. Right now, the planet is within two arcseconds of its maximum expected diameter at perihelion. That in turn will be .8″ smaller than its all-time maximum of 2003. A noticeable difference, but quite a small one.
This morning, I estimated brightness of -3; Stellarium assures me that it’s actually -2.47.
Other destinations this morning: M31 (that’s the Andromeda Galaxy); γ Andromedae (also known as Almaak, the gorgeous orange-blue binary); the Double Cluster in Perseus; the Garnet Star (in my personal mythology, a symbol of the Adirondacks, with the largest garnet deposits on earth)…I also spent time just gazing at the Milky Way, which is regrettably dim nowadays, thanks to light pollution.
Don’t just talk about “loving science.” Do something about it. Get a telescope. The patience it will take to actually be able to see M31 with the naked eye and get it in the eyepiece–to be able to swap eyepieces without moving the tube–to collimate the finder–to choose and use filters–to recognize constellations visually–to go back, night after night, to the same sky and get more and more comfortable–even to look through the eyepiece correctly–takes a lot of patience.
I know it’s easier to blurt political opinions–plus, you get a nice jazzy jolt of dopamine–but skywatching is better for you, more honest, and less obnoxious to society at large. Shut your mouth, belly up to the eyepiece, turn the RA handle the right way, and keep both eyes open.