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The Webfooted Astronomer - May 2001

 

Mars—Spring's "First Light"

By Mark Zemanek

AFTER all the rain last night there was a nice clear sky. I arrived home from work at around 4 a.m., when I noticed Mars was high in the sky. Having not seen it for quite a while, I pulled out the six-inch scope for a look. Even though it was near it's highest point in the sky, the ecliptic appeared to be riding low in the sky. The scope had not cooled, and the seeing was not the best, but there it was . . . the planet Mars. After all the rain, the humid air was turbulent. The planet still had it's muddy reddish hue. I spent about 10 minutes looking at it, and then searched for another treat. A little east of the zenith was Cygnus, and I immediately noticed Vega next to it. So M57, the Ring Nebula, became my next object of interest. I pointed the scope and found it on my first try. Another 10 minutes at the eyepiece made it look better-and-better, and I felt quite satisfied. It was really beginning to stand-out, but fatigue was setting in, so I stopped there and put the scope away.

It appears Spring has sprung, and one observation I made is that Mars will be the planetary highlight at Table Mountain this Summer, though Venus will present a picturesque view between Jupiter and Saturn in the (very) late night skies in July.

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