Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 48

JUNE 2020 OBSERVING
Celestial Calendar by Bob King

One of the best showings of
the Red Planet in decades
starts now.

G

rab all the Mars you can this apparition. The Red Planet won't be this
close to Earth again until 2035. Closest
approach during the current apparition occurs on October 6th, when the
tiny orb will swell to 22.6″. That's only
1.7″ less than at its perihelic opposition
in 2018, which was less favorable for
Northern Hemisphere observers due to
the planet's southerly declination. This
time Mars stands 31° farther north,
where atmospheric turbulence and poor
seeing typical of lower altitudes should
have much less affect on the view.
Longtime Mars observers know that
every arcsecond counts, which is why

June 12
10.0″

October 6
22.6″

South is up in this pair of illustrations showing the changing phase and diameter
of the Martian disk as the planet grows to its maximum size when it's closest to
Earth on October 6th.

I encourage you to rise at dawn this
month and catch the planet when it's
at its highest before sunrise. On June
12th, Mars grows to 10″ in diameter -
the generally accepted minimum size at
which useful observations can be made.
While only half as large as it will be at
opposition, now is the time to start getting acquainted with the planet's most
prominent surface markings, called
albedo features. Finding your way around
Mars early will prepare you to make the
most of the upcoming close approach.
The Martian South Polar Cap (SPC)
should be prominent throughout June
and appears glaringly white, like snow

on a sunny day. Watch for the SPC to
gradually shrink during the month as
spring deepens in the planet's southern
hemisphere. A 6-inch telescope used
at 150× or greater should reveal the
thumb-shaped Syrtis Major, the "wand"
of Sinus Sabaeus, Mare Cimmerium's
dark band, and the mottled blotch of
Mare Erythraeum. Use higher magnification if seeing conditions allow it, and
boost the contrast of these often-tenuous features with the help of an orange
Wratten 21 or red Wratten 23a filter.
Patience is key. Eyeball the planet
for at least 15 minutes (a half hour is
better), and you'll often catch enough

UK imager Damian Peach created this sequence of Mars images during the planet's close 2018 apparition. North
is presented up, and the sequence progresses from left to right with the earliest images on the left, the latest on
the right. Notice that the disks photographed just prior to the July 31st closest approach have muted features, the
result of a planetwide dust storm raging at the time.

March
2018

48

April
2018

May
2018

JUNE 2 02 0 * SK Y & TELESCOPE

June
2018

July
2018

M A RS SIZE CO MPA RISON: G A RY SERONIK / S&T,
SOURCE: COELIX A ND USGS

A Martian
Sneak Peek



Sky & Telescope - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - June 2020

Contents
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 1
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 3
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 4
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 5
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 6
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 7
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 8
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 9
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