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Astro Bob

Mars Cleans Up Its Act / September Opens With A Binocular Comet

1 Sep 2018, 16:11 UTC
Mars Cleans Up Its Act / September Opens With A Binocular Comet
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The dust storm has altered the appearance of some of Mars’ features. I’ve marked two: the giant canyon Valles Marineris (arrows) and the big, orange patch. The length of the canyon’s floor is now yellow with dust. Look around and you’ll see more changes. Damian Peach
OK, Mars isn’t completely clear, but the dust is really thinning now, and the planet’s dark surface markings are much easier to see. I noticed this two nights ago when I hauled out my 10-inch scope for a look. The night was calm and no leaf stirred, often a sign of “steady seeing,” when planets appear sharp even at higher magnifications. It was also heartening to see that the south polar cap was still large enough to stand out at 125x. When you look at Mars in your telescope, you might notice that the cap’s northern edge is bordered by a narrow, dark line. These are dark dune fields that become exposed as the carbon dioxide ice (dry ice) vaporizes, causing the cap to shrink with the coming summer season.
Mars is full of surprises, but I’m glad the dust storm is dissipating so we can see what’s been happening on the surface since ...

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