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Photographing planets presents some real challenges for photographers that are as difficult (if not more) to solve than deep sky objects. These photos are better examples of the difficulties than of high quality photos. Being proficent in both fields is the ultimate goal for an astrophotograper. However, even if all the problems of high resolution photography are solved, there still is SEEING to contend with. Here in the Midwest it is just about hopeless. On the standard scale of 1 to 10, the best I have ever seen is around 7 and that only once or twice a year.

As most planetary imaging is done with CCD these days, I thought it would be interesting to see what the limits of film are. These images would be improved considerably under better seeing conditions but they will never match CCD because of the longer exposure required with film. .5 second may seem like a short exposure but lots of wiggling goes on during that time and it is all averaged into the general blurr.

More recently I have worked with Video CCD and Digital CCD for high resolution imaging and the much better results can be seen following the film images.

For the very latest Mars images, go to... MARS 2003 then come back and see why 2003 is such a wonderful year for Mars observers.

[Mars] [Mars]

Mar 15, 1997, CM=70 Degrees

Mar 18, 1997, CM=25 Degrees

The Central Meridian (CM) can be used to locate features on charts of the planet. The large dark feature at the bottom (North) is Mare Acidalium. The bright area immediately above this is Chryse Planitia where Vinking I landed in 1976. The dark area at the top is the vast Mare Australe which blends into the dark sky making the planet look flat.

As the Martian day is only about 40 minutes longer than here on Earth, we see almost the same face of Mars from night to night. However, the 40 minutes is enough to make the entire surface visible over the period of a month or so. It's just a matter of knowing when to look. The two photos respresent this differential rotational rate over a period of 3 days.

Scope: 10 inch Newt at EFL = 50 ft
Exposure: .5 sec
Film: un-hypered Techpan
Filter: Red
Printed on Ektacolor paper through yellow and magenta filters

In case there is any doubt about seeing being the problem, the following photo was taken on a recent amateur night at Yerkes on the 40". I used the same technique as above and got even worse results that night.



This photo was taken with the Yerkes 40" refractor and a 2x focal extender.

The exposure was one second on unhypered TechPan and printed on color paper through appropriate filters to restore the filtered color.

For more on the Yerkes trip, see: Yerkes Trip


This image was taken under considerably better seeing conditions two years later. The image was made using a video camera in the 16" Newt. The monochrome image was colorized to approximate the actual telescopic view.

MARS 5/15/99

I gave up waiting for good seeing to obtain the "other side" of Mars. This one will have to do for this year. You can compare this one with the first two film images above showing about the same face. The major feature at the bottom is Mare Acidalium.

This is a monochrome video frame through a red filter and color added after capture. Telescope is 16" efl 360".

MARS June 8, 2001

This was the best CCD during the 2001 apparition.

This is a monochrome CCD image through a red filter and color added after capture. Telescope is 16" efl 360".


This is a CCD image taken during the curent (2001) apparition.

A few of the more conspicuous features hae been labeled.


And finally, a classic "photo" of Mars, proving beyond a doubt, the existance of the canals, according to the author of a book published in 1911.

If Lowell ever actually made that claim, it was a less than truthful. He may have thought he saw canals but if this is a photograph, it has been "creatively enhanced" to show detail that was totally beyond the capability of film in his day and probably beyond modern earth based photography even today. Furthere, none of our spacecraft has ever found anything even remotely resembling the "canals" that were the rage at the turn of the century.


For more on video imaging..Video

All photos taken with the...

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