Last updated: 15 September 2003

Subject:	Observing Mars with ETX-70
Sent:	Wednesday, September 10, 2003 05:04:11
From: (Todd Hufnagel)
Great site; thanks for all the useful information.

I saw several comments from ETX-70 users disappointed with the views of
Mars. I also bought an ETX-70 specifically because of the Mars
opposition; although the ETX-70 is not the ideal scope for this, it
seemed like a scope that I would use frequently, being easily portable
and computerized.

The first comment, as you have already noted, is not to expect too much
from the ETX-70. But I would also suggest that people practice with
their scopes, be patient, view for extended periods, and return on
multiple nights.

I, too, was disappointed with my initial views of Mars. My very first
observations were terrible, due partly to a view location with lots of
ambient light, but more to my inexperience with the scope. With a little
practice (an hour or so on several nights), I got much better at
focusing, aligning the scope, and (most importantly) actually observing
rather than just looking.

Based on my own experience, I am sure that novice users (myself
included) don't appreciate how important the atmospheric conditions are.
After intially viewing Mars from my home in suburban Baltimore, where I
was not very impressed by the view, I had the opportunity to use my
scope in northern Vermont for a few nights. The skies are much darker
there, and the cooler air seemed to make for steadier viewing. (It also
helped that at this time Mars was at its closest approach.) Even this,
though, was not enough. It takes patience! Viewing on several nights,
and then waiting for the best conditions, is essential. On one memorable
night, I waited for several hours while Mars climbed in the sky. Only
after waiting and observing, could I see the south polar ice cap and
some of the darker surface features. Very nice!

(Note: This was with a 4 mm and/or 6mm Plossel eyepieces, and usually
with a 2x Barlow. You won't see nearly as much with the 9 mm and 25 mm
MA eyepieces that come standard with the ETX-70. But Meade sells a set
of eyepieces - the 4 and 6 mm Plossel plus the 2x Barlow - for $40,
which I highly recommend.)

The key is that these lessons of patience, practice, and extended
viewing serve me well back home in Baltimore. Now that I know at least a
little about what I am doing, I was able to observe these same Martian
features even from my suburban location. The view is not quite so nice,
perhaps, now that Mars is receding, but it is still impressive.

Sorry for the lengthy note, but there it is: Patience and practice will
be rewarded! I am eager to start exploring other views with this nice


Todd Hufnagel

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