Dr. Jesus Rodrigo F. Torres
Mars was in opposition in 2003 in its closest approach to Earth in more than 50,000 years. Astronomers all over the world took this occasion to observe Mars with all types of Earth-bound telescopes. I used the Orion XT-10 Newtonian reflector to do my observations. However, to maximize its use for high-power observing, modifications in the altazimuth motion and in the sighting mechanism of the telescope had to be made. The improvements resulted into smooth altazimuth telescope motion and faster sighting of objects to be observed. The telescope has been very useful for deep-sky observing up to this day.
The purpose of this study is to observe Mars during its best opposition in 2003, record the observations using astronomical sketching, identify the features of Mars as revealed in the sketches, compare the sketches with the images of Mars on the time and dates of observation; and find out the best configuration for the Orion SkyQuest 10-inch Newtonian Reflector telescope.
Experimentation in the most effective configuration and modification of the telescope is done after initial assessment of its usefulness. The actual field observations were conducted whenever weather and sky conditions allowed. Sketching of the planet Mars was done for several hours every observing session. Features of the planet were revealed only after patient waiting for the atmosphere to allow the seeing. And lastly the features of the planet revealed in the sketch were then compared with the planet’s actual features on the date and time of observation by using the Celestia and Stellarium softwares.
Sketches of the planet Mars using the modified Orion XT-10 Newtonian reflector were compared side by side with the images of Mars on the exact time and date of the observation when the sketches were made. The sketches have differences with the actual images. This means that the human eye can sometimes perceive features in astronomical objects which images cannot capture accurately. Sketches, therefore, are real scientific records which may be used as baseline data for future studies of the same object.
Newtonian reflectors on Dobsonian mounts can be configured to be highly efficient instruments for serious astronomical visual observing with sketching as the preferred method for recording the observations; Planetary observers should monitor the events on the planets particularly the best times to observe them; Students of astronomy or Earth Science should be taught how to sketch through whatever telescopes are available; Sketches and images are fine records of the objects observed, the weather and sky condition during the night of observing, the instruments used, the magnification and similar data; The modified telescope needed no more upgrading and I still use it today for observations of deep-sky objects such as galaxies, planetary nebulae, globular clusters, open clusters, and supernova remnants. It is especially good for observing faint objects. Tracking remains smooth after more than a decade of use.
KEYWORDS Astronomy Education, Astronomical Observation, Astronomy Instrumentation