MVNSC: The Night Sky Around Us  Lecture 3

Program developed by:

Mississippi Valley Conservation
Authority Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Ottawa Astronomy Friends

Instructor: Pat Browne
Assistants: Andrew Lindstrom, Bob Hillier

Guest Lecture: Frank Marshall – The Mars Missions

Course runs each Friday during the month of April Course time: 19:45 – 22:00 formally with priority given to observing when clear.




Questions from Observations Last Week:

What is the very bright object in the Morning Sky: VENUS

Planets come and go, depending on where we are, where the Sun is, and where they are in their orbit with respect to Earth. In the Fall, Venus was an evening planet:

Venus519am venusDawnSkyandTelvenusMorning

The above ECU screenshot shows the morning planets on the trajectory of the Ecliptic which we traced out in the evening using Jupiter the Moon and Mars.Inner planets are good pre-dawn targets. Venus transits (culminates) gets to ITS highest point mid-morning in this picture – well after the Sun is up, and hence is not easily visible.

Question: How do we find Polaris : See



Question: How do we find out what moons of Jupiter we were looking at on the night of our observation?



On April 14/15 2014 we have two nearby celestial bodies that will grab our attention

Total Lunar Eclipse ( It is FULL MOON tonight)

courtesy Sky and Tel online

Just like Galileo, we can do science with simple observing projects. During a lunar eclipse, estimating the

  • Brightness,
  • Colour
  • Earth Shadow timings in the craters.

… we can learn things about the Earth!

Mars Opposition ( FULL Mars – Mars gets as big as ‘it gets’ for 2014)

Let us review  what Opposition of Superior Planets: – Planets and Earth – Orbits around the Sun

Now that we have some understanding of what and why we’re seeing Mars in the sky (from Earth) as we do, we can get an overview of the Mars Missions… Frank Marshall will give us a brief overview.


Recently I observed Mars at the Fred Lossing Observatory. I used various filters on the eyepiece to suppress the dominant red colour and bring out the fainter  features. I used the 12mm Konig eyepiece. This  delivers the best view of Mars at just 170 x.  I checked the Mars profiler from Sky and Tel:  On the left, and then repeated on the right you can see Syrtus Major, Utopia and the Hellas Basin . Since the rotation period of Mars is 25 hours, the features rotate around. Here’s a snapshot of what I ‘think’ I saw through the eyepiece – the bright Hellas basin above the Y of Syrtus Major:

April 23 Features on Mars – courtesy Sky and Telescope Mars Profiler
Mars Sketch showing the Y feature of Syrtus Major

During the night of full moon, it is not possible to observe Deep Sky Objects. We turn our attention to understanding the fundamentals of Stellar Astronomy :

  • What is a Star?
  • What Stellar Properties tell us about Stars

All the stars we see in the sky naked are … Stars in our Milky Way Galaxy