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We're not too far away now from the 2020 Mars opposition which will occur on October 13th where it will be just over 22 arc seconds in apparent size and shine at magnitude ~-2.6. Unlike other recent oppositions, Mars will be higher in the sky at ~40 degrees altitude from the UK so that will help with viewing/imaging the planet.
To view or image Mars and its features you need a telescope 3-4 inch aperture and above, and use a magnification of ~150x +. There is a very good article where you can read about Mars' opposition this year on the Sky at Night magazine website. The image below shows a simulated view of Mars through a 6" SCT at just over 200x magnification.
To view Mars, a telescope of ~100mm/4" in aperture and above with a large focal ratio is often recommended. Celestron's Maksutov-Cassegrain and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are ideal as they combine a large aperture and long focal length in a very compact and portable package.
Below are a small selection of suitable telescopes that are currently available you can use to view and image Mars (as well as our Moon and other planets too).
Celestron Evolution 5" SCT - an easy to use portable GOTO telescope with built in battery and WiFi for wireless telescope control.
Celestron 7" Maksutov-Cassegrain - perfect for Lunar and planetary observation. This is the telescope tube only for you to put on your own suitable mount.
Good quality eyepieces are important for getting a decent view of Mars. You will need a magnification of around 150x upwards. For example, if you have a 4-inch telescope, try 150x to 200x, and 200x-300x if you have an 8″+ aperture scope. The highest usable magnification depends on the seeing conditions at the time and the aperture of your telescope.
To see what magnification an eyepiece will give you simply divide the focal length of your telescope by the focal length of the eyepiece. For example the 5" Evolution telescope has a focal length of 1250mm. If a 6mm Baader Classic Orthoscopic is used with this telescope it would give 1250/6 ~ 208x magnification.
Here are our selection of eyepieces for viewing Mars, and for general Lunar and planetary observation.
Baader Orthoscopic eyepieces - ideal for observing Mars and a favourite amongst Lunar and planetary observers.
The Baader Hyperion eyepiece range of long (20-22mm) eye relief 68° apparent field of view eyepieces ideal for Lunar and planetary viewing. You can also directly couple cameras (with optional adaptors) for projection imaging to capture this upcoming opposition.
Change magnification easily with the Baader Q-turret four eyepiece revolver. With this useful accessory you can quickly and easily swap between different eyepieces without the hassle of physically removing an eyepiece and replacing with another. It makes life so much easier! The Q-Turret is available on its own for you to use with your own eyepieces, or as a package complete with four eyepieces (one Plossl and 3 Orthocopic), 2.25x barlow lens and storage case.
Two eyes are better than one! Looking through your telescope for prolonged periods can be tiring with one eye. Celestron's Stereo Binocular Viewer allows you to use both eyes producing a three dimensional image and they can provide stunning views of the Mars as well as the other planets, our Moon and brighter deep-sky objects without causing fatigue and eyestrain. Don't forget you need two identical eyepieces!
Coloured filters are used for contrast enhancement of lunar and planetary features. These Baader Lunar and planetary filters are available individually and as a 6-piece set in both 1.25" and 2" sizes and are an ideal accessory for helping view details on Mars.
Baader Neodymium (Moon and Skyglow) - helps to improve contrast so that surface detail on Mars is more prominent. The filter also blocks most from street lighting and light pollution known as "skyglow“.
Record Mars' opposition this year with Celestron's NexImage 5 five megapixel one-shot colour camera. Easy to operate with Celestron iCap software and comes with Registax image alignment and stacking software too.
The Baader Flip Mirror II is a very useful accessory to help you locate Mars in your field of view and be able to centre the planet on the small imaging sensor of a Solar system imaging device.
An example set up is shown below.
Good luck and we hope you get clear skies over the next few weeks for viewing Mars!