Category Archives: Technology

How to Observe Mars for Beginners

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see the planet Mars from your backyard as it appears in this Hubble image? Sure, it would, but even though Mars is the only planet that reveals surface details in amateur telescopes, it is a small planet located a very long way away, which can sometimes make it a challenging affair to discern any surface detail at all. Nonetheless, despite the occasional difficulties in resolving surface details, it is possible to obtain stunning views of the red planet, and here is how to do it.

Image credit: Hubble Space Telescope

Finding Mars

Mars is not particularly difficult to find because like the other planets, it lies close to the ecliptic, which among other things, represents the plane of the solar system. However, since the ecliptic is inclined with respect to the celestial equator (which corresponds to the earth’s equator), by 23.5 degrees, the location of an observer on Earth plays a major part on how high above the horizon Mars, or any other planet, will culminate, or be seen to rise. In practice, the further north of the equator an observer is, the lower above the horizon Mars will be at its highest elevation at the midpoint between rising and setting.

Moreover, since Mars orbits the Sun once every 687 days, there inevitably comes a time that it approaches the Sun as seen from our perspective. As Mars approaches the Sun, it sets progressively earlier after sunset, until it re-emerges from behind the Sun (from our perspective), to rise again as an early morning, pre-dawn object. This is of course a gross oversimplification of Mars’ orbital motion, but it serves to illustrate the point that the planet is sometimes not visible.

There are many online resources that list the position of Mars on any given date, and it is recommended that novice observers familiarize themselves with the planets’ periods of visibility. Nevertheless, even when Mars is visible, there are times when it is closer to Earth than at other times, and it is during the latter moments, called “opposition” when the best views of the planet can be had.

Image credit: Astronomy Magazine
Image credit: Astronomy Magazine

The image above illustrates this very clearly. Opposition occurs when Mars is at its point of closet approach to Earth, but because neither Earth’s, nor Mars’ obits are perfectly circular, or concentric with respect to each other, the actual distance between the two bodies at any given opposition can vary considerably: the image above shows the actual distance between Earth and Mars at opposition on the dates shown.

One more complicating factor that influences how well Mars can be seen is the fact that the planets’ disc is fully illuminated only at opposition. At other times (before and after opposition), a part of the disc is in shadow, meaning that the phase, or illuminated portion of the disc changes all the time, albeit at longer intervals than happens on the Moon.

Seeing Mars at it’s best

While any telescope can deliver views of Mars, the general rule is that the bigger the instrument, the better the view, since bigger instruments gather more light. However, atmospheric conditions can play havoc with even the biggest instruments, meaning that seeing conditions must be good, and the planet must be as high above the murk of the atmosphere close to the horizon as possible to get the best views.

Assuming then that seeing conditions are excellent, and that Mars is at its highest elevation above the horizon, (which happens late at night), a refracting telescope of minimum 4 inches, or a reflecting instrument of at least 6 inches aperture will resolve the planets’ phase, as well as features like the very bright polar ice caps, and colour variations on the surface.

However, telescopic views of Mars can be greatly enhanced by using suitable filters to block out light frequencies that either absorb, or scatter light from Mars gathered by the telescope. For instance, an orange filter such as a Wratten #25 filter will enhance the subtle difference in surface colours if you are using a relatively small instrument, while a red filter in the eyepiece will do the same on large instruments. Similarly, using a pale blue filter on both big and small instruments will accentuate the polar ice caps and some types of white clouds.

Moreover, regardless of the telescope aperture you need large magnifications for the best results- typically upwards of 175×. However, it must be remembered that no matter how good the seeing conditions are, or how expensive the equipment you use, no view of Mars through amateur equipment can ever come close to photographic views, since cameras capture light in ways that human vision cannot. The image below shows a view of Mars through a 6-inch refracting telescope, but bear in mind that this image had been somewhat enhanced by the photographic process.

Much of the surface colour contrast shown here is not visible to human vision through a telescope, but some experimentation with filters and magnification might produce views that come close to this excellent amateur picture, especially in large instruments.

Image credit:
Image credit:

What to see on Mars

While a 4-inch refractor or 6-inch reflecting instrument will show subtle albedo (colour) variations on the Martian surface, 6-, and 8-inch reflectors will reveal cloud structures in the planet’s atmosphere, of which there are several types. Below are some details-

Discrete clouds

This type of cloud tends to persist in one particular area as the planet rotates. Most cloud structures of this type occur in the Martian northern hemisphere during spring and summer there, and these clouds are best viewed through pale blue filters.

Orographic clouds

Clouds of this type consist of water ice, and they are formed at different levels in the Martian atmosphere as winds pass over high mountain peaks and the tops of high volcanoes. Orographic clouds at high altitudes are best seen through pale blue of violet filters, while low-level orographic clouds are best seen through various shades of green filters.

Morning and evening clouds

Morning clouds form much like, and for the same reasons, that fog forms on Earth. Note however that morning clouds usually only lasts for a few hours after Martian sunrise, while evening cloud structures are usually larger, and form as Martian night approaches.

One more thing

When viewing Mars, some light pollution might actually work in your favour. For instance, a white light off to the side will have the effect of activating your daytime vision, which is significantly superior to your night vision in both colour sensitivity and resolution.

Advantages of the MAG 250 Set-Top Box to Watch UK TV Overseas

Television is one of the most popular ways for most people around the world to get their entertainment fix. Having a TV set was once a status symbol but it has now become a basic need in almost every house.

Over time, television has evolved to be more than just an entertainment avenue. It has permeated urban life to the point that most people feel hard done when in places where the access to the TV services that they are used to, are not possible.

The MAG 250 set top box provides the perfect, practical solution for this problem. It enables the viewing of UK TV stations practically from anywhere in the world. In this manner, keeping tabs with news, sports, entertainment and movies is not something to be forfeited just because you are away from your home. The MAG 250 set top box will therefore make you feel at home anywhere in the world.

This is actually the one big reason behind its popularity. It is common to find foreign hotels and accommodation facilities with these set top boxes installed to attract and cater for the UK clientele. There’s also many reputable providers for home use such as DemandUKTV.

The MAG 250 set top box also doubles up as a media player. This means that through it, one has the ability to access and view content from personal media storage items such as memory sticks, an external hard disk, a laptop and the like. This is a functionality that can come in handy for media addicts and enthusiasts; especially those who carry them around. It also means more convenience as those who are into video workouts such as Zumba and Pilates do not have to worry about missing their work outs when away from home.

This set top box comes with a warranty and a good customer care service too. The warranty lasts for up to two years which offers peace of mind in case of any inherent issue in the set top box.

The set top box needs no servicing. It uses IPTV technology, meaning that the necessary servicing such as firmware updates are done automatically. This translates to less hassle on the owners part. IPTV is simply television over the internet. This means that the set top box requires internet connectivity, which can be a challenge in some remote regions.

The set top box is compatible with Wi-Fi routers. If you have Wi-Fi, all you will have to do is buy the necessary adapter or connect the box to the router via an Ethernet cable. Wi-Fi gives the option to reduce cable clutter and have a clean entertainment space. Moreover, the MAG 250 set top box is very easy to install.

Installation instructions are well explained on the accompanying manual plus the necessary precautions and safety measures when operating the box.

What is the difference between VPN & Smart DNS?

Choosing the right solution to access UK TV

The Virtual Private Network or VPN software has been around for quite some time now and it enables people to stream down television programs from streaming services. Setting it up is quite easy. The person needs a VPN software program and there are many alternatives available on the market. Each of these VPN software programs differs in some respect and so it is necessary to be sure about the VPN software program that is eventually bought.

Once the VPN software is bought, the next step obviously is to install it. The third step is to log in. Finally it is necessary to indicate the country where the streaming is desired.

Two factors that are crucial while selecting any VPN software are its speed and its security features. VPN software programs are usually slow. However, some of these tools are able to offer exceptional privacy in an environment that is fraught with danger to privacy. In fact, speed is reduced because of encryption to make the person streaming it untraceable.

A factor that often gets overlooked in case of VPN is its reliability. This is because 99 percent of uptime is guaranteed in most of the cases.

The problem with VPN tools is that they are expensive. Such costs are inevitable because the tools have to be further refined and such refinement is a continuous process. With each new attempt to invade privacy, the tool needs to be additionally equipped. Similarly new hardware and software specifications as well as other technologies that periodically surface need to be considered while refining the VPN tool.

Smart DNS is different. As the name suggests this is a domain name system in which software and hardware work to provide the desired networking. The primary job of DNS is to translate the domain name supplied by the user into a numeric format that corresponds with the IP address of the place where the information resides. Similarly IP addresses of hostnames are also translated into the specific computer systems and Internet resources.

Because of such networking Smart DNS is faster. But the other reason for Smart DNS’ speed is lack of security. There are simply no measures taken to prevent privacy invasion. Apart from a better speed than VPN, Smart DNS also scores on the stability factor thanks to the way it is networked. VPN certainly lacks there because of which there may be connection problems. Disconnections are frequent with the VPN tool but with Smart DNS the movie or television programs can be watched without such breaks.

Another advantage of Smart DNS is that it is not necessary to install the tool even if more devices are to be used for streaming. Changes in Network settings that are built in would suffice.

There are methods to improve on VPN’s stability, but they do not offer as trouble free streaming as is possible with Smart DNS.

Smart DNS, however, is not as easy to install and set up as VPN. The procedure is a tad more complex in the case of Smart DNS. For installing and setting up Smart DNS the user would have to make some networking changes manually. However, changes that are needed on the computer are taken care of by the UK Smart DNS software. The user would also have to go to the Client area to change the IP address. Obviously when the IP address changes, the tool would not work until the relevant changes are made.

Cactus can implement those changes automatically. It can also change the code as needed on the DNS-WRT router.

There can be reliability and privacy issues with Smart DNS depending upon the change in the IP address by ISP. But the speed, consistency in connectivity, price and ability to use it on multiple devices definitely tilt the balance in its favour.