I want to see Mars polar caps by myself. Is it feasible to make a picture of mars like thisenter image description here at home or to achive this very expensive telescope is required?

P.S. Maybe someone can give me a link, where it is shown how polar caps are changing during the seasons? Many pictures or animation.

  • $\begingroup$ Small point, but the polar ice caps on Mars don't change very much. What changes is the freezing of atmospheric CO2, which is a closer analogy to snow cover than ice-cap expansion. I didn't see any videos and there's not even may pictures available. I found two. images.slideplayer.com/32/10019997/slides/slide_8.jpg biocab.org/Mars_Global_Warming.jpg $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Nov 30, 2016 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's a cool question, what's sort of photo of Mars can you get w/ the best amateur equipment. Do you know about this amazing service, OP - itelescope.net $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Dec 2, 2016 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ I registered with iTelescope.net and I even tried, but I got picture like 4x4 pixels. I asked them and they answered, that their telescopes configured for deep space objects, not for planets. $\endgroup$
    – Zlelik
    Dec 2, 2016 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ I want to see seasonal changes. I found 1 picture like this btc.montana.edu/ceres/html/Polar/Images/marsnpc.jpg Your picture is about global warming, which is very slow. Seasonal changes should be faster. $\endgroup$
    – Zlelik
    Dec 2, 2016 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ Or maybe this picture is better where winter and summer on Mars are compared s3.amazonaws.com/classconnection/469/flashcards/2839469/png/… $\endgroup$
    – Zlelik
    Dec 2, 2016 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


Regarding the original picture from the question

No, it is not feasible to get a picture like this. According to this webpage the photograph you posted was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide-Field Planetary Camera 2.

The telescope itself has a 2.4 m (7.9 ft) mirror and the focal length of 57.6 m (189 ft) and is placed outside the Earth's atmosphere. You'd need a large instrument with adaptive optics to get near this quality (assuming you can't afford to place a telescope in orbit).

That said, it is possible for you to capture the polar ice caps on Mars using an amateur telescope. The quality of these will largely depend on the equipment you have and the location (atmospheric turbulence is very unforgiving if you use large magnifications) as well as the imaging technique.

Here's a gallery of planet pictures taken by amateurs. You can find some photos of Mars in which the polar caps are visible.

Regarding the Mars pictures you found on the Sky & Telescope website

To answer your questions about this image, I see no reason to think it wasn't taken with an 8" telescope. However, there must have been more to it than just snapping a picture.

According to the author, the photographs were taken using a Celestron 8" SCT telescope with a Meade 3x Telextender and Expanse 120 Camera.

We're talking about a focal length of 2000 mm with 3x extender, which gives us 6000 mm. Not bad.

The Expanse 120 is a CCD camera. Now, I'm not sure that's the case with these specific pictures but one way to reduce the impact of atmospheric turbulence is to record a video of a planet and stack the individual frames. Many of them will look very bad due to turbulence but occasionally, you'll get a better quality image. Selecting the best frames from a video and combining them into a single image can help you get a lot more detail.

Have a look at this guide explaining how consumer-grade computer webcams can be used. It contains a neat comparison of a single frame and a stacked image.

Please note that I'm merely speculating as to which techiniques could be used to obtain such images. I can see that the author posted their email on the S&T site and that there's a comments section as well. Feel free to ask them yourself.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. Yes, looks like my expectation was too high :) I fount fro your link that this pictures was made with 8" telescope skyandtelescope.com/online-gallery/rotation-mars-0507-06062016 and it looks quite good. Do you think it was really made with 8" or it look too good? $\endgroup$
    – Zlelik
    Dec 22, 2016 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Zlelik I think it was made with an 8" but took some post-processing to look like this. I'll explain further in an edit. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2016 at 10:22

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