On Monday evening I paid another visit to Franklin & Marshall's Grundy Observatory, which is located just to the east of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I had wanted to see Mars through the 1884 vintage 11" Alvan Clark achromat at some time during this historic apparition and this was perhaps my last opportunity. High clouds prevailed early on with a few sucker holes that allowed some observing to take place but conditions improved a great deal after 00:00 UT (2003/10/21).
My first view was through the Clark and it was, in fact, of Mars using a 26mm Kellner. At approximately 23:20 UT the planet was still too low for a good outcome but things did improve within two hours time.
Jerry McClune, the telescope operator, had the 16" f/13.5 Boller & Chivens classical Cassegrain up and running. During the course of this October public observing session I saw M57, M13, M31, NGC 7662, NGC 7009, Neptune, Uranus, and the Double Cluster through the single-arm fork mounted reflector.
Jerry had shown me how to operate the Clark on a previous visit last May and allowed me to star-hop to a number of objects. This time around I trained the refractor on Albireo, Epsilon Lyrae, M15, and Eta Cassiopeiae. It was more than a bit tough to locate objects that weren't close to bright stars considering the highly light polluted skies, the ancient long-focus finder scope, and the manner in which the big refractor is mounted. In fact, in a few cases I wasn't able to track down my intended target.
As Mars gained altitude and the transparency improved I substituted a 12mm Brandon for the Kellner and was able to show the crowd the SPC and Mare Cimmerium.