Have Webcam Will Travel

Planetary observers at high northern and southern latitudes are at a huge disadvantage when compared to their counterparts nearer to the equator. Take the situation of this author, for example. I live at 52° north and so the highest the planets ever get above my southern horizon (when they are at + 23° Declination) is 90° -52° + 23° = 61°. Most of the time the planets are much lower, of course, typically, an altitude of 40° is better than average for planets from the U.K. But when the planets sink deep into negative declination territory, all hope is lost. Mars, at its perihelic oppositions, is especially bad from the U.K. as it rolls along the south horizon barely clearing 20° on the meridian. While narrow-band filters, especially in the deep red, can be used to salvage a half-decent image this is no substitute for the planet being high up. Low altitudes not only cause dispersion, spreading every bright feature into a rainbow of color, they also mean poorer seeing (as far more turbulent air is being encountered) and serious degradation in the blue end of the spectrum.

However, there is a solution to this problem and one especially compatible with using a webcam, a laptop, and a modest telescope. That solution is traveling abroad for a couple of weeks (or longer) to coincide with the planet's opposition period. Air flights have never been cheaper and planetary equipment has never been as portable. But where are the best places to go and what should you take?

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