I obtained this picture of the red planet, Mars, with my 8-inch telescope two days after the closest approach of Mars to the Earth since the dawn of recorded history. Unfortunately, in keeping with typical UK weather, clouds intervened to prevent a view on the actual day of closest approach.
Atmospheric conditions were not good because Mars was at only 30 degrees elevation, but this shot clearly shows prominent dark features on the surface of the planet. Near the centre lies Syrtis Major, an area of mountains roughly the size and shape of India. Towards the top, and appearing yellowish in this picture, is the south polar icecap, which later pictures will probably show shrinking under the influence of Martian summer sunshine.
The result also demonstrates the power of a PC webcam and image registration software downloaded free off the web, which I have used for the first time on a planet. No expensive digital camera required to obtain this shot!
Click the picture or see here for further images that I will add as I obtain them, including captioned versions in which I attempt to identify all the visible features on the planet's surface.
Picture added on 11 September 2003