As an 11-year-old amateur astronomer living in southeastern Virginia, Carlos Hernandez would turn his 2.4-inch (60mm) Tasco refractor towards the heavens and wonder what those celestial bodies would look like if we were able to visit them in a spaceship.
In 1971, the planet Mars made a close approach (opposition: when the Earth, Mars, and the Sun are in a straight line and Earth and Mars are at their closest distance to each other in their respective orbits) to the Earth. The Earth and Mars were then separated by a distance of approximately 35 million miles (56 million km) and had an apparent diameter of 24.9 arc-seconds. This was an especially close (or Perihelic) opposition of Mars. Mars was a brilliant red beacon in the sky, and the disk was visible in his small 60mm refractor, showing a few dark markings (called albedo features representing exposed volcanic bedrock over the Martian surface) as well. Carlos's mind raced with images of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character John Carter exploring the Martian surface as he peered through the eyepiece.
Later, he obtained a Celestron 8-inch (20-cm) f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector and a 12.5-inch (32-cm) f/6.2 Newtonian reflector, providing more aperture and resolution, showing more detail over Mars, the other planets, and deep sky objects. Carlos currently owns a custom 9-inch (23-cm) f/13.5 Maksutov-Cassegrain reflector that provides excellent imagery of all celestial objects. He also utilizes Explore Scientific telescopes, particularly their outstanding refractors, eyepieces, and accessories. Currently practicing medicine in the field of Pediatrics, his passion for the heavens has consistently beckoned him to explore the Moon, planets, and stars.
In addition to his passion for astronomy, Carlos pursues art, particularly space art, through his Macintosh computer, using a graphics tablet.
Carlos has primarily maintained the role of a visual observer, keenly observing the Moon, planets, and deep sky objects since the inception of his astronomical journey. Over the years, he has produced drawings and paintings—both traditional and digital—depicting what he has observed through the eyepiece. He has been fortunate to have his planetary observations published in notable magazines such as Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazine, as well as the journals of ALPO, BAA, and the OAA. Despite the impressive results achieved by the field of astrophotography, Carlos finds solace in the simplicity of pencil and paper (or a graphics tablet in today's context), allowing him to faithfully record his observations in the eyepiece field.
His creations have been published online and by NASA, reflecting his dedication to bringing the exotic locales of the Moon, planets, exoplanets, and stars to the public, aiming for a deeper understanding of our beautiful universe.
Contributing his planetary observations to worldwide organizations, including The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO, United States), British Astronomical Association (BAA, Great Britain), Oriental Astronomical Association (OAA, Japan), and many other esteemed planetary amateur astronomer groups over many decades, has been a fulfilling endeavor for Carlos. This engagement has allowed him to share his observations and experiences with fellow enthusiasts, collectively exploring our planetary neighbors.