Mars is so earthlike in appearance it forces one to consider the possibility that life is not exclusive to our home planet. Unfortunately, the red planet is close enough to reveal his secrets just once every two years when at opposition. And all oppositions are not created alike. However, during the great perihelic opposition of 2003, Mars will appear larger than at any time in recorded human history, fully 25.1 arc seconds across. Whet your appetite for Mars by checking out the drawings and detailed descriptions in this section.

The illustration below identifies a few Martian features. The image is inverted to match the view through a Newtonian reflector. SCT owners will see a mirror-reverse image with north at top and the image flipped left-to-right. In the below illustration, Mars rotates from right to left. The right side is called the following side. The left is called the preceding side. An imaginary line down the middle connecting the poles is called the Central Meridian (CM). One day on Mars lasts about 24.5 hours so the view doesn't change much from day to day.

Map of Martian Features

Syrtis Major is the largest, most prominent of the dark markings--also called albedo features--on Mars. These and other surface features can be enhanced by the use of a 23A light red color filter. Hellas is an impact basin directly south of Syrtis Major. Hellas is sometimes mistaken for the South Polar Region because of low lieing clouds which give the basin a bright white appearance. The North Polar Region was prominent during the 1990s. However, the South Polar Region has gained the upper hand since the 2001 opposition. Clouds over the polar caps and along the limbs of the planet are fairly common. These and other atmospheric features are enhanced using an 80A light blue color filter.

Here are links to pages for my observations of Mars, including sketches and detailed notes.

2005 Opposition

October 29, 2005 |

2003 Opposition

September 11, 2003 | September 8, 2003 | September 6, 2003 | August 30, 2003 | August 29, 2003 | August 25, 2003 | August 13, 2003 | August 6, 2003 |

2001 Opposition

June 16, 2001 | June 9, 2001 | June 7, 2001 | June 6, 2001 |

1999 Opposition

May 19, 1999 | May 9, 1999 | April 19, 1999 | March 29, 1999 |

1995 Opposition

April 5, 1995 | March 14, 1995 | February 22, 1995 | February 6, 1995 | January 24, 1995 |


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Revised: October 30, 2005 [WDF]