|September 6, 2003, 07:10 UT|
Instrument: 10-inch Starfinder
The feature I find most mysterious is in full bloom, tonight. Snakelike Sinus Sabaeus stretches across the central meridian with fanged Sinus Meridiani at the concluding end. They are obviously darker than the other albedo markings on the Martian disk. Decaulionis Regio is the brighter region immediately to the south. Dark Mare Serpentis curves along the southern edge of Decaulionis Regio, eventually merging with Mare Erythraeum to the west following Sinus Meridiani.
Toward the preceding limb, Sinus Sabaeus blends into Iapygia. The long slender dagger of Hellespontus points south and west, terminating just to the following side of the South Polar Cap. The large impact basin, Hellas, is seen preceding Hellespontus, a light toned oval along the preceding limb. Clouds seem to have taken a bite from the eastern edge of the basin.
The South Polar Cap has diminished substantially in size but is much more interesting as a result. The irregular form includes an appendage along the preceding edge. The seeing is not steady enough to reveal it but this feature is actually detached from the rest of the polar cap. It is known as the "Mountains of Mitchel" to experienced Mars observers. Not actually a mountain range, this region is sloped to keep the area in shadow and, thus, allow the icy cap to persist. An illustration accompanying an article by Stephen O'Meara in the August 2003 issue of Sky & Telescope indicates this is also known as Novus Mons.
Who knows what the next night will bring?
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Revised: September 8, 2003 [WDF]