September 8, 2003, 05:10 UT
Instrument: 10-inch Starfinder

Apparent diameter: 24".4
Phase: 99%
CM: 308°

I've come full circle. Back on August 6, Syrtis Major and Sinus Meridiani were on center stage as I made my first sketch of the red planet during the great perihelic opposition of 2003. Tonight, those same features are making a return engagement. And a lot has changed during the interim.

The South Polar Cap, large and bright white that first night, has made a disorganized retreat on all fronts. Its irregular form includes an abandoned chunk along the northern edge preceding the central meridian. This feature is known as Novus Mons or the "Mountains of Mitchel". Referencing an article by Stephen O'Meara in the August 2003 issue of Sky & Telescope, rift separating this remnant from the larger cap is Rima Australis.

At the opposite end of the planet, the North Polar Hood has expanded and now extends well beyond the northern horizon. Seen through an 80A light blue filter, the hood has a distinct bluish hue. It's large enough to conceal any evidence of Cassius, Protonilus and other far northern albedo features. From here, clouds follow the edge of the disk southward along both preceding and following limbs.

Like that night one month ago, Syrtis Major and Sinus Meridiani dominate the field. Moeris Lacus sticks out along the preceding edge, a thumblike apendage defining the lighter toned bay, Libya, where Syrtis Major and Mare Tyrrhenum merge. Mare Tyrrhenum reaches east toward the preceding limb, darker along its northern edge. The large impact basin, Hellas, occupies most of the Martian surface between Iapygia and the South Polar Region.

Syrtis Major's following edge curves southward, merging into Iapygia. Sinus Sabaeus reaches west toward the following limb. Then there's Sinus Meridiani, an elongated oval with fangs, at Sinus Sabaeus' outstretched terminus. Mare Serpentis arcs gracefully around these features to the south. The dark finger-like Hellespontus is also seen.

And the circle closes.

September 11, 2003 September 6, 2003

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Revised: September 11, 2003 [WDF]