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AAAA News and Activities 2003

The Mars Year - 2003
Mars Day on TV - KTVT CBS Channel 11, Dallas
Welcome to Wired News
Wired News: Spending Green to See Red Planet
Annular Eclipse - May 31, 2003
Lunar Eclipse - May 15, 2003
Transit of Mercury - May 7, 2003
Mid-America Astrophysics Conference

The Mars Year - 2003
Mars Day on TV - KTVT CBS Channel 11, Dallas
Welcome to Wired News
Wired News: Spending Green to See Red Planet
Annular Eclipse - May 31, 2003
Lunar Eclipse - May 15, 2003
Transit of Mercury - May 7, 2003
Mid-America Astrophysics Conference

A List of Prominent
Martian Features

Meridiani Sinus
2 degrees

Argyre I
28 degrees

Aurorae Sinus
52 degrees

Aurorae Sinus
55 degrees

Tithonius Lacus
80 degrees

Solis Lacus
96 degrees

Phoenicis Lacus
109 degrees

117 degrees

Arsia Mons
123 degrees

Olympus Mons
136 Degrees

Mare Sirenum
150 degrees

203 degrees

230 degrees

256 degrees

Lunae Lacus
270 degrees

282 degrees

Deltoton Sinus
309 degrees

Sabaeus Sinus
335 degrees

NASA Photo Mars 2001.

Observing with Filters

This map of Mars shows south at the top and north at the bottom, and represents the inverted view as seen through a reflecting telescope. This map was computer generated by Daniel Troiani, using all the data from the Mars Section of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, ALPO, as gathered during the 2001 apparition. This map is intended to represent Mars as it might be seen through a moderately sized telescope during the 2003 apparition. This map may be found online at the ALPO Mars Section website:
www.lpl.arizona.edu/alpo Click on Image for Enlarged VIew.

Keeping an Eye on Mars

Mars is the only planet with a surface that can be plainly seen and charted from Earth. For visual observers, the Martian atmosphere offers more variety than any other Martian feature. Viewing with the human eye is the most sensitive way to record features of planets. The human eye and brain readily detect subtle patterns of light, shade, and color. Because the eye records planetary features during successive brief moments of atmospheric stability, an observer with a small telescope can build up a detailed composite image of the planet in his mind. Transferred to paper as a sketch, that subtle detail is preserved for later study.

City lights don’t harm planetary observing, so you can observe Mars even from New York City or Los Angeles! But you must allow your telescope to reach outside temperature before attempting any critical observing, and you must conscientiously work at educating your “observer’s eye” with lots and lots of observing.

You will need good quality eyepieces, but you don’t need the expensive wide-angle types. The standard Orthoscopics and Plossels the came with your telescope are fine. If you have a binocular eyepiece available, you will find that it makes finding small details much easier.

Filters and How they Work

A set of color filters is tremendously helpful when observing Mars. Color filters increase contrast between areas of differing color, permit you to separate clouds at different levels in the planetary atmosphere, and reduce light scattered from a too-bright planetary image. All told, they increase the sharpness of surface and cloud details you will be trying to observe on the planet Mars.

A yellow filter brightens the ocher-colored Martian deserts and darkens the greenish and brown features. Orange increases contrast between light and dark features, penetrates atmospheric haze, and helps you see yellow dust clouds. Red goes even further, yielding maximum contrast of surface features and helping you see dust clouds.
Green, blue, and blue-green filters brighten atmospheric features and darken the surface. Violet filters go even further, bringing out haziness on the limb of the planet, small equatorial clouds, and clouds over the poles.

Used intelligently, filters help you see more than you could any other way. You can find glass filters from companies that advertise in both ASTRONOMY and Sky & Telescope magazine, or obtain low-cost gelatin filters from a camera store. Your filter set should include all of the colors mentioned above, plus magenta to enhance polar cap contrast.

AAAA Mars Card

The AAAA Mars Card is a concise way to learn the essential information about Mars during the current favorable opposition in August and September 2003. Just click on either image to down load our PDF, print it off, and make copies for yourself and to hand out at your own Mars Observing Events for friends and the general public!
Let Us Make the Photocopies!
Don't have time to make copies? Let us do the work for you. We will make copies at $10 per 100 postpaid, as many as you want, and send them to you via USPS Mail! Order online through CCNow, our Online Retailer. Canadian and overseas orders additional postage.

AAAA Mars Card: 100 for $10 ppd:


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Planning for the Public

In planning any special Mars observing activities for the general public or the media, keep in mind that in late August when Mars is closest (diameter about 25 arc sec), it will only rise about 30 degrees above the horizon at midnight ... so not good for "early evening" observing. However, this situation improves through September: at end of September, Mars will still be over 20 arc sec. in diameter, but will cross the meridian (a bit more than 30 degrees high) earlier ... about 9:30PM. This placement is somewhat better for public programs.

As always, there is the danger of planet-wide dust storms at this perihelion. Storm activity on Mars will easily wipe out any surface features otherwise visible.

The Planetary Society has proclaimed August 27, 2003, the date of opposition, as "Mars Day". The Planetary Society has a goal of "half of the world's population looking at, or thinking about, Mars" on Mars day. So please circle this day on your calendar. Now is the time to start planning Mars Parties in your local area.

Oppositions of Mars 1988-2003

This chart by C.F. Chapin shows the relative positions of Mars and Earth for the years 1988 to 2003. The last great opposition of Mars was 1988. On August 28, 2003, Mars will be at its closest approach to Earth in recorded history, at a distance of only 34,646,418 miles.

Click on image for enlarged view

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