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AAAA News and Activities 2003

Opposition Timetable
Finding Mars
Martian Features
Observing with Filters
Sketching What You See
Martian Statistics
Mars Observing Form
AAAA Mars Card

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 AAAA publication, 2003 - The Mars Year,  is a quick guide for those interested in observing Mars during the close apparition of August 2003. This information it contains has been compiled from a variety of sources, and will help you both understand and observe Mars and its features during this favorable opposition.

The Mars Year:
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NASA Photo Mars 2001.

Mars Observing Form

Click on Image to Download PDF

Many potential planetary observers say they canít draw, so they never even try to make planetary drawings. But drawing planets is not fine art. Instead, it is a careful record of what you saw with your telescope. An ugly drawing is just as useful as a masterpieceóso donít let any lack of artistic ability stand in your way.

Use the AAAA observing form  for your drawings. Just download from our PDF file and copy the form as many times as you need, use it to record your observations, and file it in your observing notebook.

Download Observing Form PDF

Martian Terminology

1. Mars Charts - Classical Mars Charts show south up, with the Martian west to the right. Modern maps usually show north up.

2. The Terminator is the line where daylight ends and night begins, given in seconds of subtended arc on the apparent disk .

3. The Central Meridian (CM) is the imaginary line passing through the planetary poles of rotation and bisecting the planetary disk.

4. The Axial Tilt (De)is the declination of Earth  as seen from Mars, and is equal to the aerographic latitude of the center of the Martian disk.

5. The Martian Date (MD) is the seasonal date of Mars in its orbit.

6. Aerocentric Longitude (Ls) is the Martian season. 0=spring, 90 =summer, 180-autumn, 270=winter. Find these values in The Astronomical Almanac.

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!
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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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