[Mars 8/9/2003, CM=225] [Mars 8/29/2003, 10:50pm, Margaritifer]

Mars Observing FAQ and Links: 2003 Opposition

These sketches represent what you might see in a small amateur telescope during this opposition. For more, and descriptions of features, see Jane Houston's Mars Sketch Page, or my own Mars sketch page.

(Last updated Aug 18, 2003.)

The 2003 opposition is over -- and a good one it was!

See my main Mars page for information about the current opposition, and a much more current list of Mars links.

If you're here because you're excited about NASA's Spirit rover and you want to learn more about Mars, be sure to take a look at The Nine Planets. Of course, you're welcome here as well!

This page describes the 2003 opposition of Mars, the closest opposition in 73,000 years (or maybe 59,604 years, depending how how you calculate it; both of those numbers come from different calculations by Jean Meeus). At its closest approach, Mars will be 34,646,418 miles (55,758,006 km) from the earth.

Closest approach is at 9:51am UT (2:51 am PDT) on Aug. 27, 2003.
Perihelion (Mars' closest approach to the sun) happens 32 hours later.

Near opposition, Mars will have an angular diameter of 25.1" (comparable to Jupiter), vs. 14" at aphelic oppositions. Brightness will also be comparable to Jupiter's brightest, at magnitude -2.9. Observers in Northern California will see Mars transit about 37 degrees above the southern horizon. (Observers farther south will get better views, with Mars higher in the sky.)

Throughout the opposition, Mars' southern hemisphere will be tilted toward us. The southern spring equinox (with the southern polar cap at its maximum size) happens on May 6, and southern summer solstice is September 29. We should be able to see good detail (with the disk 20" or larger) from mid-July through early October. Supposedly, the risk of major dust storms, like the one that ruined the detail for the opposition two years ago, is low in this season. Let's hope!

Astronomy magazine has a good timeline for the 2003 opposition.

If you have questions on observing Mars, or answers which you think belong in a FAQ, please mail.

If you prefer, you can skip the FAQ and jump directly to the links.

Mars Observing FAQ

[Mars on 9/12/2003 CM=245]

... Mars Links ...

[Mars on 8/24/2003 cm=75]

Labelled Mars Maps Online

Unlabelled Mars Maps Online

Places to buy Mars Maps and Globes

Here's everything I can find on sources for Mars maps and globes -- not much, so please let me know if you have something to add! (Thanks to Mike Koop for a lot of the research already here.)

Observing Info on the 2003 Apparition

General Info

Software packages which shows Mars' rotation and surface features

Any decent planetarium program will show Mars' location in the sky, but not many show its surface features and correctly calculate which features are visible at a particular time. Here are some which do:

Online software

[Mars Firebird] Top of ShallowSky.com
General Astronomy Links
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