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Mars sketches from 2003

The 2003 apparition of Mars was certainly exciting! For over a month Mars was larger than it as been at any time in the past 15 years, and for a few days in late August it was closer than it has been in thousands of years. If you are looking for 2005 sketches, go here. And for 2007 Mars sketches and info go here.

Mars is the planet in the solar system most similar to our Earth. It has an atmosphere, it has ice caps, and it has weather, all of which can be seen through amateur telescopes. What we canít see are the topographic features captured by space missions; our view of Mars is just like our view of the full moon: the Sun lighting its surface is almost directly behind us, so shadows are as invisible as at high noon in the desert. All we can see of Marsí surface, aside from its bright white polar caps, is a pattern of light and dark shadings, called albedo features, similar to the maria of the Moon.

One thing to remember about Mars is that it is a planet in motion. It rotates on its axis slightly more slowly than the Earth, so that its day is slightly longer. The effect of this is that after 24 hours have passed on Earth, Mars hasnít quite rotated to the same position as it was in 24 hours earlier; in fact itís about 10 degrees short of a full rotation. The result of this is that if you observe Mars every night at exactly the same time for a week, its surface features will appear to drift from night to night in the opposite direction to the actual rotation of the planet. It will be slightly more than a month before the same face of Mars will be visible at the same time on Earth.

Mars is also moving in its orbit around the Sun. Its pole is tilted away from the ecliptic slightly more than Earthís, and in a different direction, towards Deneb rather than Polaris. Dduring the summer and fall of 2003, Marsí southern hemisphere was tilted towards us. Spring equinox in its southern hemisphere was on May 6, 2003, and summer solstice was on 2003 September 29, about a month after opposition. The seasons on Mars are almost twice as long as those on Earth because of its longer year. So in 2003 we were viewing Mars in its southern late spring and early summer. The south polar cap (SPC) was be prominent, but gradually shrunk in the heat of the Sun. The north polar cap (NPC) itself was hidden from us, but the north polar hood (NPH), the cloud and haze near the north polar cap, was visible. Thanks to Geoff Gaherty of Toronto's RASC for this nice description of Mars 2003.

June 26, 2003 - Magnitude -1.3, 15.9" diameter, Central Meridian (CM) 330° at 10:15 UT. Distance from earth: 0.59 AU, 89 million km, 54 million miles
July 06, 2003 - Magnitude -1.6, 17.6" diameter, CM 258° at 11:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.53 AU, 79.5 million km, 49 million miles
July 12, 2003 - Magnitude -1.8, 18.7" diameter, CM 188° at 10:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.50 AU, 75 million km, 47 million miles
July 15, 2003 - Magnitude -1.9, 19.2" diameter, CM 174° at 11:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.49 AU, 74 million km, 46 million miles
July 17, 2003 - Magnitude -1.9, 19.6" diameter, CM 141° at 10:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.48 AU, 72 million km, 45 million miles
July 18, 2003 - Magnitude -1.9, 19.8" diameter, CM 139° at 11:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.47 AU, 70 million km, 44 million miles
July 21, 2003 - Magnitude -2.0, 20.2" diameter, CM 119° at 11:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.46 AU, 69 million km, 43 million miles
July 22, 2003 - Magnitude -2.1, 20.6" diameter, CM 102° at 11:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.46 AU, 69 million km, 43 million miles
July 23, 2003 - Magnitude -2.1, 20.8" diameter, CM 93° at 11:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.45 AU, 68 million km, 42 million miles
July 24 - 27, 2003 - We are off to 7,000 feet elevation Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park with our 7-inch Astro-Physics f/9 refractor. We hope to get some great Mars observing in these next few days. Here we are set up at the Glacier Point ampitheatre waiting for sunset.
July 28, 2003 - Magnitude -2.2, 21.7" diameter, CM 47° at 11:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.43 AU, 65 million km, 40 million miles
July 25, 2003 - Magnitude -2.1, 21.1" diameter, CM 16° at 07:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.44 AU, 66 million km, 41 million miles
July 26, 2003 - Magnitude -2.2, 21.3" diameter, CM 7° at 07:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.44 AU, 66 million km, 41 million miles
July 27, 2003 - Magnitude -2.2, 21.5" diameter, CM 358° at 07:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.44 AU, 66 million km, 41 million miles
August 6, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.1" diameter, CM 315° at 10:15 UT. Distance from earth: 0.40 AU, 60 million km, 37 million miles
August 6, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.1" diameter, CM 300° at 09:15 UT. Distance from earth: 0.40 AU, 60 million km, 37 million miles
August 7, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.4" diameter, CM 291° at 9:15 UT. Distance from earth: 0.40 AU, 60 million km, 37 million miles
August 8, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.5" diameter, CM 279° at 9:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.40 AU, 60 million km, 37 million miles
August 9, 2003 - Magnitude -2.6, 23.7" diameter, CM 270° at 9:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.40 AU, 60 million km, 37 million miles
August 10, 2003 - Magnitude -2.6, 23.8" diameter, CM 224° at 6:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.39 AU, 58.5 million km, 36.3 million miles. Four of us girls gang-sketched this evening, and here is the result.
Example of 60x (low power) view of Mars showing Syrtis Major and South Polar Cap through 4-inch telescope.
August 12, 2003 - Magnitude -2.6, 24.1" diameter, CM 228° at 8:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.39 AU, 58.5 million km, 36.3 million miles
August 14-16, 2003 - We are off to 7,000 feet elevation Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park with our 7-inch Astro-Physics f/9 refractor, again! We hope to get some more great Mars observing in these next few days. Here is our 7-inch Astro-Physics Starfire aimed at Half Dome, while waiting for sunset.
August 15, 2003 - Magnitude -2.7, 24.4" diameter, CM 179° at 6:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.38 AU, 57.0 million km, 35.3 million miles
August 15, 2003 - Magnitude -2.7, 24.4" diameter, CM 194° at 7:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.38 AU, 57.0 million km, 35.3 million miles
August 17, 2003 - Magnitude -2.7, 24.6" diameter, CM 161° at 6:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.38 AU, 57.0 million km, 35.3 million miles
August 23, 2003 - Magnitude -2.8, 25.0" diameter, CM 107° at 7:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.37 AU, 55.5 million km, 34.4 million miles
August 30, 2003 - Magnitude -2.9, 25.04" diameter, CM 70° at 8:00 UT. Distance from earth: 0.37 AU, 55.5 million km, 34.4 million miles
August 31, 2 003 - Magnitude -2.9, 25.01" diameter, CM 38° at 6:30 UT. Distance from earth: 0.37 AU, 55.5 million km, 34.4 million miles
August 31, 2003 - Magnitude -2.9, 25.01" diameter, CM 48° at 7:10 UT September 1, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.37 AU, 55.5 million km, 34.4 million miles
August 31, 2003 - Phobos and Deimos in diffraction spike of 15-inch f/6 Litebox reflector 7:30 UT Sept 1, 2003
September 11, 2003 - Magnitude -2.7, 24.01" diameter, CM 307° at 07:00 UT September 12, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.39 AU, 58.5 million km, 36.3 million miles
September 12, 2003 - Magnitude -2.6, 23.9" diameter, CM 298° at 06:55 UT September 13, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.39 AU, 58.5 million km, 36.3 million miles
September 13, 2003 - Magnitude -2.6, 23.7" diameter, CM 273° at 06:30 UT September 14, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.40 AU, 60 million km, 37 million miles
September 17, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.0" diameter, CM 223° at 05:30 UT September 18, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.41 AU, 61.5 million km, 38.1 million miles
September 17, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.0" diameter, CM 230° at 06:20 UT September 18, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.41 AU, 61.5 million km, 38.1 million miles
September 17, 2003 - Magnitude -2.5, 23.0 " diameter, CM 247° at 07:10 UT September 18, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.41 AU, 61.5 million km, 38.1 million miles
September 26, 2003 - Magnitude -2.2, 21.4" diameter, CM 135° at 05:00 UT September 27, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.44 AU, 66 million km, 41 million miles
September 27, 2003 - Magnitude -2.2, 21.2" diameter, CM 129° at 05:15 UT September 28, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.44 AU, 66 million km, 41 million miles
October 10, 2003 - Magnitude -1.8, 18.6" diameter, CM 359° at 04:30 UT October 11, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.50 AU, 75 million km, 47 million miles
October 10, 2003 - Magnitude -1.8, 18.6" diameter, CM 13° at 05:30 UT October 11, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.50 AU, 75 million km, 47 million miles
October 10, 2003 - Magnitude -1.8, 18.6" diameter, CM 38° at 07:10 UT October 11, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.50 AU, 75 million km, 47 million miles
October 16, 2003 - Magnitude -1.6, 17.5" diameter, CM 339° at 07:00 UT October 17, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.53 AU, 79 million km, 49 million miles
October 18, 2003 - Magnitude -1.6, 17.2" diameter, CM 284° at 04:30 UT October 19, 2003. Distance from earth: 0.54 AU, 81 million km, 50 million miles

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