University of London Observatory
[Mars]
Mars 2003 Observations

(South is up in all images)

2003 September 29, UT 2003


Telescope: Fry 8-inch refractor
Camera:Astrovid Planetcam colour video CCD
Observers:Dr. Mike Dworetsky and 2nd-year Diploma class students
South is at the top. The phase of Mars is now clearly visible as it moves away from opposition into the evening sky. The dawn terminator is to the right (east). The colour rendition and contrast have been adjusted to resemble the visual impression of Mars in a small telescope.

2003 September 16, UT 2239


Telescope: Fry 8-inch refractor
Camera:Astrovid Planetcam colour video CCD
Observer:Dr. Mike Dworetsky
South is at the top. The dark marking at about 10 o'clock and halfway from centre to edge is Solis Lacus. The dark area at about 2 o'clock is Mare Sirenum. The phase of Mars is beginning to be clearly visible as it moves away from opposition into the evening sky. The dawn terminator is to the right (east). The colour rendition and contrast have been adjusted to resemble the visual impression of Mars in a small telescope. Disk diameter 23.25 arcseconds.

2003 September 4, UT 2303


Telescope: Fry 8-inch refractor
Camera:Astrovid Planetcam colour video CCD
(435 frames co-added with
Registax)
Observer:Dr. Mike Dworetsky

2003 August 30/31


Telescope: Fry 8-inch refractor
Camera:Astrovid Planetcam colour video CCD
(93 and 94 frames co-added with
Registax)
Observer:Dr. Mike Dworetsky
The South Polar Cap (top) is shrinking rapidly and is now a small white patch. The prominent, V-shaped feature is Syrtis Major. The rotation of the planet in the 1h39m interval between exposures is obvious (Mars' rotation period is 24h 37m).

Finding Mars in the sky

In mid-October, Mars has risen above the south-east horizon after sunset, so one has to wait an hour or so for it to rise high enough in the sky to observe conveniently. On August 28th, Mars reached `opposition', which means that as viewed from the Earth, its orbit brought it exactly opposite the Sun in the sky. In mid-October, Mars appears at its highest in the night sky at around 2200 BST, when it is due south. From London, it reaches just over 20 degrees above the southern horizon at its highest.

Mars can be observed for some weeks near opposition, although it will fade slowly as the Earth moves ahead of Mars in its orbit and Mars gets further away. As we move into October and November, it will rise earlier in the evening sky.

The view through a telescope

Through a small telescope, Mars appears as a distinct reddish, disc. The red colour comes from rust - iron oxide - which makes up about 10 percent of Martian soil. One should also be able to make out the white, southern polar caps, composed of solid carbon-dioxide and water ice, and observers may be able to make out the difference in colour between the southern and northern hemispheres of Mars: the predominantly ancient cratered surface appears light red, while the smooth, low-lying plains appear darker red.

In order to make out more detailed features, one needs to use a larger telescope or have access to more sophisticated imaging equipment; steady atmospheric conditions also help a great deal. At University College London's observatory in Mill Hill, astronomers have been observing Mars through the Fry 8-inch refracting telescope. Images of the planet have been recorded using a low-light-level video camera; the sharpest frames from the video footage are then selected and combined together to give a higher-quality image which can be digitally enhanced, enabling more surface details to be made out. The images shown at the top of the page were obtained in this way.

2003 August 7th

Observations made with the Fry 8-inch refractor, and recorded using a hand-held digital camera, by Dr. Mike Dworetsky and Dr. Francisco Diego.

[Mars image 1] [Mars image 2] [Map of Mars for Aug 7 observations]

[Mike Dworetsky observing Mars]
Dr. Mike Dworetsky observing Mars with the Fry Telescope at 01:44 UT.


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Last modified: 2003 October 14th
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