This page provides a selection of links to the best web resources supporting and documenting Mars observation by amateur astronomers.
Introductions to Mars Observation
- The 2007 Aphelic Apparation of Mars, by Jeffrey D. Beish:
A concise text covering all aspects of Mars observation by amateur astronomers, with a calendar of events on Mars for the 2007-2008 apparition. Highly recommended. Read this text first!
- The Mars Observer's Tool Kit, by Geoff Gaherty:
More links and hints (a.o. on making drawings).
- Observing the Planet Mars, by Jeffrey D. Beish:
"The Complete Guide to Visual Amateur Observation of Mars".
An online book containing chapters on Mars apparitions, ephemerides, seasons, polar regions, surface features, Martian meteorology, dust storms, observing equipment, atmospheric seeing, making and recording observations.
Mars Observation Associations
Internet message board
Maps of Mars
- Mars Simulation Stillness Pictures, T. Ikemura:
Shows Mars as would be seen from Earth at a user-specified time (on 30-minutes UT intervals). A great reference resource to compare with and assess your Mars observation drawings, photographs, CCD images.
- Sky & Telescope's Mars Profiler:
The map depicts the Martian hemisphere facing Earth for the entered date, time and telescope type.
- Take a Look at Mars (from International MarsWatch):
Shows Mars as would be seen from Earth at a user-specified time. Based upon data gathered by the Viking missions. Developed by Jim Bell of Cornell.
- JPL Solar System Simulator:
Shows solar system objects (such as Mars but also the Sun, Moon, Planets and their Moons) as would be seen at a user-specified time from various user-specified viewpoints throughout the solar system.
- Planetary Rings Node Mars Viewer (SETI):
Renders a wire diagram of how Mars would be seen at a user-specified time from a user-specified observer location on Earth.
Galleries of Mars Images by Amateur Astronomers
These galleries are expanded daily with fresh Mars images by top-class observers, and have archives with images of earlier Mars apparitions.
Personal Mars Pages
The position of Mars (and other planets) in the sky, for any epoch and any observer location, can be quickly found using the handy "AstroViewer" online planisphere tool. You can either download the full version (shareware at a small cost), or you can use the online version free of charge. To access the online Java applet, click the "applet" button on the AstroViewer website.
For the members of the VVS (Flemish Astronomy Association), the "Hemelkalender" (Celestial Almanac) edited yearly by Jean Meeus provides ephemerides for Mars (and for the other planets), including finder charts; time graphs for elongation and magnitude; tables with elongation, magnitude, diameter, illuminated fraction, and rise-transit-set times.
Observers from other countries may find similar information on the web in graphical and/or tabular form, such as for instance:
Above "basic" and "standard" resources provide sufficient accuracy for the average amateur observer. The most demanding observer may find ultimate ephemeris accuracy, according to the most recent models of celestial mechanics, from a number of online sources (at the cost of some deeper study to understand the intricacies):
- JPL Solar System Dynamics: ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/horizons.cgi
Generated with JPL's HORIZONS s/w.
- IMCCE (Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Ephémérides):
Provides ephemerides for the Sun, the Moon, the planets, their moons, asteroids, comets. The user can specify time (UTC or TT); planetary model (VSOP82/ELP2000-82, VSOP87/ELP2000-82B, DE200/LE200, DE403/LE403, DE405/LE405, DE406/LE406); ephemeris type (astrometric J2000, mean J2000, apparent, mean equinox of date), and more.
- U.S. Naval Observatory, Astronomical Applications Department, Data Services:
- SETI (Mark Showalter):
Generated from various JPL ephemeris models.
Note that the accuracy from these advanced sources is "illusory" unless the user takes into account all minute details of the parameters and reference frames (J2000.0 vs. true or mean equinox of the date, geocentric vs. topocentric, FK5 vs. ICRS etc.), and unless he understands the underlying celestial mechanics models and theories correctly. More background is provided on my Ephemerides page.
Of these Mars ephemeris resources, my personal favorites are AstroViewer (quick locator), the Ephemeris for Physical Observations of Mars by Jeffrey Beish, and Ikemura's Mars Simulation Stillness Pictures (that also show LS, Dia, C.M., P). As reference for cross-checks or when it has to be very precise, JPL or IMCCE.
Home Pages of the Referenced Organisations
With thanks to A.L.P.O. (Richard Hill, Jeffrey Beish); MarsWatch (David Klassen); VVS (Emmanuel Thienpont, Geert Vandenbulcke).