Mars Section Overview

Richard McKim
Dr Richard McKim

The BAA Mars Section is the oldest body in the world for the collection and analysis of observations of the Red Planet. It was formed in 1892 by E. Walter Maunder, the Greenwich astronomer who founded the British Astronomical Association. The present Director (appointed in 1991) has been responsible for all analysis since the apparition of 1979-80.

Your contribution, however small, will be much appreciated and will be acknowledged in the reports which appear in the BAA Journalwhile selected current work will appear on this website. The ‘current observations’ part of the website is updated often, so please check back frequently to see some of the current work, with a running commentary.

This website also provides a guide to how to go about making observations, gives a selection of topographic and telescopic maps, a gallery of observations and a running commentary in the form of a Blog on the current Mars opposition, with a complete set of downloadable reports on all past oppositions reported upon by the BAA. There is also a bit of biographical information about past Directors, and some little bits of history here and there. There is also information about the comprehensive BAA dust storms Memoir, and how to obtain your copy.

Some of our longstanding contributors post images to the well-known archiving websites. This is fine for routine work, and I am happy to obtain their work from these sources, but I would ask observers to let me know at once if they see something really interesting, such as an unusual white cloud or a new dust storm event.

Remember to send in your observations to the Section and become part of the Great British Marswatch effort!

Latest update (2023 December 5)

Hot off the press, here is a fine apparition map for 2022 made by Martin Lewis. There is a labelled version and an unlabelled version. It can be compared with Martin’s 2020 map, which is shown underneath, and which is also archived along with several others in the maps section. Notice that some albedo features continue to show subtle changes, though there were no striking changes from 2020. The relatively new albedo feature running from Oxia Palus to Niliacus Lacus is still strongly present. On the other hand the darkening at the NW (or north following) border of Elysium (the so-called Aetheria darkening, or Hyblaeus extension) which was such a large striking feature of the 1980s and which was still visible in the 1990s and later, and which has lately slowly faded due to dust deposition, is now hardly to be recognised. South is uppermost here, and in our map section. (See the link on the right hand side of the page.)

We are now a fortnight or so past the planet’s November solar conjunction, and the first images of the new apparition are awaited with interest.

Meanwhile, I send my best wishes to members for the forthcoming Festive Season.

Richard McKim, Director

Click on the images of the maps below for full size versions (1316 x 650 pixels).

Mars 2022-23 Albedo Map annotated Final MRLewis

Mars 2022-23 Albedo Map Final MRLewis FULL SIZE


Mars 2020 Albedo Map annotated

  • Mars Opposition 2022
  • Special Features For Observation
  • Maps of Mars
  • Instruments and observing techniques
  • 2020 Mars Opposition Observations Part 2 (from 20 September)
  • 2020 Mars Opposition Observations Part 1 (up to 19 September)
  • Read reports on past oppositions of Mars
  • History of the Mars Section
  • The Director's monograph on Telescopic Martian Dust Storms
  • Report Forms, observing cards and graticules
  • Publications by the Director
  • An Introduction to the Mars Section
  • The British Astronomical Association supports amateur astronomers around the UK and the rest of the world. Find out more about the BAA or join us.