Mars Opposition Blog 7 April 2024

The 2024-25 apparition of Mars has begun. In fact, ever since 2024 January 10 we have been receiving a series of excellent images from Clyde Foster (Namibia). These are remarkably good given that the planet’s disk diameter has so far hardly exceeded 4 arcseconds. Several of the results are posted here, with south up as usual, including images until the last few days. These show the gradual shrinkage of the S. polar cap, and the usual seasonal development of dark patches and rifts within it. The Hellas basin now appears lighter in the centre than it did in February, but no specific dust storm event has yet been recorded. The Mare Serpentis area is broad and dark, which is suggestive of a recent past event in Hellas. On March 14 Clyde even resolved some of the Tharsis Montes as tiny dark patches. The Indus streak (which in the past would have been called a canal), which runs between Oxia Palus (at the N. tip of Margaritifer Sinus) and the SE corner of Mare Acialium/Niliacus Lacus, has already been imaged. This is an area of particular interest, darkening during the 2018 planet-encircling dust storm, and persisting throughout the next two oppositions.

I am hoping that other early morning observers will soon join in the programme, and in particular I am keen that observers at other terrestrial longitudes will do so, enabling us to watch all sides of the planet simultaneously. By not doing so we risk missing short-lived local dust storms.

For a detailed Mars map, and lots of martian names, see the 2022 chart by Martin Lewis posted on the front page.

Opposition is still a long way off, and will not occur until 2025 January 16. A detailed note about which seasonal phenomena can be observed (and when) will be appearing in the June issue of the BAA Journal. I am including here only a copy of the ‘seasonal protractor’ showing the current 15/17-year cycle of oppositions, to include 2025.

An early pre-opposition preview was given by the Director at the 2024 March BAA Meeting; if you are interested, the presentation is still available on our YouTube channel simply by following the link below from around 2 minutes onwards:

This blog will be updated at irregular intervals. Keep watching for the latest news.

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