Mars Weather Report
Mars Today, created by Howard
Houben of the Mars Global Circulation Model Group, is a poster
produced daily by the Center for Mars Exploration at NASA Ames
Research Center. The updated poster depicts current conditions
on Mars and its relationship to Earth in six panels. The poster
is available at www.mgcm.arc.nasa.gov/.
The upper left panel diagrams the
current positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits around the
Sun. Note the highly elliptical orbit of Mars compared to that
of the Earth. A line is drawn from Earth to Mars; in this poster
for September 12, 2000, we see that Mars is east of the Sun, in
our morning sky. Also shown is the trajectory of Mars Global Surveyor.
That spacecraft entered Mars orbit in 1997 and continues to provide
much information on the Martian surface and atmosphere.
The upper middle panel shows two views of the positions of Mars
and Earth from vantage points near the ecliptic. This allows visualization
of the tilts of the rotation axes of the planets that are responsible
for the seasons.
The panel on the upper right compares the apparent size of the
Martian disc as viewed from Earth with the size of Earth's disc
as viewed from Mars. (Since the diameter of Mars is about half
that of the Earth, Mars appears to be about half the size of the
Earth when viewed from the same distance.) Both of these discs
are compared to a circle 25 seconds of arc in diameter. This circle
represents the largest possible apparent size of Mars as viewed
from Earth (which is achieved only on those very rare occasions
when the planets are favorably positioned at the nearest points
in their orbits). Even then, Marsa very difficult telescopic
object to observe in detailis only half the apparent size
of the much more distant, but much larger planet Jupiter.
At lower left hand is a simulated image of Mars as it would appear
at the present time to a very high resolution Earth-based telescope.
The lower middle panel shows a prediction of the meteorology at
the present time. Daily average temperatures in the lower atmosphere
are color coded, while predicted wind speeds and directions are
indicated by the arrows.
The lower right panel shows model predictions of the atmospheric
water vapor column on Mars. Statistics printed below the image
indicate the apparent diameter of Mars (in seconds of arc), and
A Mars Reading List
The Planet Mars: A History of
Observation & Discovery,
by William Sheehan, was published in 1996, and so it does not
include everything there is to know about the fourth rock from
the Sun, but it does a fine job in tracing the story of Mars that
begins back as far in time as people have watched this red wanderer.
An avid amateur astronomer and a psychiatrist, Sheehan is an ardent
student of the planets. His previous books, published by the University
of Arizona Press, including Planets and Perception and Worlds
in the Sky, have won acclaim from the Astronomical Society of
Percival Lowell drew this sketch of Mars
during the opposition of 1894. Plate XIX. Lacus Phoenicis.
Before presenting the history of
Mars observation following the introduction of the telescope,
a first chapter sets the basis for such narrative by explaining
the motions of the planet in a clear and complete manner. The
experiments of the principal astronomers are presented, citing
Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Camille Flammarion,
Christiaan Huygens, Giovanni Cassini, and Giacomo Maraldi from
the late 1500s through to the Mars opposition of 1719. William
Herschel and Johann Schroeter made major contributions with their
advanced telescopes, and in 1858 the first mention of canals was
introduced by Angelo Secchi of Rome. The discoveries of Asaph
Hall and Giovanni Schiaparelli take us to 1888 and the Lick Observatory,
where Edward Holden observed with the new 36-inch refractor. It
was the opposition in October, 1894, that brought Percival Lowell
onto the scene, and the controversy over canals and life on Mars
flared to a peak.
Several chapters tell the story of spacecraft to Mars. A chapter
is devoted to observation methods for amateurs, and an appendix
gives information about the planet and its oppositions. There
is an extensive bibliography. This well-written book can be a
useful companion for all who will become increasingly fascinated
with Mars as new astronomical instrumentation and spacecraft further
explore our neighbor. University of Arizona Press, 1996, 270 pages.
The Mystery of Mars is a book for children written by the
first American woman in space, Sally Ride, and Tam OShaughnessy,
a professor of school psychology. According to Sky & Telescope,
The text provides an overview of what we know about Mars,
including a brief observational history of the red planet and
a discussion of the possibilities of life. The image reproductions
are excellent, which will surely make the views from Mars Pathfinder
and Mars Global Surveyor a source of youthful wonder. Crown
Publishers, 1999, 48 pages.
The Search for Life on Mars, by Malcolm Walter, is a survey
of astrobiological studies of Mars, including a discussion about
Martian meteorites. Perseus Books, 1999, 170 pages.