Mars’ patchwork surface is on full display tonight

Without a global shroud of dust, Mars' striking surface features stand out tonight.
By | Published: September 25, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Image by Jake Parks using StarDome.

On Mars, the planet wide dust storm is abating, so surface features are once again within reach of a 6-inch or larger telescope.

During moments of good seeing, Mars resolves into a patchwork of dark and bright markings.

From North America, viewing the Red Planet this evening reveals that Syrtis Major, the darkest feature on Mars, lies near the martian central meridian. The bright Hellas Basin, the planet’s lowest-lying region, sits just south of Syrtis Major. And by month’s end, the dark, fingerlike extension of Mare Cimmerium appears at the center of the disk.

Though Mars rises in the southeast before sunset (around 4:30 p.m. local time), it will remain in the sky well into the night. The Red Planet climbs to its peak in the south by about 9 p.m. and sets in the southwest at around 1:30 a.m.