The special observing sessions set up for viewing Mars were quite successful! 4 of the 7 nights were clear. And about 1900 people got to look through the UMD Observatory's telescopes over the 4 nights.

Mars Observing Nights
Thu 21 Aug, 9pm     GO! (250)
Fri 22 Aug, 9pm     :-((
Sat 23 Aug, 9pm     GO! (500)
Wed 27 Aug, 9pm     :-((
Thu 28 Aug, 9pm     GO! (800)
Fri 29 Aug, 9pm     GO! (350)
Sat 30 Aug, 9pm     :-((

We will also observe Mars as part of our regular Open House programs in September, October, probably November and possibly into December.

Q: Are you going to have special observing sessions for viewing Mars?

The Observatory held special Mars Observing Nights in addition to our regular Open Houses during August 2003. The observing was weather-permitting only! A go/no-go decision was posted here (you may need to ctrl-Shift-reload to get the most recent version of this page) and on the Obs. Info line 301-405-6555 by 6pm on the night of each session!

We had a much larger response than anticipated... which means that people had less time to look through the telescope. And because of the large crowd we had two telescopes to look through but you will only get to look through one of them -- the telescopes will be set up so that the views are similar so you won't "miss" anything.

The UMD Observatory is in a wooded area. Bring bug spray!

In general, smoking is prohibited around the telescopes... this also includes smoking "outside" because the smoke can drift into the open bays...

Absolutely no alcoholic beverages!! You will be asked to leave.

There will likely be a media presence (newspaper, radio, tv) on some of the clear nights taking photos and videoing the crowd. Our staff will also be taking pictures and videoing for our website. If you do not wish to have your picture taken, do not come! By attending this public event, you are giving consent for us to take your picture.

date time go/no-go decision
(check after 6pm on each evening!)

Mars is currently (Aug 2009) in Aquarius and appears as a very bright orangish star in the SE after sunset.
Not the best images yet, but a neat comparison of how much Mars has changed in the past month.

Worldwide lists of Mars 2003 events from
- Universe Today
- The Planetary Society

What's all the hoopla with Mars? powerpoint presentation explaining what is going on, you can also grab this .mov file that shows Mars' orbit and the 2001-2005 oppositions...

  • Mars will NOT appear as big as the full moon!
  • Mars is visible in the evening sky roughly every 26 months so you do not have to wait another 60,000 years to see it!
Thu 21 Aug1 9pm-11pm*


Fri 22 Aug 9pm-midnight*

No go

Sat 23 Aug2 9pm-midnight*

GO! **

Wed 27 Aug3 9pm-11pm*

No go

Thu 28 Aug3 9pm-11pm*


Fri 29 Aug 9pm-midnight*


Sat 30 Aug 9pm-midnight*

No go

* Note the closing time may be sooner if it gets cloudy!
We have no control over the weather!!
** Mars is not high enough to view until 9:20pm. We will observe other objects until then.
1 (~300 people, 45 min. wait)
2 (~500 people, 60 min. wait)
3 (expecting 1000? people!)

These special observing sessions are FREE but we will gladly accept donations!! You do not need a reservation to attend.

PARKING: We anticipate a high interest in these special observing sessions. Please try to carpool as our parking lot is small (coming earlier will not help!). Extra parking is available at the UMD Systems Admin lot across the street from the Observatory. PLEASE drive carefully as there will be many people coming and going.

DIRECTIONS: We do not have a street address! But we are located on the portion of Metzerott Rd that forms a triangle with Adelphi and Univ. Blvd. Detailed directions/maps...

When to arrive: You do not need to be there right at 9pm!! You can come at 9:30 and stay for 10 minutes, you can come at 10pm and stay for an hour, you can come at 9pm and stay for 20 minutes and then leave and come back. The observing is very informal! In fact, Mars is not high enough at 9pm the first several nights for us to see right away, so we will observe other objects until Mars is high enough to observe.

BYO...T!: Bring your own telescope! If you have a telescope and would like to set up and observe on the concrete pad or grassy area, please do! I will not, however, be able to answer questions about setting up your telescope! The Observatory of course will have its own scopes set up for observing for the public, but if you have a bad horizon at home and want to set up here, that's fine.