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What color is Mars?

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#1 Sketcher


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Posted 09 November 2020 - 12:24 PM

When you look at Mars (the "Red Planet") what color do you see?  Is the color that you perceive different with the naked eye than with your telescope?  Is it different with different telescopes or under different magnifications?  Is it different when a global dust storm is in progress?  Is it different if you have a bright (or dim) light (of what color?) nearby?  Is it different when observed under twilight or daylight conditions?  What have been your personal impressions concerning the color of Mars based upon your own observations?


This is a request for a collection of personal, first-hand impressions / observations only -- not a request for information from Internet resources, not from research papers, not from spacecraft, not from imaging technologies, not from spectrographic studies, etc. -- just first-hand, personal observations please.


This is not a test.  There are no wrong answers.  This thread, if all goes according to plan, will simply end up as a collection of personal impressions / observations concerning the perceived color of Mars.


Oh, one more thing:  Please do include your own impressions regardless of how often someone else has provided the same color impression, and regardless of if no one else has provided the same color impression.


Thank You, and have at it!

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#2 Pcbessa



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Posted 09 November 2020 - 12:33 PM

Interestingly I usually see half od Mars with a bright light orange colour. But when I star at a light and then see it again, I see it as red. So I cannot trust my own perception. The rest are the dark grey features. I know that if see a greenhouse its because it's a colour illusion caused by seeing red in the rest of the disk.

I also see nice blueish hues near some white clouds at times, and bright white in the south polar cap.

It appears a dark red at naked eye, to me.
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#3 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 01:56 PM

To my unaided eye and with binoculars, Mars looks a bit more reddish than through a telescope.  As magnification is increased, it becomes increasing less orangish (without filtration).   I suppose the magnitude of the planet and its altitude at the time, as well as the aperture of the telescope used, must play a role in the perceived color of the Red Planet.

When I was observing Mars last night using a 17" f/15 classical Cassegrain at 324x, the portions of Mars without albedo features looked a bit like this.

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#4 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 04:13 PM

As the Wikipedia article and others here have said, Mars looks "reddish."  Colors I see at night  are generally subtle, subdued so anything that's not gray or white is considered colored.


Mars is never fire engine red to my eye, it's always a pastel by comparison but there's definitely a reddish content that tends towards orange and at small exit pupils it's much diminished, color is barely visible.


As I've gotten older, my detection of colors when viewing the planet's has diminished rather dramatically. Situations the 10 years ago would been quite colorful, Jupiter in the twilight at at 172x with a 2.4 mm exit pupil, are much more subdued.



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#5 Alex90900


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Posted 09 November 2020 - 05:26 PM

I see Mars through a telescope, light orange, a little pale, the color is more saturated in the photo. The seas are gray with a slightly greenish tint, very slightly, almost gray.
The color is redder to the naked eye.

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#6 The Ardent

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 05:32 PM

If Mars were a star I’d say B-V +1.7

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#7 csphere.d


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Posted 09 November 2020 - 06:36 PM

To my naked eye Mars appears reddish-orange. 

In my 4" refractor at low magnification (51x) it appears burnt orange. 

At high magnification (179x to 238x) Mars appears pale orange, and at times, as a cream color with an orange tint.

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#8 Sheol


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Posted 09 November 2020 - 07:11 PM

        It ranges from yellow-orange to about reddish orange to me. That is telescopically, to my naked eye it ranges all the way from orange to red. Once, back in Feb. of 2010 I had a view of it where it was closer to brick red. Actually, I find it amazing how much it seems to vary to my eyes. Most other planets are very consistent. Saturn is yellow, Jupiter is white with colored bands, etc. 


      Clear Skies,


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#9 payner



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Posted 09 November 2020 - 09:03 PM

With the naked eye I see Mars as reddish, but not a fire engine red. When looking through a telescope I see it as an ochre, on the orange scale of this clay pigment.

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#10 BillP



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Posted 09 November 2020 - 09:38 PM

Through the telescope at magnification...


During the 2003 and 2010 oppositions it was more orange than red.  This 2020 opposition it is distinctly more yellow than orange.  Actually surprised me this year how it looked more yellowish.  Of course the diagonal makes a difference if using a refractor.  This year when I use a mirror or dielectric then it looks distinctly yellowish.  With a prism it looks distinctly light orange instead.  Tonight I had the 1.25" Zeiss Prism on the scope and Mars looked more properly orange and the maria were no longer washed out like they have been but nicely rich in a dark brown hue  I noted this year that if there is more water in the air (i.e., damper/dewier) then it looks way more yellow.

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#11 brentknight



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Posted 09 November 2020 - 09:50 PM

Unfiltered in my telescope it looks pale tan - almost the same color as the default CN editor, but with darker brownish grey markings. With the CB filter it brings out more pale orange and dirty yellow. 

Naked eye I see red, but on closer inspection more burnt orange. 

I suppose it gets its red reputation because that’s what most easily pops out, and it’s easier to say red than burnt orange/yellow...

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#12 E_Look


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Posted 10 November 2020 - 12:55 AM

To my naked eye, it looks deep, but bright orange in the sky.

In the telescope at low powers, it's orange-yellow, and at higher powers, it seems a little bleached out.

Older cultures may not have had the same number of terms we have for the basic spectral colors.  To some old Chinese, orange is a "red", and if it gets less red in it, it's "yellow".

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#13 Redbetter


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Posted 10 November 2020 - 03:49 AM

I see Mars as bright orange, like Antares...hence the name "Antares",  rival of Ares (Mars.).  This is the way I see it naked eye and through various scopes, and is true even with little dark adaptation.  This is considerably different in hue than golden yellow objects (Saturn) or various asteroids that often have a yellowish hue.  


Of course Mars responds very well to red filters in less than ideal seeing; filters clean up the primarily shorter wavelength scatter and some seeing impacts. The way Mars responds to even a deep red #29 filter reveals just how strong the red is and how weak the shorter wavelengths are. 


Dark adaptation generally weakens my impression of "red" stars and LED's to more of the same orange, unless the source or filter removes the bulk of the shorter wavelengths, including some of the light orange.  Many "red" LED flashlights are actually amber containing considerable amounts orange, light-orange and yellow emissions.  The better ones use a deep red LED instead.  I see these true red LED's as red, even when well dark adapted.  

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#14 project nightflight

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Posted 10 November 2020 - 04:06 AM

Unaided eye: pale orange. During dusk the color is more prominent against the deep blue twilight sky. We tried to render the twilight impression with this image: https://project-nigh...t/print068.html


Telescope: still pale orange, but during the night the color is more obvious in the eyepiece than with the naked eye.

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#15 PKDfan


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Posted 10 November 2020 - 04:14 AM

To my naked eye a medium light orange but at magnification,the higher I go(to 270x)the colour(paleish medium yellow-orange) just about disappears and just a very subtle light yellow tint verging on colourlessness remains. With 4"SW100ED evostar and Bàader morpheus 6.5mm & GSO2x2"ED barlow

Clear skies & Good seeing

Edited by PKDfan, 10 November 2020 - 04:23 AM.

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#16 happylimpet


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Posted 10 November 2020 - 04:24 AM

Pale orange with the naked eye. Pale orange with the 12" and 16" newtonians. albedo features greyish-orange and polar cap white-ish. Occasional white-ish clouds near the limb for example.

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#17 epee



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Posted 10 November 2020 - 08:57 AM

Bright, slightly-burnt orange to my optically corrected eyes. Light orange to orange-ish tan in an unfiltered scope.

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#18 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 10 November 2020 - 12:51 PM

As Redbetter mentioned, dark adaptation seems to play a role as well.  Mars seems far less colorful to me without optical assistance when my eyes are fully dark adapted.

#19 luxo II

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Posted 13 November 2020 - 12:30 AM

Colour of lightly grilled salmon with a dusting of rust ?
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#20 Voyager 3

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Posted 13 November 2020 - 08:23 AM

With a bit of high clouds , it really looks like a ...hmm how can I express the colour ...  Mmm like reddish orange but the tone is saturated more towards the orange- yellow side . When I first learnt that Mars is  the RED planet and when I located it for the first time , I expected it to be a blood drop dropping from the sky lol.gif . But to my surprise it was like a orange planet grin.gif . I still ponder how it came to be called as the red planet . Will you say it as a RED planet or ORANGE one ? 

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#21 rathbaster


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Posted 13 November 2020 - 09:08 AM

Orange with faded black features.

Sometimes the orange is faded, sometimes it is rich and darker.

#22 t.r.


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Posted 13 November 2020 - 09:29 AM

Colour of lightly grilled salmon with a dusting of rust ?

Well I don’t see it as grilled but Salmon is spot on for me telescopically...
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#23 Sheol


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Posted 13 November 2020 - 07:22 PM

          I do remember it looking very red back in 2003, to my naked eye that summer.  I must say when I was out with the scope on Wed. night it look very yellow in the scope where it was at its highest point in my sky..

          Alas, I must also stress my eyes aren't what they were when it comes to color detection these days.



   Clear Skies,


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#24 Quinnipiac Monster

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Posted 15 November 2020 - 08:18 AM

The disc to me is a light orange with a pinkish hue. I saw it much more "orangish" in past apparitions (but different Martian season). Until late August, the albedo markings were the usual brown/dark brown. I resumed observing in October, and they had turned to greenish. They still are. 

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#25 mikemarotta


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Posted 17 November 2020 - 09:50 AM

It does vary. When I first looked with my new Explore Scientific 102, I thought that the white with green-blue was the result of the achromatic objective not bringing all three colors together as an apochromatic would. However, the usual red (reddish) stars - Aldebaran for example - seemed OK. A couple of nights later, Mars was more orange and usually has been.


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