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Classical albedo features on Mars: Map


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Mars, as seen through a small telescope, showing the patterns of colour known as albedo features.
The classical albedo features of Mars are those light and dark features which can be seen on the planet Mars through an Earth-based telescope. Before the age of space probes, several astronomers created maps of Mars in which they gave names to the albedo features that they could see, the most popular system of nomenclature being devised by Giovanni Schiaparelli, who used names from classical antiquity. Today, the improved understanding of Mars enabled by space probes has rendered many of the classical names obsolete for the purposes of cartography; however, some of the names have been given to geographical features on Mars.


Richard A.
Proctor's map of Mars, which names albedo features after astronomers

Early telescopic astronomers, observing Mars from a great distance through what can now be regarded as somewhat primitive instruments (though they were advanced for their day), were limited to studying albedo contrasts on the surface of the planet. These albedo contrasts rarely correspond to topographic features, and in many cases obscure them. The origins of the albedo contrasts were a mystery. The lighter patches at the poles were correctly believed to be a frozen substance, either water or carbon dioxide, but the nature of the dark patches seen against the general reddish tint of Mars was obscure for a century. When Giovanni Schiaparelli began observing, he believed that the darker features were seas or lakes, and named them accordingly (mare, lacus, palus, etc.). Within a few decades, however, Mars was agreed to be devoid of surface water. The dark features were then thought by some to be indications of some kind of vegetation, since they changed shape and intensity over the course of the Martian year. They are now known to be areas where a darker surface dust is deposited; their borders change in response to windstorms on the Martian surface that pick up the dust, widening or narrowing the features.

Nathaniel Green's Mars map, which uses many of Proctor's names

The first astronomer to give names to Martian albedo features was Richard A. Proctor, who created a map in 1867, based in part on the observations of William Rutter Dawes, in which several features were given the names of astronomers who had been involved in mapping Mars; in some cases, several times over. He was followed by Giovanni Schiaparelli, whose observations differed from Proctor's, and who used this difference to justify drawing up an entirely new scheme of nomenclature in Latin, drawn from the myths and history of classical antiquity with a mixture of other sources. Proctor's names competed with the Schiaparellian names for several decades, and were used in notable early maps drawn by Camille Flammarion in 1876 and Nathaniel Green in 1877. The Proctorian names are now, however, regarded as totally obsolete. In 1958, the International Astronomical Union created a list of officially recognized Martian albedo features, including many, but not all of Schiaparelli's names.

Early map by Giovanni Schiaparelli

The advent of space probes has revolutionized the scientific understanding of Mars, and some of the classical albedo features have become obsolete as they do not correspond clearly with the detailed images provided by spacecraft. However, many of the names used for topographic features on Mars are still based on the classical nomenclature of the feature's location; for instance, the albedo feature 'Ascraeus Lacus' provides the basis of the name of the volcano Ascraeus Monsmarker.

In addition, since most Earth-based amateur telescopes are not powerful enough to resolve the topographic surface features of Mars, amateur astronomers still use many of the old feature-names to orient and record their observations.

Common feature names

Several Latin words involved here are common nouns. These are generally, but not always, second in the name, but are usually ignored in alphabetizing below:

  • Campi ( ) - fields
  • Cherso ( ) - peninsula
  • Cornu ( ) - horn, peninsula
  • Depressio ( ) - lowland
  • Fastigium ( ) - summit
  • Fons ( ) – fountain
  • Fretum ( ) – strait
  • Insula ( ) – island
  • Lacus ( ) - lake
  • Lucus ( ) - grove
  • Mare ( ) – sea
  • Nix ( ) – snow
  • Palus ( ) - marsh
  • Pons ( ) – bridge
  • Promontorium ( ) – cape
  • Regio ( ) - region
  • Silva ( ) - wood
  • Sinus ( ) – bay

List of albedo features

Not listed here are the "canals" also observed and named by Schiaparelli, for which see the article Martian canals.


Name Meaning Modern name(s)
Abalos A no-longer existent island in the North Sea, east of Heligoland Abalos Colles, Abalos Mensa, Abalos Scopuli, Abalos Undae
Achæorum Portus "Harbor of the Achaeans" Obsolete
Acherusia Palus "Marsh of Acherusia", named after the legendary swamps in Greek mythology Obsolete
Achillis Pons "Bridge of Achilles" Obsolete
Mare Acidalium "Sea of Acidalia", named for the fountain Acidalia where the Graces bathed Acidalia Colles, Acidalia Mensa, Acidalia Planitiamarker
Æolis a modification of Aeolia, the name of the floating western island of Aiolos, the ruler of the winds Aeolis Mensae, Aeolis Planum
Aëria From a poetic name for Egyptmarker Aeria, IAU recognized albedo feature
Ætheria – the land of the living, as referred to in Virgil's, Aeneid Aetheria, IAU recognized albedo feature
Æthiopis Land of the Ethiopians Aethiopis, IAU recognized albedo feature
Aganippe Fons "Aganippe's Fountain", legendary home of a Greek naiad Aganippe Fossa
Alcyonia Land of kingfishers. Obsolete
Amazonis "Land of the Amazon", legendary warrior women Amazonis Mensa, Amazonis Planitia, Amazonis Sulci
Amenthes Alternate name for Duat, the Egyptian land of the dead Amenthes Cavi, Amenthes Fossae, Amenthes Planum, Amenthes Rupes
Ammonium Ancient name for the Siwa Oasismarker Obsolete
Mare Amphitrites "Sea of Amphitrite", a Greek sea-goddess Amphitrites Patera
Lucus Angitiæ "Grove of Angitia", named after the snake goddess Obsolete
Depressiones Aoniæ "Lowlands of the Muses", , who came from Helicon in Aonia Obsolete
Aonius Sinus "Bay of the Muses" Aonia Planum, Aonia Terra
Aponi Fons Roman name for the Bagni d'Abanomarker, warm-water baths near Paduamarker Obsolete
Aquæ Apollinares "Apollo's Waters"; Roman name for the Bagni di Stigliano baths in Canale Monteranomarker, Tuscany Obsolete
Aquæ Calidæ "Hot spring" Obsolete
Aquarii Depressio "Lowland of Aquarius" Obsolete
Arabia Arabian peninsula Arabia Terramarker
Arachoti Fons "Fountain of Arachotus", a river in Afghanistanmarker Obsolete
Aram Aram, Biblical land of the Aramaeans Aram Chaosmarker
Arcadia From Arcadiamarker, a region of the central Peloponnesusmarker Arcadia Dorsa, Arcadia Chaos
Arduenna Latin names for the Ardennesmarker forests Obsolete
Arethusa Fons "Arethusa's Fountain", after the Greek nymph Obsolete
Ariadnes Depressio "Lowland of Ariadne", a Greek heroine Ariadnes Colles
Argyre I "First Silver Land", a mythical island in Greek mythology Argyre Cavi, Argyre Planitia, Argyre Rupes
Argyre II "Second Silver Land" (see above) Obsolete
Argyroporos "Silver Strait" Obsolete
Aromatum Promontorium "Cape of Fragrant Spices" Aromatum Chaos
Arsia Silva Arsia Silva, forest northwest of Romemarker where the Tarquiniimarker were defeated Arsia Chasmata, Arsia Monsmarker, Arsia Sulci
Arsinoës Depressio Lowland of Arsinoë, the name of various Greek and Egyptian figures Arsinoes Chaos
Artynia Fons "Artynia's Fountain", referring to Lake Artynia in Asia Minormarker Artynia Catena
Aryn Promontorium "Cape of Aryn" Obsolete
Fastigium Aryn "Summit of Aryn" Obsolete
Ascræus Lacus "Ascraeus Lake", a poetic paraphase of "heliconian" or "rural" Ascraeus Chasmata, Ascraeus Monsmarker, Ascraeus Sulci
Astræ Lacus "Lake of the Astra", Greek star-gods Obsolete
Atalantes Depressio Lowland of Atalanta, Greek heroine Obsolete
Nix Atlantica "Snows of Atlas", a Titan in Greek mythology Obsolete
Atlantidum Sinus "Bay of the Atlantises" (just south of Atlantis I and II, see below) Obsolete
Atlantis I "First Atlantis", mythical drowned land Atlantis Chaos
Atlantis II "Second Atlantis" (see above) Atlantis Chaos
Augila Awjilamarker, a city in Cyrenaica Obsolete
Aurea Cherso "Golden Peninsula", ancient name for the Malay Peninsula Obsolete
Aureum Cornu "Golden Horn", inlet dividing Constantinoplemarker Aureum Chaos
Auroræ Sinus "Bay of the Dawn" Aurorae Planum, Aurorae Chaos
Ausonia From a poetic name for Italymarker Ausonia Cavus, Ausonia Mensa, Ausonia Montes
Mare Australe "Southern Sea" Chasma Australe, Australe Lingula, Australe Mensa, Australe Montes, Planum Australemarker, Australe Scopuli, Australe Sulci


Name Meaning
Baltia From a name for the regions near the Baltic Seamarker Baltia, IAU recognized albedo feature
Bandusiæ Fons "Fountain of Bandusia", title of a poem by Horace Obsolete
Bathys Portus "Deep Harbor", the port of Aulis in Boeotia Bathys Planum, changed to Icaria Planum
Benacus Lacus "Lake Benacus" (Lago di Gardamarker in northern Italy) Obsolete
Biblis Fons "Biblis Fountain", a Carian well near Miletusmarker Biblis Patera, Biblis Tholus
Bosporium Promontorium "Cape of the Bosphorusmarker"
Bosporus/Bosphorus Gemmatus "Bejewelled Bosphorusmarker" Bosporos Planum, Bosporus Regio, Bosporos Rupes
Brangæna Obsolete
Castalia Fons
Cecropia "Land of Cecrops"
Charitum Promontorium "Cape of the Graces"
Chironis Fretum "Strait of Chiron"
Mare Chronium
Chryse Chryse was an island rich in gold in the Far East of Erythraeum
Chrysokeras The Golden Hornmarker
Cimmeria Insula "Cimmerian Island"
Mare Cimmerium "Cimmerian Sea", named after an ancient Thracian seafaring people
Circaeum Promontorium "Cape of Circe"
Clepsydra Fons "Water-clock fountain", a well in the Athenianmarker acropolis.
Coracis Portus "Haven of Corax"
Cyane Fons "Cyane fountain", a spring in Sicily from which the Cyane river sprang, named for a nymph.
Cydonia poetic name for Crete
Cynia Lacus
Danaïdum Depressio "Lowland of the daughters of Danaüs"
Daphne From Daphne ("bay laurel"), a nymph pursued by Apollo.
Deucalionis Regio "Region of Deucalion"
Dia An island north of Cretemarker
Diacria A region of Euboeamarker
Dioscuria "Land of the Dioscuri"
Eden From Eden, the biblical paradise
Edom From Edom, an ancient kingdom in modern Jordanmarker
Edom Promontorium "Cape of Edom"
Electris The principal island of the "Electrides", islands said to produce amber.
Elysium From Elysium, the Greek land of dead heroes
Eridania Land of the River Eridanus
Mare Erythræum "Red Seamarker"


Name Meaning
Famæ Depressio "Lowland of Fame"
Ferentinæ Lucus "Grove of Ferentina"
Lucus Feronia "Grove of Wild Beasts"
Flevo Lacus
Gallinaria Silva
Mare Hadriaticum "Adriatic Seamarker" Aka Hadriaticum Mare
Hammonis Cornu "Horn of Ammon"
Hellas "Greecemarker"
Heræum Promontorium "Cape of Hera"
Hercynia Silva
Herculis Columnæ "Pillars of Hercules"
Herculis Pons "Bridge of Hercules"
Hesperia "Land of Dawn"
Hesperidum Lacus "Lake of the Hesperides
Hippocrene Fons "Fountain of Hippocrene", near Mount Helicon
Hipponitis Palus
Horarum Promontorium "Cape of the Hours"
Hypelaus A fountain in Ephesusmarker.
Iapygia Salentomarker in Italy Aka Japygia
Mare Icarium
Ierne A name for Irelandmarker
Isidis Regio "Region of Isis"
Ismenius Lacus aka Lacus Ismenius
Jani Fretum "Strait of Janus"
Juventæ Fons "Fountain of Youth" aka Fons Juventæ
Labeatis Lacus Lake of the Labeates, a people of Illyria
Lausonius Lacus
Lemuria From Lemuria, a fictional sunken land in the Pacific or Indian Ocean
Libya "Libyamarker"
Lucrinus Lacus The Lucrine Lakemarker in Roman Italy
Lunæ Lacus "Lake of the Moon" aka Lacus Lunæ


Name Meaning
Mæisia Silva
Mareotis "Land about Mareota", in Lower Egypt.
Margaritifer Sinus "Pearlbearing Bay"
Lucus Maricæ "Grove of Maríca", a nymph of Latium.
Memnonia "Land of Memnon"
Meroë Insula "Island of Meroemarker"
Messeis Fons
Lacus Mœris Lake Moerismarker, a lake in the Egyptian Fayum
Mons Argenteus "Silver mountain"
Neith Regio "Region of Neith"
Nepheles Depressio "Lowland of cloud"
Nereïdum Promontorium "Cape of the Nereids
Nerigos Name of a fictional country, supposedly in or near Scandinavia
Nessonis Lacus
Niliacus Lacus "Lake of the Nile"
Nix Atlantica "Atlantic Snow"
Nix Olympica "Olympian Snow"
Noachis "Land of Noah"
Nodus Gordii "Gordian Knot"
Noti Sinus "Bay of Notus"
Novissima Thyle "Newest Thule"
Nuba Lacus


Name Meaning
Mare Oceanidum "Sea of the Oceanids"
Octantis Depressio "Lowland of Octans"
Ogygis Regio "Region of Ogyges"
Ophir From Ophir, a biblical land of gold
Oxia Palus
Palicorum Lacus
Palinuri Fretum "Strait of Palinurus"
Palinuri Sinus "Bay of Palinurus"
Pallas Lacus
Panchaia From the name of an island supposed to be in South Arabia
Phaëthontis "Land of Phaethon"
Phlegra From a district in Macedonia.
Campi Phlegræi "Fields of Phlegra"
Phœnicis Lacus "Lake of the Phoenix" aka Lacus Phœnicis
Phrixi Regio "Region of Phrixus"
Piscis Depressio "Depression of the Fish"
Depressio Pontica "Lowland of Pontus"
Promethei Sinus "Bay of Prometheus"
Propontis From an old name for the Sea of Marmaramarker
Protei Regio "Region of Proteus"
Pyrrhæ Regio "Region of Pyrrha"
Sinus Sabæus "Bay of Sheba" Aka Sabaeus Sinus
Scandia From a name for Skåne or Scandinavia
Scheria Insula "Scheria Island"
Semiramidis Lacus "Lake of Semiramis"
Simoëntis Sinus "Bay of Simois"
Sirbonis Lacus
Mare Sirenum "Sea of Sirens"
Socratis Promontorium "Cape of Socrates"
Solis Fons "Fountain of the Sun"
Solis Lacus "Lake of the Sun"
Syrtis Major a Libyan gulf, now Gulf of Sirte
Syrtis Minor aka Syrtis Parva


Name Meaning
Tharsis "Tarshish" (Tartessos)
Thaumasia "Land of Wonders"
Thyle I "First Thule"
Thyle II "Second Thule"
Thyles Collis "Hill of Thule"
Thyles Mons "Mountain of Thule"
Thymiamata "Incenses"
Tiphys Fretum
Titanum Sinus "Bay of the Titans"
Tithonius Lacus
Trivii Fons "Fountain of the Crossroads" (east of Trivium Charontis)
Trivium Charontis "Crossroads of Charon"
Mare Tyrrhenum "Tyrrhenian Seamarker"
Uchronia "Nowhen"
Ulyxis Fretum "Strait of Ulysses"
Utopia "Nowhere, Utopia"
Vulcani Pelagus "Sea of Vulcan"
Xanthi Sinus "Bay of Xanthus"
Xisuthri Regio "Region of Xisuthrus"
Yaonis Regio "Region of Emperor Yao"
Zephyria "Land of the West Wind (Zephyr)"

See also


  1. United States Geological Survey Astrogeology Program, "Mars Nomenclature: Albedo Feature", Gazeteer of Planetary Nomenclature.


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