This document is part of the Martian Time Boneyard. It was originally located at http://www.cmex.arc.nasa.gov/data/MarsCalendar.
Author: Geoffrey Briggs and Howard Houben

The martian orbit is more so elliptical than the earth's.
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Martian Timekeeping

Introduction

Timekeeping has traditionally been an integral part of astronomy and has grown quite complex along with the rest of life. A full introduction to timekeeping and calendars as they are related to astronomy is given in the Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac. There are many time standards, including atomic time kept by a large array of clocks which is thought to be the most accurate standard. Universal time, governed by the rotation of the Earth, is what most of us think of as the true measure of time. Being closely related to the time indicated by a sundial, ephemeris time is governed by the orbital motion of objects in the solar system, but due to relative effects, there are many possible frames for ephemeris time.

In seeking a martian time standard and calendar system, we should be driven by the practical needs of those who will, in the not too distant future, be working and living in the Martian environment. It will no doubt be some time before an extremely accurate local standard is available there. Calendar constructs based on terrestrial analogy are useful since they can be easily understood by all and they may incorporate psychologically valid ideas (e.g., circadian rhythms). Consequently, the same terms may be used to refer to somewhat similar constructs in the martian and terrestrial contexts. To avoid confusion, we will adopt the practice of referring to the martian analogy of a terrestrial quantity by using the prefix areo- (from the Greek Ares for Mars). For example, the martian equivalent of a day has long been referred to as a sol (a more precise definition is given below). If Martians were to make use of an interval of 7 sols, corresponding to a terrestrial week of 7 days, we would refer to this unit of time as an areoweek.

Astronomical Facts

The martian sidereal rotation period, with respect to the fixed stars, is 24 hours, 37 minutes, 22.66 seconds or 1.026 days. Its sidereal orbital period is 686.98 days. Thus, Mars rotates 669.6 times on its axis during each orbit around the sun. The orbital and rotational motions are in the same sense; there are only 668.6 sunrises and sunsets for an observer on Mars during the course of the orbit, so the Martian analog of a year consists of 668.6 sols. Each sol, the analog of a day, is 686.98/668.6 = 1.0275 Earth days (24 hours, 39 minutes, 35 seconds).

The eccentricity of the Martian orbit is great enough (.0934) that the planet's angular speed varies greatly over its orbit. The insolation rate (i.e. the amount of sunlight falling on Mars) also varies measurably. The planet has very pronounced seasonal changes which should be incorporated into a calendar system.

The traditional challenge of calendar making has been to take disproportionate periods and to find an approximate that allows humans to keep track of celestial events. In the terrestrial case, the lunar period is generally also a part of the calendar, in addition to the day and solar year, though the association has been largely lost in modern times. On Mars, there is no appropriate lunar period to include, but months may be retained because of the strong association of different terrestrial months with the seasons.

Astronomers measure the Martian seasons in terms of the solar longitude or Ls, a measure of the apparent motion of the sun through the sky. At the vernal equinox, Ls =0°; at summer solstice, Ls =90°; at autumnal equinox, Ls=180°; and at winter solstice, Ls =270°. The association between "months" and the seasons can be retained if each month corresponds to 30° of Ls. The analogous construct in terrestrial timekeeping is the motion of the sun through the signs of the zodiac.

Download the full Martian Timekeeping report for more information.

The Mars Calendar was developed by Geoffrey Briggs and Howard Houben.

CMEX Mars Calendar
January
S
1181522293643
M
291623303743
T
3101724313845
W
4111825323946
T
5121926334047
F
6132027344148
S
7142128354249
February
S
181522293643
M
291623303744
T
3101724313845
W
4111825323946
T
5121926334047
F
6132027344148
S
7142128354249
March
S
18152229364350
M
29162330374451
T
310172431384552
W
411182532394653
T
512192633404754
F
613202734414855
S
714212835424956
April
S
1815222936435057
M
2916233037445158
T
31017243138455259
W
41118253239465360
T
51219263340475461
F
61320273441485562
S
71421283542495663
May
S
1815222936435057
M
2916233037445158
T
31017243138455259
W
41118253239465360
T
51219263340475461
F
61320273441485562
S
71421283542495663
June
S
181522293643505764
M
291623303744515865
T
3101724313845525966
W
4111825323946536067
T
5121926334047546168
F
6132027344148556269
S
7142128354249566370
July
S
1815222936435057
M
2916233037445158
T
31017243138455259
W
41118253239465360
T
51219263340475461
F
61320273441485562
S
71421283542495663
August
S
1815222936435057
M
2916233037445158
T
31017243138455259
W
41118253239465360
T
51219263340475461
F
61320273441485562
S
71421283542495663
September
S
18152229364350
M
29162330374451
T
310172431384552
W
411182532394653
T
512192633404754
F
613202734414855
S
714212835424956
October
S
181522293643
M
291623303743
T
3101724313845
W
4111825323946
T
5121926334047
F
6132027344148
S
7142128354249
November
S
181522293643
M
291623303743
T
3101724313845
W
4111825323946
T
5121926334047
F
6132027344148
S
7142128354249
December
S
1815222936
M
2916233037
T
31017243138
W
41118253239
T
51219263340
F
61320273441
S
71421283542