mare cimmerium

Classical albedo features on Mars

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.


These albedo features were first named by Giovanni Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli was not the first to give names to these features; Richard Anthony Proctor had drawn up an earlier 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. These 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.

Schiaparelli's observations differed from those of Proctor et al., and he used this difference to justify drawing up an entirely new scheme of nomenclature in Latin. This nomenclature, drawn from the myths and history of classical antiquity with a mixture of other sources, is still used – with subsequent adjustments and elaborations by Schiaparelli and other astronomers – in some circumstances. The names are not, for the most part, used to describe the features now observed as part of the topography of Mars such as craters, volcanoes, and canyons. However, many of the names used for topographic features on Mars are based on the albedo nomenclature; for instance, the albedo feature Ascraeus Lacus ("lake of Ascra") provides the basis of the name of the Tharsis volcano Ascraeus Mons.

The observations of the early telescopic astronomers, observing from a great distance through what can now be regarded as somewhat primitive instruments (though they were advanced for their day), were limited to 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 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 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.

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.

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

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 (ˈkæmpaɪ) - fields
  • Cherso (ˈkɛrsoʊ) - peninsula
  • Cornu (ˈkɒrnjuː) - horn, peninsula
  • Depressio (dɨˈprɛʃioʊ) - lowland
  • Fastigium (fæsˈtɪdʒiəm) - summit
  • Fons (ˈfɒnz) – fountain
  • Fretum (ˈfriːtəm) – strait
  • Insula (ˈɪnsjʊlə) – island
  • Lacus (ˈleɪkəs) - lake
  • Lucus (ˈljuːkəs) - grove
  • Mare – sea
  • Nix (ˈnɪks) – snow
  • Palus (ˈpeɪləs) - marsh
  • Pons (ˈpɒnz) – bridge
  • Promontorium (ˌprɒmənˈtɔəriəm) – cape
  • Regio (ˈriːdʒioʊ) - region
  • Silva (ˈsɪlvə) - wood
  • Sinus (ˈsaɪnəs) – bay

List of features


Name Pronunciation Meaning Modern name
Abalos ˈæbəlɒs A no-longer existent island in the North Sea, east of Heligoland
Achæorum Portus "Harbor of the Achaeans"
Acherusia Palus "Marsh of Acherusia", named after the legendary swamps in Greek mythology
Achillis Pons "Bridge of Achilles"
Mare Acidalium "Sea of Acidalia", named for the fountain Acidalia in Boeotia, where the Graces used to bathe Acidalia Planitia
Æolis ˈiːəlɨs a modification of Aeolia, the name of the floating western island of Aiolos, the ruler of the winds Aeolis Planum
Aëria eɪˈɪəriə From a poetic name for Egypt
Ætheria ɨˈθɪəriə – the "upper world" as mentioned in Virgil, Aeneid
Æthiopis ɨˈθaɪəpɨs "Land of the Ethiopian"
Aganippe Fons "Fountain of Aganippe"
Alcyonia ˌælsiːˈoʊniə Land of kingfishers.
Amazonis əˈmæzənɨs "Land of the Amazon"
Amenthes əˈmɛnθiːz the Egyptian name for the place to which the souls of the dead depart Amenthes Planum
Ammonium əˈmoʊniəm Ancient name for the Siwa Oasis
Mare Amphitrites "Sea of Amphitrite"
Lucus Angitiæ "Grove of Angitia", named after the snake goddess
Depressiones Aoniæ "Lowlands of the Muses"
Aonius Sinus "Bay of the Muses", who come from Helicon in Aonia Aonia Planum
Aponi Fons Classical name of Bagni d'Abano, a site of warm-water baths near Padua
Aquæ Apollinares "Waters sacred to Apollo", classical name of Bagni di Stigliano, baths in Tuscany
Aquæ Calidæ "Hot spring"
Aquarii Depressio "Lowland of Aquarius"
Arabia əˈreɪbiə "Arabia" Arabia Terra
Arachoti Fons "Fountain of Arachotus"
Aram ˈɛərəm Land of the Aramaeans, in Syria. Aram Chaos
Arcadia ɑrˈkeɪdiə From Arcadia, a region of the central Peloponnesus
Arduenna ˌɑrdjuːˈɛnə Ancient names for the Ardennes
Arethusa Fons "Arethusa" Fountain, after the Greek nymph
Ariadnes Depressio "Lowland of Ariadne"
Argyre I "First Silver Land"; in Ptolemy, the capital of the island of "Jabadin", south of Aurea Cherso Argyre Planitia
Argyre II "Second Silver Land"
Argyroporos ˌɑrdʒɨˈrɒpərɒs "Silver Strait"
Aromatum Promontorium "Cape of Fragrant Spices" Aromatum Chaos
Arsia Silva A forest northwest of Rome, where the Tarquinii were defeated by the Romans in 509 BC Arsia Mons
Arsinoës Depressio Lowland of Arsinoë
Artynia Fons
Aryn Promontorium "Cape of Aryn"
Fastigium Aryn "Summit of Aryn"
Ascræus Lacus a poetic paraphase of "heliconian" or "rural" Ascraeus Mons
Astræ Lacus
Atalantes Depressio Lowland of Atalanta
Nix Atlantica "Atlantic Snow"
Atlantidum Sinus "Bay of the Atlantises" (just south of Atlantis I and II)
Atlantis I "First Atlantis" Atlantis Chaos
Atlantis II "Second Atlantis"
Augila ˈɔːdʒɨlə A city of Cyrenaica
Aurea Cherso "Golden Peninsula", ancient name for the Malay Peninsula
Aureum Cornu "Golden Horn" Aureum Chaos
Auroræ Sinus "Bay of Dawn" Aurorae Planum, Aurorae Chaos
Ausonia ɒˈzoʊniə From a poetic name for Italy Ausonia Mensa
Mare Australe "Southern Sea"


Name Pronunciation Meaning
Baltia ˈbælʃiə From a name for the regions near the Baltic Sea
Bandusiæ Fons Fountain of Bandusia, a well near the Apulian town of Venusia, the birthplace of Horace.
Bathys Portus "Deep Harbor", a port of Aulis in Boeotia.
Benacus Lacus bɨˈneɪkəs ˈleɪkəs "Lake Benacus", Lago di Garda in northern Italy.
Biblis Fons "Biblis Fountain", a Carian well near Miletus.
Bosporium Promontorium "Cape of the Bosphorus"
Bosporus/Bosphorus Gemmatus "Bejewelled Bosphorus"
Brangæna brænˈdʒiːnə
Castalia Fons
Cebrenia sɨˈbriːniə
Cecropia sɨˈkroʊpiə "Land of Cecrops"
Ceraunius sɨˈrɔːniəs
Chalce ˈkælsi
Charitum Promontorium "Cape of the Graces"
Chironis Fretum "Strait of Chiron"
Mare Chronium
Chryse ˈkraɪsi Chryse was an island rich in gold in the Far East of Erythraeum
Chrysokeras krɨˈsɒkɨrəs The Golden Horn
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 Athenian 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 saɪˈdoʊniə poetic name for Crete
Cynia Lacus
Danaïdum Depressio "Lowland of the daughters of Danaüs"
Daphne ˈdæfni From Daphne ("bay laurel"), a nymph pursued by Apollo.
Deucalionis Regio "Region of Deucalion"
Dia ˈdaɪə An island north of Crete
Diacria daɪˈeɪkriə A region of Euboea
Dioscuria ˌdaɪəsˈkjʊriə "Land of the Dioscuri"
Eden ˈiːdən From Eden, the biblical paradise
Edom ˈiːdəm From Edom, an ancient kingdom in modern Jordan
Edom Promontorium "Cape of Edom"
Electris ɨˈlɛktrɨs The principal island of the "Electrides", islands said to produce amber.
Elysium ɨˈlɪʒiəm From Elysium, the Greek land of dead heroes
Eridania ˌɛrɨˈdeɪniə Land of the River Eridanus
Mare Erythræum "Red Sea"


Name Pronunciation Meaning
Famæ Depressio "Lowland of Fame"
Ferentinæ Lucus "Grove of Ferentina"
Lucus Feronia "Grove of Wild Beasts"
Flevo Lacus
Gallinaria Silva
Mare Hadriaticum "Adriatic Sea" Aka Hadriaticum Mare
Hammonis Cornu "Horn of Ammon"
Hellas ˈhɛləs "Greece"
Heræum Promontorium "Cape of Hera"
Hercynia Silva
Herculis Columnæ "Pillars of Hercules"
Herculis Pons "Bridge of Hercules"
Hesperia hɛsˈpɪəriə "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 ˌhɪpɨˈliːəs A fountain in Ephesus.
Iapygia ˌaɪəˈpɪdʒiə Salento in Italy Aka Japygia
Icaria aɪˈkɛəriə
Mare Icarium
Ierne aɪˈɝni A name for Ireland
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 lɨˈmjʊriə From Lemuria, a fictional sunken land in the Pacific or Indian Ocean
Lerne ˈlɝni
Libya ˈlɪbiə "Libya"
Lucrinus Lacus The Lucrine Lake in Roman Italy
Lunæ Lacus "Lake of the Moon" aka Lacus Lunæ


Name Pronunciation Meaning
Mæisia Silva
Mareotis ˌmæriˈoʊtɨs "Land about Mareota", in Lower Egypt.
Margaritifer Sinus "Pearlbearing Bay"
Lucus Maricæ "Grove of Maríca", a nymph of Latium.
Memnonia mɛmˈnoʊniə "Land of Memnon"
Meroë Insula "Island of Meroe"
Messeis Fons
Lacus Mœris Lake Moeris, 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 ˈnɛrɨgɒs Name of a fictional country, supposedly in or near Scandinavia
Nessonis Lacus
Niliacus Lacus "Lake of the Nile"
Nitriæ ˈnɪtraɪi
Nix Atlantica "Atlantic Snow"
Nix Olympica "Olympian Snow"
Noachis ˈnoʊəkɨs "Land of Noah"
Nodus Gordii "Gordian Knot"
Noti Sinus "Bay of Notus"
Novissima Thyle "Newest Thule"
Nuba Lacus


Name Pronunciation Meaning
Mare Oceanidum "Sea of the Oceanids"
Octantis Depressio "Lowland of Octans"
Œnotria ɨˈnoʊtriə
Ogygis Regio "Region of Ogyges"
Ophir ˈoʊfɚ 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 ˌfeɪɨˈθɒntɨs "Land of Phaethon"
Phlegra ˈfliːgrə 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 Marmara
Protei Regio "Region of Proteus"
Pyrrhæ Regio "Region of Pyrrha"
Sinus Sabæus "Bay of Sheba" Aka Sabaeus Sinus
Scandia ˈskændiə 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 Pronunciation Meaning
Tempe ˈtɛmpi
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 Sea"
Uchronia jʊˈkroʊniə "Nowhen"
Ulyxis Fretum "Strait of Ulysses"
Utopia jʊˈtoʊpiə "Nowhere, Utopia"
Vulcani Pelagus "Sea of Vulcan"
Xanthi Sinus "Bay of Xanthus"
Xisuthri Regio "Region of Xisuthrus"
Yaonis Regio "Region of Emperor Yao"
Zephyria zɨˈfɪriə "Land of the West Wind (Zephyr)"

See also


  • The Origins of Martian Nomenclature, T. L. MacDonald, 1971.
  • The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery, William Sheehan.

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