The Martian Seasonal Calendar


A Flag For Mars

With the colonization of Mars so recently making headlines, I’ve decided to spend my Leif Erikson Day making my own small contribution to exploration.

I had talked before about a human approach to timekeeping on the Red Planet, but my concepts for calendar keeping have been through a couple iterations over the years.

What makes my approach different is that it focuses on the thing that makes the Earth calendar most relevant – the seasons.

The Martian Seasonal Calendar

  • Epoch: The calendar begins Year 1 shortly after the austral winter solstice of 27 October 1955. Roughly similar to Mars Year 1 in Planetary Science, shifted by one season.
  • Day of Week Collision: The Mars 2 probe crash of Saturday, 21 Nov 1971 / MSD 38404.  Future MSD % 0 = Saturday.
  • Autumnal equinox year of 668.5940 days
  • Month length about 30 days. Seasons are divided into a whole number of months.


  • The days of the week are not renamed just for Mars.
  • Whether “day” or “sol” is preferred for someone living on Mars is left to future consideration.
  • The names of the months should be representative of cultural perspectives on the planet Mars from various cultures.  I can make suggestions, but really, an IAU process should develop a final list.


  • Austral Winter months – 178 days
    • 6 Months of 31, 29, 29, 29, 29, 31 days
  • Austral Spring months – 142(143) days
    • 5 Months of 29, 28, 28(29), 28, 29 days
  • Austral Summer months – 154 days
    • 5 Months of 32, 30, 30, 30, 32 days
  • Austral Autumn months – 194 days
    • 6 Months of 33, 32, 32, 32, 32, 33 days

Seasons have months of equal length “bookended” by slightly longer months.

Solstices and Equinoxes precede the start of a month by 2-3 days.  Radiative Forcing will keep the start of the 12th month about the maximum temperature for the Southern Hemisphere.

Leap Days occur in the 9th Month, halfway between the autumnal equinox and southern solstice, relatively close to perihelion.  Even if another point in the year is chosen for the basis of the tropical year, this is probably the best spot to place the leap day.


Odd-numbered years have 669 days and Even-numbered years 668. Years ending in 0 shall also have a leap day, but 6 decadal years of each millennium (170, 330, 500, 670, 830, and 1000) are not leap years.  Average year: 668.594 days.

Some background thoughts

The Autumnal equinox year is a 180 from the Vernal equinox year.  On the surface, it upends millennia of timekeeping convention, but it’s worth noting that Earth culture has been dominated by Northern Hemisphere sensibilities due in part to the much greater landmass above the equator.

When Mars still had its oceans, they occupied the Northern Hemisphere. The Autumnal equinox is also closer to perihelion, and the peak of the Martian dust storm season, the major weather event of the year.


Toward a Key West Dial Guide


Green: Reception. Blue: Reception with severe interference Purple: Negative reception but should have picked it up Grey: May be have been US station same channel Yellow or Black: negative pickup (black too weak)


I’ll have a Venti Propaganda.

I had the chance to visit the Florida Keys recently, and you can guess what I was up to – hitting the beach to avoid AM interference from local electronics, so I could listen to Cuban radio stations!

I did a dial scan for both AM and FM sides, each with its own issues.

The math for daytime AM is pretty straightforward, it’s all groundwave so you can model power divided by distance squared.  A rich vein of data is the FCC AM Query page.  I pulled every AM signal within 450km of Key West and start whittling down against my notes.  The main difficulty in going up against the FCC records is that…  the FCC records are notoriously bad for international listings.  They get Canada wrong on a regular basis (at least two times in recent memory, they completely dropped the ball watching out for Industry Canada assignments that impacted NPR signals in North Dakota), and Cuba is another story entirely.  I’m pretty sure Cuba gives about zero flips for frequency coordinating with the US when we’ve still got blimp blasters in the Keys.

Some other radio fans managed to snag some data off of EcuRed and turn it into a semi-manageable transmitter site list, which I can also crossreference after updating the list with some distance data.

Another handicap is that I don’t speak Spanish, so I couldn’t glean much about those programs (though advertising seems exclusively American).  The easy part is I don’t have to worry about skywave from Mexico or the Dominican Republic, or wherever.  Since I couldn’t wait around to confirm callsigns, I’ll be poking around trying to confirm certain US stations in my model had Spanish programming around 1pm on the 25th.  Once I have accounted for all the Florida-based Spanish-language stations, the remainder must be Cuban!

My radio rig is a 1994-era car stereo that’s in my Geo Metro, I’m not hauling any fancy Grundig or what have you.  One thing about this radio is that, especially on AM, it tends to bleed on either side of a strong signal, so when I was taking my notes I ignored a lot of nearby stations that sounded the same.  Yet, if what I’m reading now about the Cuban radio networks is right, there might have been more separate stations than I thought.

25feb-hepburnThe FM scan is more problematic.  Applying the same method as the AM scan, oddly, is not as sound of a model.  VHF signals are much more line-of-sight than AM, true, but at longer distances, especially over warm water, they are also subject to anomalous propagation through the atmosphere.  Tropospheric Propagation has a big fanbase in the ham radio community, it’s the main way uber-nerds snag a TV signal from 300 miles away.

According to the Tropo reports for noon on the 25th, there may have been a weak opening between the Keys and Cuba, and perhaps a hint more in the direction of Miami and the Bahamas.

Trying to sort out all the stations that might contribute to the FM dial readout will be tough, I’ll look at it more down the road.  Still, I’m pretty happy to have confirmed I caught at least two or three of the main Cuban radio networks.

Alternate Reality Time

What if the Dakotas had been partitioned like the Oregon Country?  Our flag might have ended up like this:


Minot, British Dacotah has a certain ring to it.

Perfectly anacronistic, of course. North Dakota’s Coat of Arms was designed by the US Army in the 1950s. I imagine a completely British-synthesized Version would have stoic animals floating over Prairie Rose bushes or some nonsense.

Here’s the SVG. CC-BY-SA

Making new body parts with 3D printing

Michael C. McAlpine

Michael McAlpine lectures at Iowa State University, Tuesday 3 Nov 2015.

You can take the Maker out of Minnesota, but Minnesota will still come calling!  Iowa State University hosted a lecture from Professor McAlpine of the University of Minnesota.  McAlpine, a chemist by training, works at the Mechanical Engineering department, and develops 3D printers that are capable of the low-temperature work needed to work with biocompatible polymers and substrates.

Seeking to bridge the gulf between brittle, 2D circuitry and squishy, 3D tissues, his lab has created three-dimensional circuits filled with LEDs, printed 3D ears with integrated receiver coils, laser-activated microreactors, and perhaps coolest of all, 3D-printed silicone nerve conduits.  They don’t take the place of actual nerves, but load them up with neuron growth hormones and the body’s regenerative abilities do the rest!

I’ll have to read up on all this research, but hoo boy, 3D printing is going to create a new career field, the biomechanical CAD modeller, for custom fitted nerves and organs.

First Goop!

The THI-9001 3D Printer has achieved first melt today!  With much thanks to Dan, Alex, and Patrick at TC Maker!

This is the first bit of PLA ever to melt in the Prusa.

This is the first bit of PLA ever to melt in the Prusa.

Curls of PLA stream from the print head.

Curls of PLA stream from the print head.



Pronterface on RPi2, via remote desktop

Sous-vide Thanksgiving

Sous Vide back in action!

Sous Vide back in action!

My sous-vide rig is still going strong.  I could stand to get something a little beefier for a water bath, but for small jobs like a simple Thanksgiving feast, it’s totally up to the task!

The 300g Turkey Breast was cooked at 57 °C for just under two hours and finished at 55 °C for a full two hours.

The result was amazingly tender for white meat, though a teensy bit of stringy stuff contrasted with this. Serve with corn and cranberries, and of course, plenty of stuffing, and you’ve got a feast fit for any Canadian!

Just Add Maple Syrup

Ah yes, forgot the brown gravy.  Still good!

Gamma Rays

Things have been sorted in Fargo, but I’ve got some downtime before hazarding a visit to the Hack Factory and getting on with the main show.

The start of Day One of the trip has me at the University of Minnesota doing some research into research frontiers in space. Gamma Ray Astronomy, for example: We still don’t know a lot about what’s out there, or even have a complete explanation for the odd and powerful processes responsible for notable point sources.

Amateurs can still make contributions to astronomy, but word on the street is that a Gamma-Ray Observatory has to be in space or cost $20 million to be of any use (without nano-engineered metamaterial lenses, anyway). But, if there is a low-cost solution, maybe I could hack something together between Texas and Florida…

Preplanning continues

It’s an exciting time to be doing this; two of the spaces I’m looking into in Texas have opened just this month!  So far, there are several promising spaces along the way that I think I could feature, and more than 30 at least worth a side trip.  More details when bandwidth allows.


I’ve gotten the project to a late start, as it turns out, and my preliminary course was much better suited to leaving in July. So here’s a different tack. There’s still a lot to explore in the central and southeast while winter sets in elsewhere.

Making it on the road

Are North America’s Makerspaces the future of technology and manufacturing?  Starting September 22, stay tuned to for updates on a major project to organize, categorize, publicize the movement to share tools and technology among individual inventors, technicians, and artisans!

Along the way I hope to visit Fab Labs, Hackerspaces, and Maker groups of all stripes. My tentative plan will leave my old base of Grand Forks, via the Twin Cities, Detroit, the Canadian Core, and New York City. If there’s support by the time I make it to the Research Triangle, I might make it farther around the continent — Fingers crossed!

Aside from the blog, there will be much multimedia generated along the way, and I do plan to write a book as well.  If you have a question, resource, suggestion, etc — post a comment!