The planet Mars is seen in a sequence taken (from left) on July 10, July 13, August 13, 16, 18 and 24, 2003, when the planet made its closest approach to earth in about 60,000 years. Its appearance in these pictures closely approximate what you will see through a good quality, amateur telescope. The planet grows in apparent size as it approaches earth, and the southern polar cap (at top) shrinks as the Martian summer in the southern hemisphere progresses. The oblong shape of the planet in the first two frames is actually a phase, much like a gibbous moon and is an effect caused when the Earth and Mars are offset from each other relative to the sun. The pictures were taken from a suburban Milwaukee back yard using a Nikon D1 digital camera attached to a 10-inch Newtonian reflecting telescope.