Observing conditions for the 2001 return of Mars. From Sky and Telescope.
We usually get a good look at Mars when the Earths orbit passes that of Mars, which happens every 26 months.
The 2001 return of Mars will provide the best viewing of the red planet since September 1988.
On June 14th 2001 will be the next opposition (when the orbit of the Earth and Mars line up with the Sun).
Mars will shine at magnitude -2.4 and show a disc of diameter 20.8 arc seconds.
Following this, the next opposition will occur in August 2003 and will be about as close as Mars can get to the Earth.
The diagram below shows the details from 2001 to 2005 .
Observers with telescopes should be able to make out one or both of the planet's tiny, white polar caps
or at least the polar cloud hoods, many dark surface markings
(depending on which side of Mars is facing Earth at the time), limb hazes, occasional white clouds,
and possibly signs of a moving dust storm.
Map of Mars showing major details that may be visible. From Sky and Telescope.