The God of war (some might see it's color as blood red).
Many cultures have associated mars with fire.
Mars has long been the most interesting planet. It comes
the closest to having Earth-like conditions. It's average
temperatures are much colder than earth but on the equator
in Martian summer it's temperatures might be called spring-
like. It's day is only slightly longer than ours. However
humans have been adapting to the length of our day so long
that even a slight change may disrupt our 'biorhythms'. The
atmosphere is un-breathable, being mostly Carbon Dioxide.
Mars was always thought to be inhabited. At the turn of
the last century Percival Lowell was the biggest proponent
of Martian life. He built his own observatory in Arizona
to study Mars. He believed he saw a network of 'canals' on
Mars, presumed to be an irrigation tool for the dry deserts
of Mars. He also thought changes in green markings on the
planet were seasonal changes in vegetation. Other observers
with larger telescopes disagreed. They said Lowell's smaller
telescope didn't adequately show detail on Mars. Lowell's
views were embraced by a public who wanted the romance
of a dying culture fighting their arid planet's woes.
It later turned out that the canals were an illusion and the
green markings were just surface color changes created by
wind-blown dust. Lowell did make one lasting contribution
though. He believed in the existence of another planet beyond
Neptune. Many years after his death, Pluto was discovered at
his Lowell observatory by Clyde Tombaugh (who has
recently passed away at age 90).
The question of life on Mars remains open. The Viking landers
reported mixed results in it's soil analysis. The landing sites
were chosen more for a safe landing, than in areas favorable
for life. The recent reports of life in Martian meteorites is
also open to debate. We may have to send humans to Mars for
definitive answer on present or past life on Mars.
Mars has two, Phobos and Deimos, discovered by Asaph Hall in
1877. They are very small and not even round (bodies require
a certain size before gravity will force them spherical).
Mars is an easy naked eye target. It's reddish-yellow hue is a
standout. It's brightness varies more than most of the planets.
Mars is one of the more interesting planets through the
telescope. At closest approach (occurring about every two
years) even a small telescope will show it's Polar Caps.
A moderately sized telescope will show a wealth of surface
detail. This takes a little experience though. Sometimes a
planet-wide dust storm will occur obliterating all markings.
A view of the Martian surface from the Viking 1 lander in 1976.
A view of the Mars with it's South Polar Cap
from the Viking orbiter. The contrast is exaggerated, the dark areas are
not so dark.
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