MARS


  • NAME
    The God of war (some might see it's color as blood red).
    (Greek: Ares)
    Many cultures have associated mars with fire.

  • ABOUT MARS
    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.

  • DISCOVERY DATE
    Antiquity

  • MOONS
    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).

  • OBSERVING-NAKED EYE
    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.

  • OBSERVING-TELESCOPE
    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.


SOLAR SYSTEM MAIN PAGE | | ONLY FREEWARE HOMEPAGE

IMAGES: NASA
ALL PAGES COPYRIGHT© 1997-2010 ALAN SAWICKI