Mars: The Red Planet
In science, there is nothing more fascinating than the field of astronomy, which deals
with the study of celestial bodies or planets, the stars and all the things space. And one planet
that deal with a lot of questions and theories up until now is
none other than the planet Mars.
The planet Mars the fourth planet away from the sun,
and the next planet after Earth. Its name originated from the
Roman God War, probably because of its color. Until now,
the planet still has given scientists a lot of questions as to its
earth-like appearance, or even the existence of aliens or
There have been a vast number of space explorations
regarding Mars, and some of these includes the Mariner 4
(NASA-1964), Viking Program (NASA-1975), Mars
Observer (NASA-1992), Mars Global Surveyor (NASA-1996), Mars Odyssey (NASA-2001
until present), Mars2 and Mars3 Probes (Soviet Union-1971), Phobos 1 and Phobos 2 (Soviet
Union-1988), Mars Express (ESA-2003), the Spirit and Opportunity (MER-A/MER-B), both of
which are the Mars Exploration Rovers (NASA-2003) and the latest rover, the Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA-2005).
According to studies, the size of Mars is about half the size of our planet, with its weight
just one tenth of Earth. The red-orange hue of the planet is mainly due to the presence of rust or
iron oxide. The question that lingers here is whether the planet can sustain life like our planet,
considering that the planet's surface area is actually less than planet Earth's dry land mass.
Geological studies on the planet shows that rocks and the entire landmass of the planet
are a vast majority of meteorites, whose compositions are mostly basalt and silica. Due to the
presence of iron oxide, the chemical compound gives the
rocks its orange to reddish hue.
Though the possibility of water has been ruled out, as
the technology of NASA helped reinforce the camera views
from the global surveyor, it shows that the planet has
actually 2 polar ice caps namely the Planum Boreum for the
North Pole and Planum Australe for the South Pole. It is also
said that if either ice caps melts, it would probably engulf the
planet with water levels at around 11 meters from the
Latest results also reveal that the planet's atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide at an
outstanding percentage at 95%, with a mixture of nitrogen and argon at 3% and 1.6%
respectively. It is also evident that oxygen and water levels are at an all-time low, as the carbon
dioxide contains a number of dust particles that can block any means for these two to sprout.
Putting that aside, the planet has also been found to have seasons like those found in
Earth. It was also found out that the said planet has a similar tilting position like our planet, thus
causing seasons to come around the planet. But, the seasons last twice as long as Earth, due to its
distance away from the sun. The planet tends to have a large number of dust storms when it
reaches nearer the sun and climate conditions along the South hemisphere prove to be stronger
than the North Hemisphere.
Overall, Mars still have characteristics yet to be uncovered by scientists here on Earth.
As each decade that passes through, we finally get to know more about our planet and our
celestial neighbors as well.
The Existence of Life in Mars
The issue that scientists and astronomers still argue about is the ability of the planet Mars
to sustain and give way for life on its very own. This topic has long been speculated on and is
still being discussed and researched upon.
There were early
assumptions that life did exist and
was able to be sustained in the Red
Planet. As early as the middle 17th
century, the discovery of the planet's
polar ice caps were first shown to
have grown and shrink in an
alternate fashion, each during the
summer and winter seasons of each
hemisphere (North and South), and
was discovered by none other than
William Herschel in the later part of
the 18th century.
By the coming of the middle
19th century, astronomers already
know that the planet had some
certain similarities and differences
compared to the planet Earth, as they were able to find out how long does a Martian day occur
and finally, they found out that it was almost the same as our planet. The scientists were able to
find out that it has nearly the same axial tilt or slanted tilt like Earth's, which then further gave
way for concluding that the planet experiences seasons just like ours, only longer and stronger
due to its lengthy Martian year. These finding also led to assumptions that the darker patches of
the land were once water and brighter patches were land. It was therefore assumed that Mars
may have been sustaining some form of life, one way or another.
By the year 1854, a certain man named
William Whewell theorized that the planet once
had seas, land mass and possible life. This
assumption boomed in the late 19th century, with
telescopic observation about certain Martian
Canals, which eventually was found to just
being optical illusions. By 1894, analysis of the
planet's atmosphere began up until now, when
William Wallace Campbell, an American
Astronomer, proved and showed that the planet
neither has oxygen nor water was present. The
canal theory was finally concluded false by the
year 1909, when there emerged better
Missions like the Viking I and II, Mariner 9 proved and helped in furthering research
about Mars. One of the results showed that Carbon Dioxide may have first developed through
the prevailing oxygen and was eventually converted to iron oxide as time passed on.
By the year 2008, the Phoenix Lander was released to Martian territories with two
primary objectives: search for a possible zone along the plains of Mars that can be able to sustain
microbial life and to study further the existence of water in the said planet. The rover was
equipped with a robotic arm that was capable of digging shallow trenches. As stated with the
rock formation results based on the Viking I and II that certain percentages of oxidants (life-
sustaining components) varied by direction, it headed northwards. The rover's preliminary data
showed that Martian soil has perchlorate, and may not be able to sustain life like before. PH and
salinity levels in the ground were considered as rather different in terms of biological factors.
The analysis also revealed the presence of a mixture of water and carbon dioxide.
Considering these assumptions and findings, it is still too early to consider that they may
have life in Mars. But as more evidence are uncovered, only time will tell what the planet has to
offer out of its former glory.
Delving Deeper Into Mars and Its Theories
The Planet Mars has a lot of characteristics slowly uncovered by earth scientists and
astronomers. With various space rover expeditions made by big names in the astronomy field
like the National Aeronautics & Space Administration or NASA, and even the Soviet Space
Commission of Russia, what is still there to study about the Planet Mars?
There are already a lot of controversies and questions lingering with regard to the planet.
Nonetheless, astronomers are slowly able to find out different answers as to what the said planet
has to offer. Theories now say that the planet once thought to be like Earth, much with the same
characteristics that can sustain and support life as that of our atmosphere, to landmass and
waters. But as time passed by, natural phenomena like volcanism, collisions and impacts from
other heavenly bodies, even the movements caused by its crust and most of all, the numerous
dust storms drastically altered and changed the look of the planet, thus making the presence of
rust or iron oxide imminent.
Since there are a lot
of basic information that
can be said about Mars,
trying to delve into deeper
topics won't be a problem.
One topic that can be further
discussed is the weather in
Mars. As it said, there are
seasons in Mars, similar to
the seasons here in the
planet Earth. As what has
been found as well, the ice
caps in Mars flourish and
recede as the seasons
change, and one thing to
note when the planet
changes seasons are the
changes in rock formations
and color, mostly due to the
regular orbit and revolution,
as well as the numerous change of seasons that last twice as long as our planet.
The question regarding Water in the planet still lingers and more answers are tom our
way. It was believed that at around 3.5 million years before, it was known that the planet had
experienced one of the largest known floods across the Solar System. It may also have formed
shallow lakes and oceans. The question now is where could the water have originated and how
long did these water formations lasted? To add on this, where is the water now?
As of now, the climate in the planet is far too cold and its atmosphere is really thin to let
liquid water to be exposed to its harsh environment for a long period of time. Though studies
have shown that the existence of
water is indeed true, it may be
close to the surface only.
Furthermore, it is revealed that is
more water under those polar ice
caps, however, the amount of
water to make the planet regain
its water channels and flooded
plains are still vague, and the
question is where could it be
close to the surface? And so,
NASA's very own Mars Global Surveyor already gives hints that there are underground reserves
of liquid water and can break through as how or cold springs at any time, and this can only lead
to one thing to investigate: the substances that lie underneath the layers of Martian Soil.
Keeping that aside, in order to study more about the Red Planet, it is vital for scientists
and the public alike to unlocking the hidden past of Mars to know what its current state is it in
right now and its possible future.
Mars: The Basics and What to Know
Let's get back to basics. Though we might know a lot of the questions and data that was
gotten over the years regarding the planet Mars, it is also vital to know the basic information
about the Red Planet or the Earth's Dwarf Planet, Mars.
Mars is the fourth planet away from the sun and is the
fourth planet in the solar system as well. It is well noted due to
its reddish color, mainly due to the presence of iron oxide or
rust, among the rocks and its seasons last twice as long as earth.
Its distance is approximately 4220 miles or 6791
kilometers away from the sun. It is also the seventh largest
planet among the Solar system, following the planet Earth. It is
only one tenth the mass of earth at approximately 6.145 x 10 to
the 23rd power. Considering its mass, it is less dense than the
Earth, but, the planet's surface area is just a fraction less the total of Earth's land mass. The
gravity in Mars is also less with only 0.38 that of Earth. Which means if an object weighs at least
100 kilograms or pounds here, the actual weight of the object in the planet would only be 38kg.
And this type of gravity is one challenge to face if we humans are to make an expedition to Mars,
as the gravity itself will cause problems or complications to human health.
What makes this planet
similar to Earth as well is the
existence of seasons such as
summer, winter, autumn and
spring, considering that the planet
is a cold planet, where there is no
life or water, just pure rocks.
Temperature ranges in Mars can
dramatically change to as low as -
133 degrees Centigrade (-207
degrees Fahrenheit) and the
temperature along its equator can
occasionally reach as high as 0
degrees Centigrade (32 degrees
Fahrenheit). Due to the varying temperature conditions, a number of dust storms usually occur
can cover the entire planet, which was experienced by both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and
have hardly survived.
A single day in the red planet is exactly 24 hours, 37 minutes and 22 Earth seconds. A
single Martian year lasts 686.98 Earth days, almost twice as Earth's or approximately 669
Martian days. Comparing these data, a single Martian day is at least 41 minutes more than Earth.
It was earlier believed that early in the planet's existence, it looked much more like Earth, but as
time passed, the atmosphere drastically changed, completely altering the face of the planet.
Unlike Earth, pressure in the planet is very low and a hundred times lower than Earth's
pressure at this point. Its main component is Carbon Dioxide with at least 95.32%, with almost
no oxygen at all at 0.13% only. Due to a really narrow atmosphere and a weak magnetic pull,
future human expeditions may have to deal with cosmic radiation. Strange though, as the
atmosphere is that strong to support and cover such strong winds, and also helped the all the
Mars Rovers to remove dust from its solar-powered panels during the course of their expeditions.
Leaving that aside, Mars has those Earth-like characteristics. The question now is if it
can sustain life and may we be able to find a way to spring back the Martian waters that made up
the planet ages ago.
Who or What made Mars Popular?
The Planet Mars is an interesting topic to tackle and discuss in the field of astronomy.
But, who do we refer to regarding about its discovery and its eventual name?
Earth History dictates the existence of the planet Mars has been around for ages already.
As it was evidently clear that it looks much similar to the planet Venus, commonly known as
Earth's Twin, and it was also very bright and easily spotted by early astronomers. It still is not
clear who actually discovered and given the name Mars to the Red planet. Strange though, that
the reason the name of the planet was after the Roman God of War was because of its reddish
color, which reminded the people of that age of war and famine, even blood.
As centuries passed by, a noted scientist, Christian Huygens, known author of the
Huygens Principle, which states that light waves apply equally to any point of a certain angle or
constant phase, noticed one key characteristic when he was observing the planet Mars, which
was later known as the Syrtis Major.
Another two centuries passed and in the year 1802, and a certain scientist even believed
that Martians did exist and wanted to prove it by terms of drawing as this scientist saw figures
and wanted to portray these figures in the snow to signal the assumed creatures.
By the year 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli then discovered what he
assumed to be a vast number of lines that seem to cross one after another. He even claimed that
these were water canals made by certain high intellectual beings or creatures.
In the year 1971, which a lot of people consider as part of the era of the dawn of a new
age and the advancement of human thinking, reasoning and technology evolving at a fast rate,
the first ever probe to come across Martian territory, NASA's very own Mariner 9, explored the
red planet and was able to
transmit back a large number of
rock formations like volcanoes
and large canyons. It was able to
discover what is known as
Olympus Mons. The massive
land mass can actually cover the
whole US state of Missouri, and
even reaches around 15 miles
above surface level. The said
Mars Probe also found proof
that water did exist in the planet
once. Sadly, Schiaparelli's
canals were not found or
By 1975, another two probes, the Viking I and II explored the planet once more, now to
focus more on the surface and weather patterns of the planet. The mission was a success, with
the said probes finding more information about the Martian atmosphere and routine weather
systems, along with vital information about its soil and rock compositions. And by the year 1997,
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor was able to make a map of the entire planet.
Strange enough, the planet wasn't really discovered, but actually it was the planet's
moons that were the highlight, in the 18th century. In the year 1887, Asaph Hall, an astronomer,
was able to spot the two moons or satellites, and eventually named them Phobos and Deimos,
which means Fear and Panic when translated. As these were only two moons, the reason for
naming these as such was because of the two horses that brought Mars into play every time in