Mars: The Red Planet In science, there is nothing more fascinating than the field of astronomy, which dealswith the study of celestial bodies or planets, the stars and all the things space. And one planetthat deal with a lot of questions and theories up until now isnone 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 theRoman God War, probably because of its color. Until now,the planet still has given scientists a lot of questions as to itsearth-like appearance, or even the existence of aliens orextraterrestrial beings.There have been a vast number of space explorationsregarding Mars, and some of these includes the Mariner 4(NASA-1964), Viking Program (NASA-1975), MarsObserver (NASA-1992), Mars Global Surveyor (NASA-1996), Mars Odyssey (NASA-2001until present), Mars2 and Mars3 Probes (Soviet Union-1971), Phobos 1 and Phobos 2 (SovietUnion-1988), Mars Express (ESA-2003), the Spirit and Opportunity (MER-A/MER-B), both ofwhich are the Mars Exploration Rovers (NASA-2003) and the latest rover, the MarsReconnaissance Orbiter (NASA-2005). According to studies, the size of Mars is about half the size of our planet, with its weightjust one tenth of Earth. The red-orange hue of the planet is mainly due to the presence of rust oriron 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 planetare 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 surface.
Latest results also reveal that the planet’s atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide at anoutstanding 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 carbondioxide 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 inEarth. It was also found out that the said planet has a similar tilting position like our planet, thuscausing seasons to come around the planet. But, the seasons last twice as long as Earth, due to itsdistance away from the sun. The planet tends to have a large number of dust storms when itreaches nearer the sun and climate conditions along the South hemisphere prove to be strongerthan 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 ourcelestial neighbors as well.The Existence of Life in Mars The issue that scientists and astronomers still argue about is the ability of the planet Marsto sustain and give way for life on its very own. This topic has long been speculated on and isstill 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 th 19 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 occurand finally, they found out that it was almost the same as our planet. The scientists were able tofind out that it has nearly the same axial tilt or slanted tilt like Earth’s, which then further gaveway for concluding that the planet experiences seasons just like ours, only longer and strongerdue to its lengthy Martian year. These finding also led to assumptions that the darker patches ofthe land were once water and brighter patches were land. It was therefore assumed that Marsmay 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 telescopes. Missions like the Viking I and II, Mariner 9 proved and helped in furthering researchabout Mars. One of the results showed that Carbon Dioxide may have first developed throughthe 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 twoprimary objectives: search for a possible zone along the plains of Mars that can be able to sustainmicrobial life and to study further the existence of water in the said planet. The rover wasequipped with a robotic arm that was capable of digging shallow trenches. As stated with therock 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 datashowed that Martian soil has perchlorate, and may not be able to sustain life like before. PH andsalinity 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 mayhave life in Mars. But as more evidence are uncovered, only time will tell what the planet has tooffer 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 andastronomers. With various space rover expeditions made by big names in the astronomy fieldlike the National Aeronautics & Space Administration or NASA, and even the Soviet SpaceCommission 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 planethas to offer. Theories now say that the planet once thought to be like Earth, much with the samecharacteristics that can sustain and support life as that of our atmosphere, to landmass andwaters. But as time passed by, natural phenomena like volcanism, collisions and impacts fromother heavenly bodies, even the movements caused by its crust and most of all, the numerousdust storms drastically altered and changed the look of the planet, thus making the presence ofrust 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 ourway. It was believed that at around 3.5 million years before, it was known that the planet hadexperienced 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 howlong 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 letliquid water to be exposed to its harsh environment for a long period of time. Though studieshave shown that the existence ofwater is indeed true, it may beclose to the surface only.Furthermore, it is revealed that ismore water under those polar icecaps, however, the amount ofwater to make the planet regainits water channels and floodedplains are still vague, and thequestion is where could it beclose to the surface? And so,NASA’s very own Mars Global Surveyor already gives hints that there are underground reservesof liquid water and can break through as how or cold springs at any time, and this can only leadto 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 scientistsand the public alike to unlocking the hidden past of Mars to know what its current state is it inright 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 wasgotten over the years regarding the planet Mars, it is also vital to know the basic informationabout the Red Planet or the Earth’s Dwarf Planet, Mars. Mars is the fourth planet away from the sun and is thefourth planet in the solar system as well. It is well noted due toits reddish color, mainly due to the presence of iron oxide orrust, among the rocks and its seasons last twice as long as earth. Its distance is approximately 4220 miles or 6791kilometers away from the sun. It is also the seventh largestplanet among the Solar system, following the planet Earth. It isonly one tenth the mass of earth at approximately 6.145 x 10 tothe 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. Thegravity in Mars is also less with only 0.38 that of Earth. Which means if an object weighs at least100 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 planetsimilar to Earth as well is theexistence of seasons such assummer, winter, autumn andspring, considering that the planetis a cold planet, where there is nolife or water, just pure rocks.Temperature ranges in Mars candramatically change to as low as -133 degrees Centigrade (-207degrees Fahrenheit) and thetemperature along its equator canoccasionally reach as high as 0degrees Centigrade (32 degreesFahrenheit). Due to the varying temperature conditions, a number of dust storms usually occurcan cover the entire planet, which was experienced by both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers andhave hardly survived. A single day in the red planet is exactly 24 hours, 37 minutes and 22 Earth seconds. Asingle Martian year lasts 686.98 Earth days, almost twice as Earth’s or approximately 669Martian 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 astime 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’spressure at this point. Its main component is Carbon Dioxide with at least 95.32%, with almostno 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 theatmosphere is that strong to support and cover such strong winds, and also helped the all theMars 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 itcan sustain life and may we be able to find a way to spring back the Martian waters that made upthe 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 asEarth’s Twin, and it was also very bright and easily spotted by early astronomers. It still is notclear who actually discovered and given the name Mars to the Red planet. Strange though, thatthe reason the name of the planet was after the Roman God of War was because of its reddishcolor, 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 theHuygens Principle, which states that light waves apply equally to any point of a certain angle orconstant phase, noticed one key characteristic when he was observing the planet Mars, whichwas later known as the Syrtis Major. Another two centuries passed and in the year 1802, and a certain scientist even believedthat Martians did exist and wanted to prove it by terms of drawing as this scientist saw figuresand wanted to portray these figures in the snow to signal the assumed creatures.
By the year 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli then discovered what heassumed to be a vast number of lines that seem to cross one after another. He even claimed thatthese 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 newage 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 orlocated. By 1975, another two probes, the Viking I and II explored the planet once more, now tofocus more on the surface and weather patterns of the planet. The mission was a success, withthe said probes finding more information about the Martian atmosphere and routine weathersystems, 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’smoons 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 fornaming these as such was because of the two horses that brought Mars into play every time inMythology.