Archive for the ‘Mars’ tag
1. Mars has the biggest mountain in the solar system.
It’s called “Olympus Mons” and it’s actually a dormant volcano. Olympus Mons is 15.5 miles high and 372 miles across. To give you an idea, Mt. Everest is between 5 and 6 miles tall. Mars also has the biggest canyon system in the known universe, the “Valles Marineris,” which is 2,500 miles long and 4 miles deep.
2. People have always wondered about life on mars because of the “canals” first seen by early astronomers.
This is why we have always imagined alien invaders coming from there, and not Jupiter or Venus. Actually, Mars is one of the least habitable planets, with freezing temperatures, solar winds, and almost no atmosphere. It is far more likely for there to be life on Venus. The canals seen by early observers are long, straight lines on the planet’s surface that scientists believe are evidence of water.
3. Mars is named after the Roman god of war because its red color reminded early observers of blood.
The reason for the red color is that the soil is composed of iron oxide, or what we commonly call rust.
4. Compared to the other planets in the solar system, Mars is quite small.
It is half the size of earth. Mars has about a third of the earth’s gravity, which means that you can jump three times as high.
5. In the 1970′s, the Viking orbiter took pictures of what appear to be giant faces and pyramids carved into the planet’s surface in the Cydonia region.
The biggest looks like the Sphinx of Egypt and is 2,000 feet high and miles across. While this discovery has gotten UFOlogists excited, scientists say they are just eroded mesas. Many still believe that the faces are too symmetrical to be natural, and that they are evidence of ancient alien civilizations.
6. Mars has some of the wildest weather in the solar system.
It has tremendous wind storms, dust storms and small tornadoes (dust devils). In 2001, a huge dust storm covered the entire planet for several earth days. Scientists are puzzled that a planet with so little atmosphere could have raging storms such as these. They don’t know what causes them, but there are more storms when Mars is close to the sun. When it’s on the farther end of its orbit, there are icy clouds made of carbon dioxide and dust. This is also strange because Mars has no surface water.
7. There has been a search for life on mars, and also a search for water.
After years of studying every crack on the planet’s surface for evidence of water, scientists have finally found it. The Phoenix mission found that there are huge deposits of ice underneath the planet’s surface.
8. Mars has two moons, and one of it is going to crash into it.
The moon Phobos orbits dangerously close to Mars’ atmosphere. Someday, the gravitational pull with smash the moon to bits. The debris will stay in Mars’ orbit, making a ring like the rings of Saturn. Eventually, it will rain down on Mars. Scientists don’t know when this will happen, but predict it will be in the next 50 years.
9. Only 1/3 of all the missions to Mars have been successful.
So many missions have disappeared that it has led scientists to wonder if something strange is happening. They refer to Mars as the “Bermuda Triangle” of the solar system.
As far as we know, the planet Mars was first noticed during the time of the Babylonians. They called Mars Nergal, which means the great hero, the king of conflicts. The Babylonians were great astronomers, they watched the stars closely and were able to predict eclipses. They were well aware of different phenomenas but never bothered to explain them. They observed the sky for keeping records and for religious purposes.
The Egyptians named Mars Har Decher – the red one. They were the first to notice that the stars and the sun seems to be fixed. They also noticed 5 glowing objects in the sky, that we soon found out to be Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn.
THE ROMANS AND GREEKS
During this time of myths and Gods, Mars was known as the God of War. The Romans worshipped Mars and even provided sacrifices, they would seek the guidance of Mars especially in times of war.
The Symbol of Mars.
The Greeks referred to Mars as Ares.
In Greek mythology, Ares is the son of Zeus and Hera. Some people regarded him as a killer while some sees him as a savior and father of victory.
It’s amazing how early astronomers were able to keenly observe the stars and the neighboring planets with near-accurate calculations considering that they don’t have any instruments aside from their eyes. Imagine them observing the sky for years and knowing exactly where the stars are located. It was when something seems out of place that they start generating conclusions.
During the 1500′s Nicolaus Copernicus theorized that the Earth and the other planets revolves around the sun, contrary to the belief that the Earth is the center of the solar system. He provided a mathematical evidence that suggests the sun to be the center of the solar system. This is an amazing theory that was formulated two hundred years before the telescope was invented.
Tyco Brahe, a Danish astronomer who made an accurate calculation of the position Mars, aslo 200 years before the telescope was invented. He calculated that Mars is within 4 minutes of arc. He formulated this theory in his observatory in Hven, near Coppenhagen.
1600 – The 1600′s was a difficult time for scientists. The church was very particular in their beliefs and are not accepting any changes. Any theory that contradicts the churches beliefs are shrugged and any person contradicting the church is persecuted. Just like Galileo Galilei who was a believer of the Copernican theory. Galileo published a book called Siderius Nuncius (Starry Messenger), which was in contradiction with the church’s beliefs, and got tried and found guilty of heresy. Galileo Galilei was also the first scientist to have observed Mars using a telecope.
1609 – Johannes kepler publishes Astronomia Nova, which contains the laws of planetary motion. In his first law, based on brahes findings, he calculated that Mars has an elliptical orbit. In contrary to the belief that all orbits must be circular.
1659 – Christiaan Huygens theorized that Mars also has a 24 hour period. This is because during his observations, he saw a spot on Mars that seemed to appear at the same time of the day. Huygens was also the first to notice the southern polar caps in 1672. In 1698, Huygens published the book Cosmotheros which details the components needed for a planet to support life. It was also on this book that he explored the possibility of extraterrestrials.
1666 – Giovanni Cassini determines Mars’ day period as 24 hours and 40 minutes.
1700 – During this time scientists enjoyed greater freedom in exploring the solar system. Newton built the first reflector to be used in a telescope. Sir William Herschel, who was an innovator, realizing that larger telescopes are hard to manage built one for himself. He created some of the most advanced telescopes during that time.
1704 – Giancomo Miraldi discovered white spots in Mars. In 1719, he correctly thought if the white spots were ice caps.
1727 – Jonathan Swift’s Gullivers Travels, talks about 2 Martian moons. It could be just a coincidence but we know for a fact that Mars does have 2 moons.
1777-1784 Sir William Herschel, using the telescopes he built, studied Mars and believed that it was inhabited by an intelligent lifeform. He declared Mars’ tilt to be 30 degrees, which is very close to the actual tilt of 25.19 degrees. He assumed that the dark spots in Mars were oceans but later corrected when a faint star passed closely by Mars and its brightness had no effect on the supposed ocean.