Archive for the ‘red planet’ tag
Mars Express Orbiter is a joint project of the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency and NASA. The orbiter was launched on June 2, 2003 and reached the orbit of Mars in December 2003. The mission has been extended twice already and is set to end on May 2009 (If it’s not extended again).
- Study the geology of the red planet.
- Study the Martian atmosphere.
- Study the surface environment.
- Study the history of water and life potential of the red planet.
The main focus of all Martian missions is on water, since it is a fact that whenever there is water, there tends to be life. The mars program has actually developed a strategy – Follow the Water. It starts with the understanding of the current surface of Mars, identifying dried riverbeds, studying the polar caps, and identifying rocks that could only form in the presence of water. Looking for hot springs and subsurface water deposits is part of the mission too.
We want to be able to understand if Mars hosted vast oceans before and how it became to be the dry and cold planet that it is today. Imagine how exciting this mission is and how exciting it is to hear our scientists say “Yes there is water on Mars and there is life”.
- Mars Lander (Beagle 2) – Geochemistry and exobiology
- High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) – Used for high resolution surface imaging, the HRSC have sent many great pictures of Mars.
- Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) – Used to study the red planets atmospheric composition and circulation. Mars could have a moody atmosphere and is such a mystery to solve.
- Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter (MARSIS) – Used to search for water in the subsurface. The ultimate source of life.
- The Radio Science Experiment (MaRS) – Sounding of the internal structure, atmosphere and environment
- Energetic Neutron Atoms Analyser (ASPERA) – Used to study the solar winds and the Martian atmosphere.
- Ultraviolet and Infrared Mars Atmospheric Spectrometer (SPICAM) – Used to determine what composes the atmosphere of Mars.
- Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer (OMEGA) – Used to help scientists understand the Martian surface and how it evolved.
PICTURES FROM MARS EXPRESS ORBITER
The popular face of mars photo. It’s actually a massif that probably formed due to landslides. Viking 1 photographed it on July 1976 and it did look like a face.
The eastern scrap of the Olympus Mons
The Juventae Chasma.
One of Mars’ valleys that suggests that there was water before. They are 5-10 kilometers wide and 1500 ft deep.
A crater at the northwestern edge of a larger crater named Wirtz.
The mars express orbiter is successfully doing it’s job. Right now it’s working hand in hand with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to identify future landing sites and to relay communication between the rovers and the scientists here on Earth.
The Mars lander, Beagle 2, was not successful though, it got lost upon landing in Mars.
I’ve always been fascinated with Mars, when I was a kid, I’d spend hours observing and admiring the planet Mars through my telescope. If not, I’d be at the roof top laying down and looking at the sky. I always imagined it to be a tourist destination that we can visit from time to time. I know we can’t live in Mars permanently since dust storms are pretty frequent in there and the big craters suggests that meteors are also constant visitors. I wonder what kind of houses we will be building in there when the time comes, dust storm and meteor proof?
Anyways, I made this blog in order to further educate myself about the planet Mars and also share all the information that I learned. This is going to be a very informative and fun blog. To those who loves Mars, like me, better bookmark this site to keep yourself updated.
- Mars is the 4th planet and is 227,940,000 kms away from the sun. That’s roughly 1 1/2 times the distance of Earth from the sun
- Known as the “Red Planet” because of its red and rustic appearance. This is because of the iron-rich minerals in the Martian soil.
- The month of March was derived from Mars
- Named after the God of War because its color resembles blood.
- The Martian year equals to 687 Earth days. Same as Earth, Mars also revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit. But the orbit of Mars is a little bit stretched out that’s why it takes that long for Mars to completely revolve around the sun.
- The Martian day is 24 hrs 39 min and 35 secs.
- Temperatures in Mars could be as low as -125 degrees celcius near the poles and -20 degrees celcius near the equator at midday. I wonder if the word hot, heat, or warm will ever be invented if we were on Mars?
- You will be weighing 62 percent less when in Mars. The gravitational force of Mars is less than the Earth’s because it’s smaller. I calculated my weight and it looks like I’ll be weighing 61 pounds in Mars instead of 160 pounds. Ladies, if you want to drastically lose weight, go to Mars.
- Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system named “Olympus Mons” (Latin for Mount Olympus) which is 27 kilometers high and 600 kilometers wide. It’s 8.85 kilometer higher than Mt. Everest.
- Mars has 2 moons named phobos and deimos
- Mars also have seasons just like Earth does and the sun appears to be half its size when viewed from Mars.
- Air is mostly composed of carbon dioxide.
- Mars’s large channels, valleys and gullies suggest that there is water in the planet.
The surface Mars contains canyons, gullies, plains, volcanoes, polar ice and is composed mainly of a rock called basalt – a volcanic rock usually gray to black in color and is fine-grained due to the rapid cooling of lava.
Then, why does Mars look red if it is composed of a gray or black rock?
It is because of the fine particles of iron oxide that composes the Martian dust. Basalt rocks in Mars have higher concentration of iron than those here on Earth and the grinding of those rocks produces that reddish iron dust that covers Mars.
Looking at Mars from above (as shown on the picture above), you’ll notice that the land mass colored red and yellow seems to be elevated than the rest of the crust. That elevated region, which covers the lower half of Mars is called the Highlands. The rest of the surface is called, Lowlands.
The Highlands is in the southern hemisphere of Mars and contains many craters which suggests that it is the older portion of Mars.
The lowlands contains fewer craters and it also houses the Tharsis Ridge, a ridge that contains most of the volcanoes of Mars.
The red planet contains a system of canyons located along the equator called Valles Marineries (Latin for valleys of mariner), which was discovered by the space probe Mariner 9 in 1971. The canyon stretches 4000 kilometers and is upto 8 kilometers deep.
The Canyons have steep slopes and the bottom is filled with boulders and debris.
The Canyon actually looks like the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Flat, low-lying plains on the northern region of Mars is among the smoothest in the solar system. The plains seems to be formed through deposits of sediments, which suggests that water was once abundant in Mars.
List of Plains in Mars (Planitia is Latin for plains)
Acidalia Planitia, Amazonis Planitia, Arcadia Planitia, Argyre Planitia, Chryse Planitia, Elysium Planitia, Hellas Planitia, Isidis Planitia, Utopia Planitia.
The many volcanoes of Mars can be found on the Tharsis Ridge, including the Olympus Mons which is the biggest volcano in the solar system. Three other large volcanoes can also be found on the ridge, namely: Arsia Mons, Ascraeus Mons, and Pavonis Mons.
Olympus Mons (Latin for Mount Olympus) – Stands 27 kilometers high, about 3 times as high as the Mt.Everest, and is about 600 kilometers wide.
Olympus Mons is shield volcano, meaning it grew bigger and bigger due to the lava flows during eruptions.
Arsia Mons – Stands 9 kilometers high and 435 kilometers in diameter. It the southernmost of all the volcanoes on the Tharsis Ridge.
The Arsian Mons produces dust clouds that can be observed in orbit every time the southern winter begins. This happens because the as the sun warms the air on the slopes of the volcano, it rises, bringing along clouds of dust that can reach 15 – 30 kilometers above the volcano.
Ascraeus Mons – Stands 18 kilometers high, the second highest volcano, and is 460 kilometers in diameter and is the northernmost of all the volcanoes on the Tharsis Ridge.
Pavonis Mons (Latin for Peacock Mountain) – Stands 14 kilometers high. A chain of oval shaped pits lined up on the center of a shallow trough can be found on the lower east flank of the volcano.
CRATERS AND IMPACT BASINS
Due to Mars’s thin atmosphere, meteors can easily enter and reach the surface of the planet. Creating large bowl shaped craters and impact basins, some of them have central peaks that was formed when the floor rebounded upwards after an impact.
The southern hemisphere have lots of craters, making it the older portion of Mars. Volcanoes have craters around them too. The number of craters around a volcano will tell you if they were recently active or not as the flowing lava will tend to cover up the surrounding craters. The more craters you see around a volcano will tell you that it has not been active for a long time.
The largest crater can be found in the southern hemisphere. It’s called Hellas Planitia or Hellas Impact Basin. It has a diameter of about 2,300 kilometers and about 9 kilometers deep.
Just like the Earth, Mars’ polar caps are covered with water ice all year round and during the winter, water ice could extend from the poles to half way to the equator.
The polar deposits are composed of stacks of thin layers of water ice that developed overtime. Scientists believe that the layers consists of water ice and dust. An evidence of seasonal changes in Mars and long term climate changes.
It is estimated that the crust of Mars is about 50 kilometers thick. The southern hemisphere could be thicker than the north since it is elevated. The crust is primarily composed of Basalt rocks and covered with iron dust.
The Martian mantle is probably the same as the Earth’s which is mainly composed of a rock called peridotite. Peridotite is an igneous rock which is composed mainly of the mineral called olivine. It also contains silica, magnesium, oxygen and Iron.
Main source of heat inside Mars:
- Radioactive Decay
- Break up of nuclei of atoms of different elements such as potassium, uranium and thorium.
Temperature on the mantle of Mars is estimated to be around 1500 degrees celcius.
The core of Mars is probably solid, unlike the Earth’s molten (Liquid) core, because of the planets low magnetic field.
A Magnetic field is an influence created by a magnetic object, like for example, if your house is magnetic then the surroundings of your house will have a magnetic field.
The movement within a planets liquid core makes the core magnetic. The movement is brought about the rotation of the planet. Now since Mars does not have a significant magnetic field, it suggests that the core is not moving despite the spinning of the planet. Hence, the core could be solid.
Movements within the core will make the core magnetic. But since, the magnetic field in Mars is low, It suggests that there is not too much movement in the core. It is possible that Mars had a strong magnetic field before since the data gathered from the Mars Gloabal surveyor shows that some of the older rocks were formed in the presence of strong magnetic fields.
Mars’ atmosphere is 95.3% carbon dioxide (CO2), other gases include Nitrogen (N2) 2.7%, Argon (Ar), 1.6%, Carbon Monoxide (CO), 0.07%, and water vapor (H2O) 0.03%.
One problem that will be facing us if we want to visit Mars. Since we live by breathing oxygen which is obviously scarce in Mars
It is sooo cold in Mars. Temperatures at higher altitudes, around 125 kilometers above the surface, could go as low as -130 degrees celcius (remember 0 degrees celcius is the freezing point of water, so I think we’ll literally freeze in there).
During daytime temperature could go from -30 to -40 degees celcius.
It will be warmer during those times where dust particles cover Mars, as dust absorbs heat from the sun and transfers it to the atmosphere.
WIND and DUST
Wind occurs the same in Mars as it is here on Earth. When the sun is up and it warms up the atmosphere, the warm air will rise up and the colder air will take its place along the surface.
Wind in Mars are generally gentle with the exception of occasional sand storms that can cover the entire surface of Mars. Just like the ones that occurred in 1971 and in 2001.
Dust storms are common when Mars is closest to the sun.
Mars has two tiny satellites. Phobos and Deimos, named after the sons of Ares. Phobos is about 27 kilometers in diameter while Deimos is about 15 kilometers.
They were discovered by an American astronomer named Asaph Hall in 1877. The two satellites also have craters due to meteoroids.
Scientists do not know where the moons came from. They possibly formed at the same time when Mars formed. Another theory is that they were asteroids that got pulled into orbit by gravitational force of Mars. After all, both are dark gray which is similar to the color of some asteroids.
As of now, Mars rovers have been sending pictures and feeding us invaluable information to further our study of the planet. Studies show that there may have been life in the planet and it certainly contains the 3 ingredients necessary to support life: Water, Source of energy and Chemical Elements like oxygen, carbon and hydrogen.
Who knows? Maybe someday you can put Mars in your itinerary.