is the fourth
planet from the Sun.
The planet is named after
Roman god of war. Mars is also known as the "Red Planet" due to its reddish
appearance when seen from Earth. The prefix areo-, from the
Greek god of war,
Ares, refers to Mars in the same way geo- refers to
Mars has two
Deimos, which are small and oddly shaped. These may be captured
asteroids similar to
Eureka, a Mars
Trojan asteroid. Mars can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. Its
apparent magnitude reaches −2.9, a brightness surpassed only by Venus, the Moon,
and the Sun. For much of the year,
Jupiter may appear brighter to the naked eye than Mars.
NASA - 3 years on Mars
Video, Movie, Film, Clip
If you like this page
Please Email it to as many people
Until the first flyby of Mars by
in 1965, it was hoped, both within and outside scientific circles, especially in
the popular media and literary circles, that Mars had ample liquid water. This
was based on observations of periodic variations in light and dark patches,
particularly in the polar latitudes, and long dark striations that could perhaps
even be irrigation channels of liquid water.
These straight line features were shown not to exist and explained as optical
illusions. Still, of all the planets in our
solar system other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbor liquid
perhaps life. Mars'
rotational period and seasonal cycles are also similar to those of the
Earth. It has the highest
the solar system,
Mons, the largest canyon in the solar system,
Valles Marineris, and
polar ice caps. Recent evidence also shows that there may have been flowing
water on Mars as recently as a few years ago.
Mars is currently host to four orbiting
Mars Global Surveyor,
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is more than any planet except Earth. It
is also home to the two
Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit
The red/orange appearance of Mars' surface is caused by
iron(III) oxide (rust).
Mars has half the
radius of the Earth and only one-tenth the
mass, being less
dense, but its
area is only slightly less than the total area of Earth's dry land.
While Mars is larger and more massive than
Mercury, Mercury has slightly stronger gravity at the surface, due to its
much higher density.
The surface of Mars is thought to be primarily composed of
Martian meteorite collection and orbital observations. There is some
evidence that a portion of the Martian surface might be more silica-rich than
typical basalt, perhaps similar to
stones on Earth, though these observations may also be explained by silica
glass. Much of the surface is deeply covered by
iron(III) oxide dust as fine as talcum powder.
There is conclusive evidence that
existed at one time on the surface of Mars. Key discoveries leading to this
conclusion include the detection of various minerals such as
which sometimes form in the presence of water.
||249,228,730 km (154.863,553 mi)
1.665 991 16 AU
||206,644,545 km (128,402,967 mi)
1.381 333 46 AU
1.523 662 31
||0.093 412 33
(5.65° to Sun's
Longitude of ascending node:
Argument of perihelion:
||3402.5 km (2114.2 mi)
||3377.4 km (2098.6 mi)
55,907,000 square miles (144 798 465 square kilometers)
||5.027 km/s (11,245 mi/h)
|Sidereal rotation period:
||1.025 957 d
(24.622 962 h)
|Rotation velocity at equator:
||868.22 km/h (539.49 mi/h)
Right ascension of North pole:
(21 h 10 min 44 s)
0.03% Water vapor
80 ppb Xenon
30 ppb Ozone
Although Mars has no intrinsic magnetic field, observations have revealed
that parts of the planet's crust have been magnetized. This magnetization has
been compared to
alternating bands found on the ocean floors of Earth. One theory, published
in 1999 and reexamined in October 2005 with the help of the
Mars Global Surveyor, is that these bands are evidence of the past operation
plate tectonics on Mars.
Polar wandering could also explain this
Current models of the planet's interior infer a core region approximately
1,480 km in radius, consisting primarily of
iron with about
iron sulfide core is partially fluid, with twice the concentration of light
elements that exists at the Earth's core. The core is surrounded by a silicate
formed many of the tectonic and volcanic features on the planet, but now appears
to be inactive. The average thickness of the planet's crust is about 50 km, and
it is no thicker than 125 km.
The geological history of Mars is split into three broad epochs:
Noachian epoch (named after
Noachis Terra): Formation of the oldest extant surfaces of Mars, 3.8 billion
years ago to 3.5 billion years ago. Noachian age surfaces are scarred by many
large impact craters. The
Tharsis bulge is thought to have formed during this period, with extensive
flooding by liquid water late in the epoch.
Hesperian epoch (named after
Hesperia Planum): 3.5 billion years ago to 1.8 billion years ago. The
Hesperian epoch is marked by the formation of extensive lava plains.
Amazonian epoch (named after
Amazonis Planitia): 1.8 billion years ago to present. Amazonian regions have
few meteorite impact craters but are otherwise quite varied.
Mons formed during this period along with lava flows elsewhere on Mars.
An alternative series of classifications, based on data from OMEGA Visible
and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer on board the
Express orbiter has also been put forward.
Although better remembered for mapping the
Moon starting in
Johann Heinrich Mädler and
Beer were the first "areographers". They started off by establishing once
and for all that most of Mars' surface features were permanent, and pinned down
Mars' rotation period. In 1840, Mädler combined ten years of observations and
drew the first ever map of Mars. Rather than giving names to the various
markings they mapped, Beer and Mädler simply designated them with letters;
Meridian Bay (Sinus Meridiani) was thus feature "a".
Today, features on Mars are named from a number of sources. Large
retain many of the older names, but are often updated to reflect new knowledge
of the nature of the features. For example, Nix Olympica (the snows of
Olympus) has become Olympus Mons (Mount Olympus).
Mars' equator is defined by its rotation, but the location of its
Prime Meridian was specified, as was Earth's, by choice of an arbitrary
point. Mädler and Beer selected a line in 1830 for their first maps of Mars.
After the spacecraft
provided extensive imagery of Mars in 1972, a small crater (later called
located in the
Sinus Meridiani ("Middle Bay" or "Meridian Bay"), was chosen for the
definition of 0.0° longitude to coincide with the originally selected line.
Since Mars has no oceans and hence no 'sea level', a zero-elevation surface
mean gravity surface must be selected. The zero altitude is defined by the
height at which there is 610.5
Pa (6.105 mbar) of atmospheric pressure (approximately 0.6% of Earth's).
This pressure corresponds to the
point of water.
The dichotomy of Martian topography is striking: northern plains flattened by
lava flows contrast with the southern highlands, pitted and cratered by ancient
impacts. The surface of Mars as seen from Earth is thus divided into two kinds
of areas, with differing albedo. The paler plains covered with dust and sand
rich in reddish iron oxides were once thought of as Martian 'continents' and
given names like
Terra (land of Arabia) or
Amazonis Planitia (Amazonian plain). The dark features were thought
to be seas, hence their names
Mare Sirenum and
Aurorae Sinus. The largest dark feature seen from Earth is
Mons (Mount Olympus), at 26 km is the highest known mountain in the
solar system. It is an extinct volcano in the vast upland region Tharsis, which
contains several other large volcanoes. It is over three times the height of Mt.
Everest which in comparison only stands at 8848 m.
Mars is also scarred by a number of
impact craters. The largest of these is the
Hellas impact basin, covered with light red sand.Despite
being closer to the asteroid belt, there are far fewer craters on Mars compared
with the Moon
because Mars' atmosphere provides protection against small meteors. Some craters
have a morphology that suggests that the ground was wet when the meteor
The large canyon,
Valles Marineris (Latin for
Mariner Valleys, also known as Agathadaemon in the old canal maps), has
a length of 4000 km and a depth of up to 7 km. The length of Valles Marineris is
equivalent to the length of Europe and extends across one-fifth the
circumference of Mars. By comparison, the
Canyon on Earth is only 446 km long and nearly 2 km deep. Valles Marineris
was formed due to the swelling of the Tharis area which caused the crust in the
area of Valles Marineris to collapse. Another large canyon is Ma'adim Vallis
(Ma'adim is Hebrew for Mars). It is 700 km long and again much bigger than the
Grand Canyon with a width of 20 km and a depth of 2 km in some places. It is
possible that Ma'adim Vallis was flooded with liquid water in the past.
Mars has two permanent polar ice caps, the northern one located at
Planum Boreum and the southern one at
atmosphere of Mars is relatively thin; the
atmospheric pressure on the surface varies from around 30
Pa (0.03 kPa) on Olympus Mons to over 1155 Pa (1.155 kPa) in the depths of
Hellas Planitia, with a mean surface level pressure of 600 Pa (0.6 kPa)
The atmosphere is quite dusty, giving the Martian sky a
tawny color when
seen from the surface; the particulates responsible are about 1.5
, compared to Earth's 101.3 kPa. The equivalent
pressure of Mars' atmosphere can be found at a height of 35 km above the Earth's
height of the atmosphere is about 11 km, higher than Earth's 6 km. The
atmosphere on Mars consists of 95%
carbon dioxide, 3%
1.6% argon, and
contains traces of
oxygen and water.
Several researchers claim to have detected
the Martian atmosphere with a concentration of about 10
ppb by volume.
Methane is an unstable
gas that is broken down by
ultraviolet radiation, typically lasting in the atmosphere for about 340
and its possible presence on Mars could indicate that there is (or has been
within the last few hundred years) a source of the gas on the planet.
impacts, and the existence of life in the form of
microorganisms such as
are among possible sources. It was recently shown that methane could also be
produced by a non-biological process involving water, carbon dioxide, and the
which is known to be common on Mars.
In the winter months when the poles are in continuous darkness, the surface
gets so cold that as much as 25–30% of the entire atmosphere condenses out into
thick slabs of
ice (dry ice).
When the poles are again exposed to sunlight, the CO2 ice
sublimes, creating enormous winds that sweep off the poles as fast as
400 km/h (250 mph). These seasonal actions transport large amounts of dust and
water vapor, giving rise to Earth-like
frost and large
clouds. Clouds of water-ice were photographed by the
Opportunity rover in 2004.
Olympus Mons, Mars.
Approx - 600 km (370 miles) wide and 16.7 miles high, 3 times
the height of Mount Everest on Earth.
Evidence indicates that in Mars' distant past, it may have had a strong
magnetosphere to deflect the
coming from the Sun.
However, about 4 billion years ago Mars' planetary
dynamo ceased, leaving only remnants of the planetary magnetic field to be
frozen into magnetically susceptible minerals. Over time, most of this
material was reprocessed through various geological events leaving only sections
of the ancient southern highlands with remnant magnetic fields. Because of this,
the solar wind interacts directly with the Martian
and thus the Martian atmosphere has been slowly stripped off into space,
although the exact amount lost remains uncertain. Both
Mars Global Surveyor and
Express have detected ionised atmospheric particles trailing off into space
Of all the planets, Mars' seasons are the most Earth-like due to the similar
tilts of the two planets' rotational axes. However, the lengths of the Martian
seasons are about twice those of Earth's, as Mars' greater distance from the sun
leads to the Martian year being approximately two Earth years in length. Martian
surface temperatures vary from lows of approximately –140 °C
during the polar winters to highs of up to 20 °C (70 °F) in summers.
The wide range in temperatures is due to the thin atmosphere which cannot store
much solar heat.
Recent evidence has suggested that Mars is subject to short term regional
If Mars had an Earthlike orbit, its seasons would be similar to Earth's
because its axial tilt is similar to Earth's. However, the comparatively large
eccentricity of the Martian orbit has a significant effect. Mars is near
it is summer in the southern hemisphere and winter in the north, and near
aphelion when it
is winter in the southern hemisphere and summer in the north. As a result, the
seasons in the southern hemisphere are more extreme and the seasons in the
northern are milder than would otherwise be the case.
Mars also has the largest
in the Solar System. These can vary from a storm over a small area, to gigantic
storms that cover the entire planet. They tend to occur when Mars is closest to
the Sun, which increases the global temperature.
Mars possesses polar caps at both poles, which mainly consist of water ice.
However there is dry ice present on their surfaces. Frozen carbon dioxide (dry
ice) accumulates as a thin layer about one metre thick on the north cap in the
northern winter only, while the south cap has a permanent dry ice cover about
eight metres thick..
The northern polar cap has a diameter of approximately 1,000 kilometres during
the northern Mars summer
, and contains about 1.6 million cubic kilometres of ice, which if spread
evenly on the cap would be 2 kilometres thick.
(This compares to a volume of 2.85 million cubic kilometres for the
Greenland ice sheet.) The southern polar cap has a diameter of 350 km
, and a thickness of 3 km.
Both polar caps show spiral troughs, which are believed to form as a result of
differential solar heating, coupled with the sublimation of ice and condensation
of water vapor.
Both polar caps shrink and regrow following the temperature fluctuation of the
Possibility of liquid water
December 6, 2006 NASA revealed
photographs taken by Global Surveyor that suggest the existence of
transient liquid water on the surface Mars. The images, taken six years apart,
show two gullies on Mars with what appears to be new deposits of sediment.
Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, says "these
observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows
occasionally on the surface of Mars."
theories include the possibility that the deposits were caused by carbon dioxide
frost, or by the movement of dust on the Martian surface.
Orbit and rotation
Mars has a relatively pronounced orbital eccentricity of about 9%; of the
other planets in the solar system, only
Mercury shows greater eccentricity. Mars' average distance from the Sun is
roughly 230 million km (1.5 AU) and its orbital period is 687 (Earth) days. The
solar day (or sol) on Mars is only slightly longer than an Earth day: 24 hours,
39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.
Mars' axial tilt is 25.19 degrees, which is similar to the axial tilt of the
Earth. As a result, Mars has seasons like the Earth, though Mars' are about
twice as long given its longer year.
The image to the right shows a comparison between Mars and
planet in the
Asteroid Belt as seen from the
pole (top) and from the ascending node (below). The segments of orbits below the
ecliptic are plotted in darker colours. The
(q) and aphelia
(Q) are labelled with the date of the nearest passage. Mars passed its aphelion
in June 2006 and is now heading for its perihelion in June 2007.
Mars has two tiny natural moons,
Deimos, which orbit very close to the planet and are thought to be captured
Both satellites were discovered in 1877 by
and are named after the characters
Phobos (panic/fear) and
Deimos (terror/dread) who, in Greek mythology, accompanied their father
Ares, god of war, into battle. Ares was known as Mars to the Romans.
From the surface of Mars, the motions of Phobos and Deimos appear very
different from that of our own moon. Phobos rises in the west, sets in the east,
and rises again in just 11 hours, while Deimos, being only just outside
synchronous orbit, rises as expected in the east but very slowly. Despite its 30
hour orbit, it takes 2.7 days to set in the west as it slowly falls behind the
rotation of Mars, and as long again to rise.
Because Phobos' orbit is below synchronous altitude, the tidal forces are
lowering its orbit and in about 50 million years, it will either crash into
Mars' surface or break up into a ring structure around Mars.
Famous literary author
Jonathan Swift made reference to these moons of Mars, approximately 150
years before their actual discovery by Asaph Hall, detailing reasonably accurate
descriptions of their orbits, in the 19th chapter of his novel
Some evidence suggests that the planet was once significantly more habitable
than it is today, but whether living
ever existed there is still an open question. The
Viking probes of the mid-1970s carried experiments designed to detect
microorganisms in Martian soil at their respective landing sites, and had some
positive results, later disputed by many scientists, resulting in a continuing
fight. At the
Johnson space center lab organic compounds have been found in the
which is supposed to have come from Mars. They concluded that these were
deposited by primitive life forms extant on Mars before the meteorite was
blasted into space by a meteor strike and sent on a 15 million-year voyage to
Earth. Small quantities of
formaldehyde are both claimed to be hints for life, as these particles would
quickly break down in the Martian atmosphere.
It is possible that these compounds may be replenished by volcanic or geological
means such as
In general, Mars shows some promise in terms of
habitablity but also several handicaps. It is half of an
astronomical unit beyond the Sun's
habitable zone and water is thus frozen on its surface, though liquid water
flows in the past underscore the planet's potential. Its lack of a magnetosphere
and extremely thin atmosphere are a greater challenge: the planet has little
transfer across its surface, poor insulation against bombardment and the
and insufficient atmospheric pressure to keep water in liquid form (instead it
sublimates to a gaseous state). Mars is also nearly, or perhaps totally,
geologically dead; the end of volcanic activity has stopped the recycling of
chemicals and minerals between the surface and interior of the planet.
rovers, have been sent to Mars by the
Soviet Union, the
United States, Europe,
and Japan to study
the planet's surface, climate, and geology.
Roughly two-thirds of all spacecraft destined for Mars have failed in one
manner or another before completing or even beginning their missions. Part of
this high failure rate can be ascribed to technical problems, but enough have
either failed or lost communications for no apparent reason that some
researchers half-jokingly speak of an Earth-Mars "Bermuda
Triangle", or a
or even a reference made to a "Great Galactic Ghoul" that feeds on Martian
The first successful fly-by mission to Mars was NASA's
launched in 1964. The first successful objects to land on the surface were two
probes, Mars 2
and Mars 3 from
Mars probe program, launched in 1971, but both lost contact within seconds
of landing. Then came the 1975 NASA launches of the
Viking program, which consisted of two orbiters, each having a lander. Both
landers successfully touched down in 1976 and remained operational for 6 and 3
years, for Viking 1 and Viking 2 respectively. The Viking landers also relayed
the first colour pictures of Mars.
They also mapped the surface of Mars so well that the images are still sometimes
used to this day. The Soviet probes
Phobos 1 and 2 were also sent to Mars in 1988 to study Mars and its two
moons, unfortunately Phobos 1 lost contact on the way to Mars, and Phobos 2,
while successfully photographing Mars and Phobos, failed just before it was set
to release two landers on Phobos' surface.
Following the 1992 failure of
Observer orbiter, NASA launched the
Mars Global Surveyor in 1996. This mission was a complete success, having
finished its primary mapping mission in early 2001. Only a month after the
launch of the Surveyor, NASA launched the
Mars Pathfinder, carrying a robotic exploration vehicle, which landed in the
Vallis on Mars. This mission was another big success, and received much
publicity, partially due to the many spectacular images that were sent back to
In 2001 NASA launched the successful
Odyssey orbiter, which is still in orbit as of August 2006. Odyssey's Gamma
Ray Spectrometer detected significant amounts of elemental hydrogen in the upper
metre or so of Mars'
This hydrogen is thought to be contained in large deposits of water ice.
In 2003, the
ESA launched the
Express craft consisting of the
Mars Express Orbiter and the lander
Beagle 2 apparently failed during descent and was declared lost in early
In early 2004 the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer team announced it had detected
methane in the Martian atmosphere. ESA announced in June 2006 the discovery of
aurorae on Mars.
Also in 2003, NASA launched the twin
Mars Exploration Rovers named
Opportunity (MER-B). Both missions landed successfully in January 2004
and have met or exceeded all their targets. Among the most significant science
returns has been the conclusive evidence that liquid water existed at some time
in the past at both landing sites.
Martian dust devils and windstorms have occasionally cleaned both rovers'
solar panels, and thus increased their lifespan.
12, 2005 the
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter probe was launched toward the planet, to conduct
a two-year science survey. The purpose of the mission is to map the Martian
terrain and find suitable landing sites for the upcoming lander missions. It
arrived in orbit on
2006. The next
scheduled mission to Mars is the NASA
Phoenix Mars lander, expected to launch in 2007.
Future plans for unmanned Mars Exploration include the sending of the
Phoenix Lander in 2007, followed by the
Mars Science Laboratory in 2009, the
Phobos-Grunt sample-return mission, to return samples of Phobos, a Martian
moon. Other missions have been proposed, although not yet confirmed.
Manned Mars exploration by the United States has been explicitly identified
as a long-term goal in the
Vision for Space Exploration announced in 2004 by US President
George W. Bush.
The European Space Agency hopes to land the first humans on Mars between 2030
and 2035. This will be preceded by successively larger probes, starting with the
launch of the
ExoMars probe in 2013,
followed by the 'Mars Sample Return Mission'. Likewise, astronauts will be sent
to the moon between 2020 and 2025 in preparation for this mission.
Astronomical observations from Mars
It is now possible, with the existence of various orbiters, landers, and
rovers to study
from the Martian skies. In particular, the Earth and the Moon would easily be
visible to the
Also, one could observe the two
moons of Mars. The moon Phobos appears about one third the
angular diameter that the full Moon appears from Earth, and when it is full
it is bright enough to cast shadows. On the other hand Deimos appears more or
less starlike, and appears only slightly brighter than Venus does from Earth.
There are also various phenomena well-known on Earth that have now been
observed on Mars, such as
auroras. The first meteor photographed on Mars was on
2004 by the
Spirit rover. Auroras occur on Mars, but they do not occur at the poles
as on Earth, because Mars has no planetwide magnetic field. Rather, they occur
near magnetic anomalies in Mars'
crust, which are remnants from earlier days when Mars did have a magnetic
field. They would probably be invisible to the naked eye, being largely
transit of the Earth as seen from Mars will occur on
10, 2084. At
that time, the Sun, Earth and Mars will be exactly collinear, forming a
transits of Mercury and
transits of Venus, and the moon Deimos is of sufficiently small angular
diameter that its partial "eclipses" of the Sun are best considered transits
Transit of Deimos from Mars).
occultation of Mars by Venus observed was that of
1590, seen by M.
To a naked-eye observer, Mars usually shows a distinct yellow, orange, or
reddish color, and varies in brightness more than any other planet, as seen from
Earth, over the course of its orbit. When farthest away from the Earth, it is
more than seven times as far from the latter as when it is closest (when least
favourably positioned, it can be lost in the Sun's glare for months at a time).
At its most favourable times — which occur twice every 32 years, alternately at
15 and 17-year intervals, and always between late July and late September — Mars
shows a wealth of surface detail to a
Especially noticeable, even at low magnification, are the
Approximately every 780 days
opposition occurs, which is about when Mars is nearest to Earth. (Because of
the eccentricities of the orbits, the times of opposition and minimum distance
can differ by up to 8.5 days.) The minimum distance varies between about 55 and
100 million km due to the planets'
The next Mars opposition will occur on
27, 2003, at
9:51:13 UT, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years:
55,758,006 km (approximately 35 million miles). This occurred when Mars was one
opposition and about three days from its
making Mars particularly easy to see from Earth. The last time it came so close
is estimated to have been on
57,617 BC., the next time being in 2287. However, this record approach was
only very slightly closer than other recent close approaches. For instance, the
minimum distance on
1924 was 0.37284
AU, compared to 0.37271 AU on
2003, and the
minimum distance on
2208 will be
The orbital changes of Earth and Mars are making the approaches nearer: the
2003 record will be bettered 22 times by the year 4000.
Historical observations of Mars
The history of observations of Mars is marked by the
oppositions of Mars, when the planet is closest to Earth and hence is most
easily visible, which occur every couple of years. Even more notable are the
perihelic oppositions of Mars which occur approximately every 15-17 years,
and are distiguished because Mars is close to
it even closer to Earth.
By the 19th century, the resolution of telescopes reached a level sufficient
for surface features to be identified. In September 1877, a perihelic opposition
of Mars occurred on
5). In that year,
Giovanni Schiaparelli, while in
Milan, used a
22 cm telescope to help produce the first detailed map of Mars. These maps
notably contained features he called canali, which were later shown to be
optical illusion. These canali were supposedly long straight lines on
the surface of Mars to which he gave names of famous rivers on Earth. His term
was popularly mistranslated as canals.
history of the observation of mars
Influenced by the observations the orientalist
Percival Lowell founded an
observatory which had a 12 and 18 inch telescope. The observatory was used
for the exploration of Mars during the last good opportunity in 1894 and the
following less favorable oppositions. He published several books on Mars and
life on Mars which had a great influence on the public. The canali were
also found by other astronomers, like Perrotin and Thollon in
Nice, using one of
the largest telescopes of that time.
The seasonal changes (consisting of the diminishing of the polar caps and the
dark areas formed during Martian summer) in combination with the canals lead to
speculation about life on Mars and it was a long held belief that Mars contained
vast seas and vegetation. The telescope never reached the resolution required to
give proof to any speculations. However, as bigger telescopes were used, fewer
long, straight canali were observed. During an observation in 1909 by
Flammarion with a 33 inch telescope, irregular patterns were observed, but
no canali were seen.
Even in the 1960s articles were published on Martian biology, putting aside
explanations other than life for the seasonal changes on Mars. Detailed
scenarios for the metabolism and chemical cycles for a functional ecosystem have
It was not until
visited the planet during
Mariner missions in the 1960s that these myths were dispelled. The results
of the Viking life detection experiments started an intermission in which the
hypothesis of hostile dead Mars was generally accepted.
Some maps of Mars were made using the data from these missions, but it was
not until the
Mars Global Surveyor mission, launched in 1996 and still operational as of
2006, that complete, extremely detailed maps were obtained. These maps are now
available online at
Mars in human culture
Mars is named after the
god of war. In
Babylonian astronomy, the planet was named after
their deity of
fire, war, and destruction, most likely due to the planet's reddish appearance.
Greeks equated Nergal with their god of war, Ares, they named the planet
Ἄρεως ἀστἡρ (Areos aster), or "star of Ares". Then, following the
identification of Ares and Mars, it was translated into Latin as stella
Martis, or "star of Mars", or simply Mars. The Greeks also called the
planet Πυρόεις Pyroeis meaning "fiery". In
Hindu mythology, Mars is known as
(मंगल). The planet is also called Angaraka in
He is the god of war and is
He is the owner of the
Scorpio signs, and a teacher of the occult sciences. The planet was known by
Egyptians as "Ḥr Dšr";;;; or "Horus
the Red". The
Hebrews named it Ma'adim (מאדים) - "the one who blushes"; this is
where one of the largest
Ma'adim Vallis, gets its name. It is known as al-Mirrikh in both
Arabic and Persian, and Merih in Turkish. The etymology of al-Mirrikh
is unknown. Ancient Persians named it Bahram, the Zoroastrian god of
faith. Ancient Turks called it Sakit. The
cultures refer to the planet as 火星, or the fire star, a naming based on
the ancient Chinese mythological cycle of
Its symbol, derived from the
astrological symbol of Mars, a circle with a small arrow pointing out from
behind it is a stylized representation of a shield and spear used by the Roman
God Mars. Mars in Roman mythology was the God of War and patron of warriors.
This symbol is also used in biology to describe the male sex.
Unicode position U+2642.
The depiction of Mars in fiction has been stimulated by its dramatic red
color and by early scientific speculations that its surface conditions might be
capable of supporting life.
Until the arrival of planetary probes, the traditional view of Mars derived
from the astronomers
Percival Lowell and
Giovanni Schiaparelli, whose observation of supposedly linear features on
the planet created the myth of canals on Mars. For many years, the standard
notion of the planet was a drying, cooling, dying world with ancient
civilizations constructing irrigation works. Thus originated a large number of
science fiction scenarios, the best known of which is
The War of the Worlds, in which Martians seek to escape their dying
planet by invading Earth. Of considerable note is the release of a radio
War of the Worlds on
1938. It was
broadcasted as a news release, and many people mistook it for the truth. Also
influential was Ray Bradbury's
The Martian Chronicles, in which human explorers accidentally destroy a
highly advanced Martian civilization, as well as
and a number of
Robert A. Heinlein stories prior to the mid-sixties.
Viking spacecraft had returned pictures of Mars as it really is, an
apparently lifeless and canal-less world, these ideas about Mars had to be
abandoned and a vogue for accurate, realist depictions of human colonies on Mars
developed, the best known of which may be
Kim Stanley Robinson's
trilogy. However, pseudo-scientific speculations about the
Mars and other enigmatic landmarks spotted by space probes have meant that
ancient civilizations continue to be a popular theme in science fiction,
especially in film.
Another popular theme, particularly among American writers, is the Martian
colony that fights for independence from Earth. This is a major plot element in
the novels of
Greg Bear and
Kim Stanley Robinson, as well as the movie
Total Recall (based on a short story by
Philip K. Dick) and the television series
Many video games also use this element, such as
Faction and the
Zone of the Enders series. Mars (and its moons) were also the setting
for the popular Doom
video game franchise and the later
Martian Gothic .