Mars is one of the members of the planets that make the solar system. It is the fourth planet from the sun and is often termed the Red Planet. Its soil, rocks, and sky have a red color. This was discovered by astronauts. Romans named this planet in respect of their god of war referred to as Mars. Initially, the planet was termed as favorable for harboring celestial life. This was long before scientists conducted numerous space explorations. The sight of straight lines running across the planet by astronomers made them believe that there were clever beings that lived on this planet. They asserted that the lines represented irrigation canals established by these beings. There were regular changes in the color of the planet’s surface. This made scientists believe that beings could survive on the planet.
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Mariner 4 broadcasted 22 photos that reflected on planet mars in July 1965. Among the futures that were brought out by the pictures included craters and channels that spread on the planet’s surface. There was no evidence of the existence of beings neither was their presence of artificial canals or water flow. In July and September 1976, Viking Landers one and two made the first visit to the planet. They conducted various biological experiments on the surface of the planet. From the experiments, they discovered that there were unpredicted and mysterious chemical reactions that were taking place in the planet’s soil. However, the experiments did not give comprehensible facts of whether there existed some living microbes in the soil. According to scientists, the planet is self–sterilizing. The presence of ultraviolet radiations, tremendous dryness of the soil, and the oxidizing character of the soil cannot allow any living organism to survive on this planet (Beatty and Chaikin 57).
Mars is approximately two hundred and thirty million kilometers away from the sun and takes a span of six hundred and eighty-seven days to revolve around the sun. Its period of rotation slightly differs from that of the earth. Its axial angle is 25.19 which is equal to that of the earth. This makes the planet experience seasons that resemble those of the earth. However, the seasons are prolonged on Mars due to its year being longer than that of earth. The planet consists of two small moons; Phobos and Deimos which revolve closer to the planet. From Mars’s surface, the movement of these moons appears to be different from that of earth’s moon. After every eleven hours, Phobos rise and set in east and west respectively. As Deimos is outside the synchronal track, it rises in the east and sets in the west but extremely slowly. The starting point of these moons is not well known. Their compositions suggest that they are asteroids making people believe that they were captured.
The planet’s atmosphere greatly differs from that of the earth with most of its constituent being carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide constitutes 95.32% of the atmosphere with Nitrogen being second at 2.7%, Argon 1.6%, Oxygen consisting of 0.135%, 0.03% of the atmosphere being made up of water, and the rest constituting of other gases. This implies that its air contains 1/1,000 as much water as what is found on earth. Despite this amount being small, it is capable of condensing and forming clouds. There is a presence of mist in the morning stretching along the valleys. The existence of various forcible features that are similar to binges, river bottoms, and islands implies that there existed huge rivers on the surface of the planet. The average temperature that has been recorded on the planet is -63 degrees with the highest and lowest temperatures being 20 and -140 degrees respectively. The atmospheric pressure of Mars varies with regions on a semi-early basis. Carbon dioxide usually solidifies forming a great polar cap. This then evaporates as spring begins in each hemisphere. It is believed that if mars had an orbit similar to that of earth, its seasons would have resembled those of earth. This is because the axial incline of Mars is related to that of the earth (Schneider and Arny PP. 23-64).
The relatively large strangeness of the planet is believed to contribute to the variation in seasons on Mars. Southern hemisphere experiences summer during the period when the planets are closer to the sun. At this time, the northern hemisphere experiences winter seasons. Conversely, the planet is far from the sun when the southern hemisphere experiences winter and the northern experiences summer. Consequently, the southern hemisphere seasons are extremely severe while those of the northern is calm which is unconventional. The planet experienced the worst dust storms compared to other planets in the solar system. This may range from storms covering small portions of the planet to those that cover the entire planet. The storms generally occur when the planet is neighboring the sun leading to an increase in world temperature.
According to orbital annotations and analysis made on the meteorites collected from the planet, Mars’ surface is mainly composed of basalt. Evidence proves that part of the planet’s surface is immensely endowed with silica than ordinary basalt. Although there has been no evidence of magnetic forces within the planet, observations confirm that some parts of the planet’s outer layer have been magnetized. Today, various models of the planet’s interior suggest that there is a central region of approximately 1,480 kilometers radius that mainly comprises iron with about 14 to 17% sulfur. The expanse is somewhat fluid and contains double the concentration of lighter materials than what the earth’s interior contains. Its soil is fairly alkaline and has various important nutrients such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium that help in the growth of living organisms. Scientists concluded that the soil was suitable for growing plants after comparing it with that of the earth’s surface. In August 2008, Phoenix Lander experimented by mixing this soil with water from the earth’s surface in a bid to determine its power of hydrogen (PH). From the experiment, they noticed that there was the presence of salt perchlorate and learned that most of the planet’s surface was basic (Mutch, Arvidson, Head, Jones and Saunders PP. 45-60).
The presence of low atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars makes it hard for liquid water to exist. However, it is believed that there is a huge supply of ice water on the planet with most of its polar being formed of ice caps. In 2007, National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) suggested that if the ice cap to the south polar of the planet were to be melted, it could envelop the whole planetary surface to a deepness of eleven meters. It is thought that under Mars’s broad cryosphere, there lies a huge volume of water. Various radar data have also exposed the existence of large amounts of water at the poles and mid-latitudes. Recently, more advanced orbital cameras gave more information regarding the history of liquid water on the planet. Apart from the numerous huge flood channels on the surface of Mars, there are no smaller-scale features that explain the presence of the floodwaters. It is believed that these features were eroded by weathering course leading to the formation of the current features. Observations from space crafts have also revealed the presence of gully-like features along craters and canyon walls. Scientists argue that these features can only be formed by the flow of substance that contains high water liquid, implying that there was the presence of water flow in the past. What is not clear is the source of water that resulted in the formation of these features (Carr 123-143).
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The absence of liquid water on the surface of the planet makes it hard to develop and sustain life. However, evidence of the past flow of water implies that the planet has the possibility of sustaining life. The absence of magnetic fields in the atmosphere and its thin atmosphere makes it even more difficult for the planet to be livable. The planet has poor heat transmission across its facade, limited protection from solar winds, and limited atmospheric pressure to maintain water in a liquid state. Facts indicate that the planet was previously fit for human habitation than it is presently. However, it is not clear whether there were living organisms on the planet. The Discovery of rocks containing bacteria of some fossils has led to the twist of research in a bid to prove whether organisms were living in the planet in past. However, some scientists have criticized this discovery claiming that the fossils could have resulted from thermal distress that alienated the material from the planet (Davis Par. 1-5).
Beatty, J. K. and Chaikin, A. (Eds). The New Solar System. Massachusetts: Sky Publishing, 3rd Edition, 1990.
Carr M. H. The Surface of Mars. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.
Davis, Lauren. “New Evidence Points to Fossilized Life on Mars.” 2009. Web.
Mutch T. A., Arvidson R. E., Head J. W. III, Jones K. L. and Saunders R. S. The Geology of Mars. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.
Schneider, Stephen and Arny, Thomas. Pathways to Astronomy. New York: McGraw- Hill Companies, 2007.