Do you want to see Mars?
Viewing mars without a telescope
If you want to see Mars in the sky, then you can see it at night. At night you can see Mars with naked eyes without using a telescope as it is distinctly red in color. Its red color is due to the high amount of iron oxide, popularly known as rust, in the soil of this planet.
Seeing Mars with a telescope
When you see Mars through a telescope, then the color of its surface appears to be of a dull shade of red color however at poles it looks noticeably whiter in color. The features of its surface have slightly dark marks in contrast to the brighter hue of its surface. It makes it easier to see Mars through the filters normally used to filter colors.
There are lots of things to know about Mars, like:
Rotation: The rotation of Mars on its axis takes 24.5 hours to complete once. In this way, it can be said that one day of Mars is a little longer than earth’s day. An annoying fact about Mars is that on consecutive days you will see the same part of Mars towards the earth whenever you see it during the daytime. So either you will have to wait for many days or to observe it at distantly separate times during the night if you want to see both the sides of Mars within a short period.
Moons of Mars: Deimos and Phobos are the two moons of Mars. Asaph Hall discovered them in 1877. According to Greek mythology, the moons of Mars were given these names as they were the Greek names of the sons of Mars. Both of these moons are less than 25 km in diameter. Observing these moons, while orbiting Mars, is very challenging. They remain very close to Mars while orbiting it.
As per a myth, it is assumed that both the moons of Mars were formed simultaneously. Actually, they may be asteroids around this planet and were confined into its orbit. The orbit of Phobos is too close to Mars. It seems that in coming 50 million years, Phobos may tear the Mars apart as it looks like strong forces of the tide around the planet.
Mars space missions: Up to 2018 in all 43 spacecraft have been sent to the Mars which is more than the spacecraft sent to any other planet. The main reason behind sending so many spacecraft to this planet can be its nearness to the earth. Moreover, it is reasonably easier to reach Mars to research about another planet. Additionally, it can be more interesting to know about Mars as its surface can be solid and livable. The rate of success of the spacecraft sent to Mars can be observed easily as 24 out of 43 spacecraft have provided useful information after returning back. Perseverance Rover calculates speed of sound.
The orbit of Mars: After every 1.9 years or 780 days, known as the synodic period, Mars comes to oppose earth. During these 780 days, the distance between Mars and the Earth varies very noticeably because of its close proximity with the earth in the solar system. The separation of Mars and earth, when both the planets are nearest to each other in their respective orbit, may take almost 0.4 AU time.
On the other hand, when Mars comes opposite to any other planet in the solar system, then their separation may take more than 2.6 AU. As a result of all these things the size of the disk of Mars also experiences dramatic changes. The measurement across this distant and small planet in the solar system is nit more than 3.5 arc/seconds whereas it is seven times more of its size when at opposition to another planet.
The planet orbiting the sun at the fourth number from it is Mars. It is 1.52 AU away from the sun and completes its one orbit in nearly 700 days. In the solar system, Mars is in the neighborhood of earth. It is orbiting the sun nearby the orbit of the earth. The diameter of Mars is 53% of the width of the earth. After Mercury, Mars is the second planet in the solar system that is small in size.
Thus, whether you see it by using a telescope or naked eye but the information provided in this write-up can allow you to know this planet better than finding it in the sky.
More info: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/solar-system/mars/
60mm telescopes typically are one of the most popular telescopes being bought right now. It is the most popular dimension telescope being offered as well, in the countless chain store.
If you’re an owner of any 60mm telescope, please don’t make the blunder and also think that your range seriously isn’t great for astronomy. There are great deals of fantastic things in the night sky that happen to be well within of your scope. I will certainly show to you several that I have located satisfying via the years.
Pictures of mars taken with telescope:
Fantastic Things For Your 60mm Telescope
Mars as well as additionally Venus will additionally remain in reach of your 60mm telescope. However, there is considering a lot less detail to see when compared to with Jupiter and Saturn. The factor is all though nearer than the other earths, and they are likewise quite smaller. With Mars, you may see it’s polar caps under perfect viewing conditions. With Venus, all you can see is it’s moon-like phases as well as no surface area features because it’s whole surface area is covered with gaseous clouds.
There are a lot of stars to view with your 60mm. All of them appear in various styles. Solitary stars, double stars like Albireo in the constellation of Cygnus. Numerous of the brighter globular collections including M4, M13, and M22, open collections The Pleiades, Orion, as well as a galaxy or 2 like the Andromeda are well within reach of a 60mm telescope. Naturally to enjoy these night jewels you need to locate them initially. There is a totally free program for your computer system that’s simply outstanding to learn your method around the evening sky.
The name of the program is Stellarium. When setting up, simply key in your area and also the program will present the sky for your location and also the time of day. Visit AstroBackyard
My Tip for a 60mm Telescope
I ‘d directly recommend the Celestron Nexstar 60GT 60mm Go-To Refractor Telescope. If you are in a hurry to enjoy the evening skies without needing to learn celebrity maps, this is actually the telescope for you. It will certainly indicate over of 4,000 celestial items for you utilizing the push of a button.
The noticeable things for your telescope are the moon. You can observe thousands of craters with your telescope if you utilized your time to count them. You will obtain a whole lot more enjoyment from observing the moon when you look carefully at the detail. Try searching for craters within craters. That is the actual treat.
Furthermore, attempt to observe the many mountain ranges while observing the moon. Look for the extra distinct craters such as Plato, Tycho, Copernicus and so forth. Your 60mm telescope can conveniently settle these craters in great information. You may likewise wish to utilize a moon map to see what various other lunar landscapes will catch your rate of interest. You can Google “moon” and afterward click images at Google to start you off. Become Aware Of Google Planet? Take Into Consideration Google Moon … you’ll find it merely amazing.
Picture of the red planets pole.
There are numerous earths which will conveniently amaze you when viewing through your telescope. To begin … Jupiter. Even with a small 60mm telescope, it is feasible to view at least 2 or 3 red cloud belts on Jupiter. you will have the ability to observe four of Jupiter’s much bigger moons (Jupiter has 63 moons) all named after Galileo’s four kids Io, Europa, Ganymede, as well as Callisto. If you see them over a program of a couple of days, you will observe them change position around Jupiter as they continue with their orbit. With an excellent high power eyepiece, you can see a solar eclipse on Jupiter every occasionally.
The planet Saturn is also an actual treasure to have a look at. My initial telescope was a 50mm tabletop refractor which my dad and also mama determined to buy for me from Kmart back in the seventies. The first world I observed via that range wound up being Saturn. At ten years old, I was simply in awe. You’ll be to with your 60mm. It is possible to watch its rings along with the Cassini department with a high power eye item. Saturn’s most substantial moon Titan is also noticeable. It is bigger compared with our extremely own moon as well as the worlds Mercury as well as Pluto.
Impact crater image from NASA
Color filters modify the comparison of the details on the planet’s surface area. They aid to draw out the fantastic red area on Jupiter or the ice caps on Mars. The result they have is not very significant so do not anticipate the planetary details to jump right out at you, yet they offer you even more of a battling chance to see the information. Because the result isn’t dramatic, shade filters must not be high up on your purchase list if you call for various other more vital devices such as a wider eyepiece variety.
Each shade eyepiece comes phoned number generally with a ‘W’ or a # in front of it. This number stands for the Wratten number. The Wratten number systematizes points as well as this makes certain that you are purchasing the right shade of a shade filter.
Before we go on to the particular shade filters for drawing out worldly details, we must stop briefly and also take into consideration the lunar filter. This filter is extremely beneficial and also ought to be high up on your acquisition checklist. This is due to the fact that it helps to draw out the information on the moon by removing the glare. The lunar filter additionally makes viewing the moon a much comfier and less eye stressing experience.
So which of the numerous differed shades of filters should we acquire if we want the best chance of seeing those evasive worldly details? Regrettably, the number of various suggestions by various sources is bewildering as well as most likely stands for the fact that the impact they have is fairly subtle. The referrals below are taken as one of the most preferred by various well-revered resources.
Dark Blue (W38A).
Dark Blue or Wratten number 38A is the Jupiter filter of an option. It assists in drawing out not just the wonderful red area yet additionally the detail in the cloud patterns. A have to if you delight in Jupiter.
Violet or Wratten number 47 is the color filter of option for seeing the cloud patterns in Venus’ top ambiance as well as for bringing comparison to the rings of Saturn.
Yellow-Green (W11) or Light Yellow (W8).
Either one of the filters yellow-green or light yellow will assist to see detail in the environment of Saturn really drawing out the belts and bands. They are likewise the filters of option for trying to observe the dark or albedo areas on the Martian surface.
Red is the filter to help with Mars’ ice caps as well as can likewise aid with the festoons on Jupiter.
These four filters cover the primary worldly information that amateur astronomers would like to see.
Photo gallery showing colors using filters.
Mars is the fourth planet in our solar system when considering the distance from the Sun. It’s seventh in terms of size and mass. Mars is one of the most studied planets in our solar system due to its proximity to Earth and somewhat life sustainable conditions. Therefore, there have been numerous missions to Mars while the latest one being NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing at Mars in February 2021.
- Physical characteristics of Mars
The reason for the reddish-orange color of Mars is its high composition of iron-rich minerals in the layer covering its atmosphere. Ever wondered why an apple turns gets a rusty color if left after taking a bite out of it? That’s due to its composition of iron. Similarly, the surface of Mars has iron oxide (also known as rust particles) in it. The same dust in the soil of Mars blows into the atmosphere by winds and thus, its sky adopts a pink, orange or rusty color. NASA states that the iron minerals are the reason behind the red color of the Martian soil
The diameter of Mars is 6,800 km that is a little more than half of the diameter of the Earth. Meanwhile, the overall mass of the planet Mars is just 11% of the mass of the Earth. Despite so, the landmass of both the planets is roughly the same, considering two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. The volume of Mars is only 15% of the volume of Earth.
Mars has an extremely thin atmosphere comprising mostly of carbon dioxide (95%) along with a small composition of oxygen, nitrogen, argon, and few other gases. Due to such a cold and thin atmosphere, water is unlikely to exist on the surface of Mars.
The major part of the Martian surface seems to be a vast desert that is orange or dull red. As stated earlier, the red color of the soil primarily comes from the high composition of iron oxides. Around 25% to 35% of Martian surface is referred to as dark areas, whose nature is yet to be discovered.
Mars is home to huge mountainous ranges, the largest one being Mount Olympus with a height of roughly 27 kilometers. This makes Mount Olympus the highest mountain in the entire solar system with a height three times as much as that of Mount Everest. Mars also has the deepest and longest valley of our solar system. Termed as Valles Marineris, this system of valleys extends as deep as 10 km and runs for about 4000 km that is approximately the width of the entire Australia. Researchers believe that Valles Marineris was formed as a result of rifting of the crust since it got stretched.
The canyons in the valley stretch as much as 100 km wide and they merge in a central part of the valley that is around 600 km wide. Although there are still speculations on whether water could exist on Mars, however, based on the residue found in the soil, it is believed that these canyons were once filled with water. Such valleys are located all around Mars and it’s suggested that water might have crossed through the planet at some point in the past. A study indicates that the cracks in the underground rocks might still hold a small amount of water. Research by scientists also concluded that the underground reserves of salty water underneath the Martian surface may consist of a considerable amount of oxygen that could support microbial life.
Large volcanoes are also a part of Martian land with Mount Olympus being one of them. The largest volcano on the Martian soil is around 600 km in diameter. Scientists indicate few small volcanoes might still be active on Mars.
Climate of Mars
Since Mars farther apart from the Sun, it is much colder as compared to the Earth. The average temperature on planet Mars is around minus 80 degrees Celsius. The atmosphere is very high in carbon dioxide composition and it’s almost 100 times thinner than the average atmosphere on Earth. Mars has an average atmospheric pressure of around 7.5 millibars that is notably low as compared to Earth’s 1,013 millibars.
Moreover, the red planet is greatly exposed to harmful radiation from the Sun. Therefore, a human can’t survive without a spacesuit or a controlled environmental habitat. It hasn’t rained on Mars for millions of years since all the water reserves are already dried up and what’s left of the water on the red planet is frozen. Clouds form at a very high distance in the sky. At extreme latitudes, there is snow made up of carbon dioxide that is quite different from the kind of snow on Earth.
The temperature on Mars experiences huge variations with very hot equators and extremely cold poles. This temperature difference gives rise to high-speed winds as air from cold regions moves to take place of warm air. Often the winds take shape of massive dust storms rising over 20 miles from the surface and traveling with 60 miles/hour.
- History of Mars
- How was Mars named?
The name ‘Mars’ comes from the Roman God of War due to its reddish/bloody appearance. Romans had named the sun, moon, and other visible planets after their seven Gods. Due to an active military background, Romans named Mars after their God of War who rode on a chariot. Mars was considered a very powerful God second only to Jupiter. The two Moons of Mars are named Phobos and Deimos (fear & panic) which were the names of the two horses who pulled Mar’s chariot.
Ancient Greeks named the red planet Ares which is the name of the Greek God of war. The Chinese astronomers used to refer to Mars as the “fire star” while ancient Egyptians dubbed it as Her Desher (the red one). Furthermore, Mars has been seen as a symbol of masculinity and youth. Hence, different cultures have different beliefs associated with it.
- Who first discovered Mars?
Mars is the second closest planet to Earth after mercury. Due to its proximity and brightness, Mars can be seen with a naked eye at night without the support of a telescope or binoculars. Therefore, Mars has been known for over 4000 years, making it impossible to credit any one person for its discovery. Its bright and reddish appearance is easily visible. Thus, it has been observed since ancient times across different regions and cultures.
However, the first person credited to observe Mars using a telescope was an Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610.
- When was Mars formed?
Mars was created along with other planets in the solar system at the same time around 4.5 billion years ago. Although the Big Banged occurred 13.8 billion years ago, Mars formed later with the settling of dust and gases due to gravitational pull.
- When did the first robot land on Mars?
Since the early 1960s, attempts to reach Mars commenced with various unsuccessful missions. Due to extensive project cost, NASA opted for a more efficient approach to Mars missions with better, faster, & cheaper (FBC) projects. The product of NASA’s FBC approach was the Mars Pathfinder’s Sojourner Rover that was the first robot to land on Mars.
The Sojourner rover job was to collect information about the rock & soil of Mars. It was operated remotely from Earth and the commands sent back & forth took 10 minutes to reach due to distance from Mars. Sojourner rover made contact with Mars on July 6, 1997. To cushion the landing, a set of airbags were used. The Sojourner rover was expected to last a week, however, it remained operational until September 1977, after which the contact was lost.
When did the first spacecraft land on Mars?
NASA’s Viking project was the first mission to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars. Vikings 1 and Vikings 2 were the two nearly identical spacecrafts that were launched as a part of this mission. Both spacecrafts comprised of an orbiter and a lander. They were expected to land on the red planet in the 1970s.
Viking 1 lander became the first spacecraft to touch down on the surface of another planet on July 20th, 1976. Meanwhile, Viking 2 lander achieved this hallmark on September 3rd, 1976, less than two months later. The landers then studied the Martian soil, surface, atmosphere and took photos.
History of missions to Mars
Since the 1960s, space agencies have been sending dozens of missions to Mars to study the planet. The early Mars missions revolved around sending flybys near Mars. The spacecrafts would rapidly snap photos when passing by. The trend shifted when the spacecrafts were prompted to enter Mars’ orbit while studying. Now, more recently, we have rovers and landers touching down on the Martian surface to conduct experiments, analyze the rocks, and collect samples.
However, you may be surprised to know that in over 60% of the missions to Mars the landing attempt failed. The reason for the setbacks is the thin Martian atmosphere that makes it hard to land a spacecraft safely. By far, only four space agencies have been credited with putting a spacecraft in Mars’ orbit. These space agencies are NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Russia’s Roscosmos, and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). However, the USA is the only country that has been able to land and operate a craft on Martian soil.
- First close-up photos of Mars
NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft is credited with capturing the first close-up images of Mars. The spacecraft flew past the red planet in July 1965 and captured close-up photos that were the one first in the history of Mars exploration.
- Mars 3 trip to the Martian orbit
The Soviet Space Program in 1971 sent its first spacecraft by the name of Mars 3 into Mars’ orbit. It returned eight months later after studying the geology, topography, atmosphere, and weather of the planet. The same mission also sent its lander to the Martian soil but it went quiet only after 20 seconds of making contact with the surface.
- No, aliens didn’t build the canals
Over the decades, regular missions to Mars negated the belief held by early scientists that aliens build the Martian canals that have long been discussed. It turns out, what scientists thought as canals were nothing but an illusion caused by the alignment of craters in a specific formation when viewing by telescope.
- NASA’s Viking 1 &2: The first operators on Mars
In 1976, Viking 1 &2 spacecrafts became the first ones in history to land and operate on the Martian surface. Both spacecrafts landed separately with Viking 1 landing prior to Viking 2. The Viking combo took photos of Mars and conducted certain biological experiments in the hope to uncover the mystery of life on Mars. However, the outcomes were not as expected and so a conclusion was not reached.
- Mars pathfinder mission
NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission in 1996 sent the first free-moving rover robots to the red planet. These rovers were Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity. The three rovers explored the planet Mars for quite a long and captured over 100,000 images. They went quiet in 2010 when a sand storm compromised their solar panels.
- The present endeavors
Currently, there are three NASA’s rovers on Mars: InSight, Curiosity, and Perseverance. The InSight rover is tasked with the interior exploration of Mars and revealed that like Earth, the planet Mars also experiences ‘marsquakes.’
The curiosity rover is probing around the Gale crater, analyzing rocks & sediments, and studying the Martian geology and climate.
Most recently, NASA’s perseverance rover landed at Mars on February 18, 2021. This robotic mission is a big shot as the rover is tasked with investigating whether Mars ever had life on it. The rover will study the fossils and look for any remnants of a possible ancient Martian civilization. In an amazing video just recently released by the Perseverance rover, one could hear the sound of the wind blowing on Mars.
- Facts about Mars
- Mars once had water
You might’ve heard in your science class that Mars is an inhospitable planet with no signs of water to drink, vegetation, or for any life form to survive. While this is the case in fact but it was not always the same. A keen study of rocks and terrain of Mars revealed sediments with watery minerals that prove the liquid water used to flow across Mars at some point in history. Where did all the water disappear is a hot topic and open for new theories that are covered later in this article.
- There is frozen water on Mars
The search for liquid water on Mars is of primary importance as it can answer our queries for possibilities of life on Mars. Anyhow, it is revealed that the northern and southern polar ice caps on Mars are home to both dry ice and water ice. The water is frozen on these poles and an initial layer of carbon dioxide ice or dry ice covers it. Scientists are speculating whether the water ice can melt in summers and provide enough liquid water to support primary life forms such as microbes. Although the thin and dry atmosphere of Mars makes it seem highly unlikely.
- Mars once had a thick atmosphere
As stated earlier, water once used to flow on Mars and that’s only possible if the atmosphere is thick enough to support liquid water. This brings us to the conclusion that Mars once used to have a thick atmosphere that later got depleted as the Sun’s energy knocked off the hydrogen present in the atmosphere. Thus, the amount of atmosphere reduced over time, leading to the cold and dry Mars we have now.
- Moon will crash into Mars
Mars has two moons by the name of Phobos and Deimos. Mars pulled these two moons into its orbit by the force of gravity. However, statistics show that in 30 million to 50 million years, Phobos will crash into Mars or rip apart due to the gravitational pull of the planet that will turn out to be too much for the Phobos to resist.
- Meteoroids from Mars have landed on Earth
Mars has a gravitational force of only 37% of that of Earth. In past, the planet has been struck by large asteroids that resulted in some debris ejecting into space. Some parts of this debris, after moving around in space, have also landed on Earth. The scientific name allotted to these meteoroids is SNC (Shergottites, Nakhlites, Chassignites. The meteoroids were studied and revealed to have the same gases trapped in as the gases found in samples collected by Viking landers in the 1970s.
- Humans would instantly die on Mars
If an astronaut removes his helmet on Mars even for a while, the results would be fatal. Firstly, Mars is extremely cold with an average temperature of -45 Degrees Celsius. Secondly, there is an almost negligible amount of air pressure that makes around only 1% of the air pressure we experience on Earth. Mars has a very little amount of atmosphere. Moreover, even if there was an adequate amount of atmosphere, its composition is not up to the mark with a suitable nitrogen-oxygen mix sustainable for humans. The major part of the Martian atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide with a very small composition of oxygen.
- Mars was initially thought of as a moon
In the early days of NASA’s probes into space, due to lack of advanced equipment, the scientists mistook Mars to be the same as our moon. The confusion arose from the images of the red planet that captured the carters on its surface the resembled the carters on the moon. This prompted the scientists to believe that Mars and the moon have a somewhat similar environment. However, this viewpoint changed when the Mariner 9 reached Mars on an orbital mission in November 1971. The mission revealed the physical characteristics of the red planet and its striking differences from the moon.
- The atmosphere on Mars has methane in it
The presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere intrigues us the most because methane can be seen as a sign of life. Microbes and active plants emit methane. However, geological activity is also a factor in methane emission and thus, scientists are still trying to figure out the source of methane composition on Mars. Moreover, different regions have observed varying levels of methane and by far, the fluctuations are unexplainable.
- Days are longer on Mars
A day on Mars is 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth. However, what you might not know is that a year on Mars lasts 687 days that is almost twice as long as a year on Earth. The reason for the longer year is it takes Mars longer to complete a rotation around the Sun since the greater distance from the Sun increases its orbital length.
- There have been no crewed Mars missions
To this date, no human has ever been a part of a mission to Mars. There have only been robotic missions so far. However, a mission to send astronauts to orbit Mars and return to Earth has been proposed to set in 2030.
- The search for life on Mars?
Are we alone in this universe? The search for intergalactic life has been raging on for the past few decades. The quest for answers brings us to our neighbor planet Mars that is speculated to once have favorable conditions to support life billion of years ago. Is there life on Mars? Or, was there ever any life on Mars? It’s a topic under-discussion for almost a century. NASA’s perseverance rover recently landed on Mars with a mission to seek possibilities of habitable conditions and any signs of past life on Mars. This latest Mars mission finally guides us in a direction from where we have an idea where to go and what to do.
So far, no conclusive evidence of life on Mars has ever been found. However, with more Mars missions in the queue, it’s still too soon to deny any chances of the existence of life form as well. We just have to wait and watch.
Let’s get real, we know there is no alien race of little green people flying around in UFOs on Mars. So, what exact type of life form on Mars are we searching for? We know that ancient Mars was home to warmer and wetter conditions that were somewhat hospitable for life. The data collected by the Curiosity rover shows that Gale crater (a location on Mars) once had a lake with water that could support life. Packed with the information related to the chemical environments and conditions on the Martian surface, NASA’s Perseverance rover is equipped with instruments tuned to trace any biosignatures or signs of life on Mars.
The next challenge would be to look for a region that maximizes the possibilities of finding rocks or fossils most likely to have preserved the evidence of a past life. For this purpose, NASA considered several sites once studied by other candidates and narrowed down the list to one site. This area is known as the Jezero crater and NASA agreed that this was the best place to begin the search for life on Mars. Situated in the northern hemisphere of Mars, the Jezero crater was formed after a large meteoroid crashed in that region.
The Perseverance rover will make use of its instruments to detect signs of life in lake deposits and the delta in the Jezero crater. Possibly, it might answer our questions regarding the existence of ancient life on Mars. Moreover, the Perseverance rover is also tasked with collecting samples from Mars that’ll be returned to Earth later on. Once the samples will reach the Earth a detailed analysis will begin with a much sophisticated and wide range of methods and instruments. The analysis could provide a new approach towards the evolution of Mars and the possibility of whether there was ever life on the planet.
However, until we have solid evidence, here are some possibilities that are most popular and are often used as default arguments when researching further.
- Mars never had life
Although ancient Mars had somewhat similar watery conditions and a warm atmosphere as on Earth, however, possibly the necessary conditions for life to begin were never met. Inorganic materials instead of organic ones could prompt all the chemical and geological processes that we know of. Thus, Mars never had life in the first place. Besides, there is no such strong evidence that suggests otherwise. This stance is considered to be the default argument across all related official bodies and only very compelling evidence can change it.
- Mars once had life but it went extinct
Ancient Mars was home to a thick atmosphere, watery surface, volcanoes, magnetic fields, and a temperature only slightly less than that of Earth’s. All these conditions are somewhat favorable for life to strive. This makes it difficult to imagine that Mars once didn’t have life. However, as the radiations from Sun stripped away the Martian atmosphere, the life on Mars became inhospitable and hence all the life forms eventually went extinct. This is another popular theory that yet depends upon the search for life in the sedimentary rocks and soil of Mars.
- Mars had life and it still exists underneath the surface
Another popular theory states that Mars had ancient life but most of it went extinct due to the severe atmospheric conditions. However, few extremophiles species survived the extinction but remained in a frozen state somewhere underground. When the right atmospheric conditions merge, the liquid water flows, and these life forms come out of hibernation to perform necessary biological activities. This approach might explain the emission of methane on Mars at the time when seasons change. If this theory is true, then there might still be single-celled organisms living few feet beneath the Martian surface.
- Life on Mars started due to a meteor from Earth
65 million years ago, a large and high-speed asteroid by the name of Chicxulub impactor crashed on Earth in today’s Mexico. The impact of the asteroid was so large that it resulted in the 5th great mass extinction while encapsulating the Earth in a cover of debris from the impact. The impact of the crash also forced small pieces of Earth to eject into space. This theory believes that Mars initially had no life until these pieces of earth, after traveling around space, landed on Mars. The debris from Earth presumably had organic life in it that reproduced after landing on Mars. Hence, life began on Mars. This theory might seem like the most fascinating of all and it could not be ignored.
- The possibilities of life
Even though any irrefutable evidence for life on Mars is yet to be found, there are some instances and possibilities that raise few eyebrows. Thanks to the regular mission to Mars, information collected by rovers and orbiters gave rise to some fascinating discoveries related to life on Mars. The dried-up river banks and sedimentary rocks are proof of the once aqueous environment of the red planet. Besides, as of now, water is present on Mars in the form of snows or sub-surface ice. Here are some instances that could hint towards potential life at Mars.
- Viking Landers’ experiments, 1976
The first intriguing piece of evidence came at the hands of NASA’s Viking Landers in 1976. The lander performed a series of key experiments on the Martian soil. One such experiment known as the labeled release experiment produced positive results the first time it was run. The experiment indicated that metabolism in the Martian soil. However, the remaining experiments didn’t yield fruitful results and hence no conclusion was reached.
- Allan Hills 84001
Allan Hills 84001is the name allotted to a Martian meteorite that was discovered on 27th December 1984. The meteorite was estimated to form around 4 billion years ago on Mars and landed on Earth about 13,000 years ago. Analyzing a fragment of this meteorite in 1996 revealed to contain what could be fossilized remnants of organic life form, indicating a possibility of ancient Martian life. However, this theory was later put on hold as inorganic processes could also lead to such results.
- Methane signals
NASA’s Curiosity rover detected methane emitting from certain underground locations when the season changes from winter to spring. These burps of methane could be a result of the inorganic geochemical process but the biological process could also do so.
- Why did the water on Mars disappear?
When we think about Mars, we imagine a cold and dry planet with a very thin atmosphere and no water resources. However, this wasn’t always the case.
A few billion years ago, Mars used to have great sources of liquid water. It had a massive gigantic ocean which is evident by the layered rocks on the Martian surface. Even now, there are signs of hydrated sediments and minerals that were presumably misplaced due to large tsunamis. However, if this was the case once then why do researches nowadays are struggling to find a single proof of water on Mars? Where did all the water on Mars disappear?
Mars once had a giant ocean the covered 36% of its surface. Apart from that, there were numerous rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. What happened to them? The water was just too much to assume that it was simply evaporated.
- D-to-H ratio
To have a better idea of the topic under discussion, we need to understand the concept of the D-to-H ratio, also known as heavy water to regular water ratio. Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen having an additional neutron besides a regular proton found in ordinary hydrogen.
Due to this extra neutron, deuterium weighs almost twice as much as hydrogen. Mars once had a very high composition of deuterium as solar winds blew away the hydrogen, leaving behind just deuterium.
Over time, more and more hydrogen escaped while deuterium remained. Thus, this greatly misbalanced the D-to-H ratio as only heavy water was left behind. Now, heavy water has a freezing point of 3.8 degrees Celsius as compared to the 0 degrees Celsius of ordinary water. This could explain why Mars has large frozen reserves of heavy water in the form of ice.
- Thin atmosphere and low pressure
Note that contrary to now, Mars once had a thicker atmosphere and enough pressure to contain liquid water on its surface. However, this changed over time and now the atmosphere of Mars is extremely thin with low surface pressure that is not enough to retain liquid water. Moreover, Mars has a weak gravity (62% less than that of Earth) due to its small size. Therefore, the high-energy solar wind could actually blow away the atmosphere along with some of the water on Mars.
- A new theory
Another theory suggests that water on Mars is locked inside rocks due to the mixing of freshly erupted lava and water. This also explains the sediments and rocks with water-bearing minerals. Presumably, the water-rock reaction affected the rock mineralogy and it is the reason why the surface turned dry and inhospitable for life.
- Is there still any water left on Mars?
There is no conclusive evidence for liquid water on Mars. However, there is frozen water on Mars in the form of ice in the north and south polar ice caps. These polar ice caps were initially known to be composed of dry ice or frozen carbon-dioxide but now the studies suggest that there is a layer of water ice underneath a layer of dry ice.
In the recent wake of events, a finding published with the help of data collected from Esa’s Mars Express spacecraft reveals three underground lakes of liquid water discovered on Mars. However, the research also states that the water in these lakes could be extremely salty that could overshadow the possibility of survival for a life form. The existence of liquid water on Mars, however, is yet to be confirmed by official space bodies.
- Elon Musk’s plan to colonize Mars
We’ve all heard stories about Martians invading our planet. This idea seems a bit too far-fetched as scientists so far haven’t found any conclusive evidence of life on Mars. However, I bet you’ll be extensively amazed to know that we humans might be the very first Martians inhabiting the planet Mar; or at least that’s what Elon Musk thinks. Yes, the same genius who came up with the ideas of self-driving cars and underground supersonic shuttle service. Now, Elon Musk is hell-bent on what might be the most exquisite mission of human history.
Elon Musk actually has a plan to colonize planet Mars with the human population. This plan didn’t come out of thin air but Elon Musk and his space company SpaceX are already in the trial & development phase. In fact, Elon Musk vows to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050.
- Why colonize Mars?
So, where did this mind-boggling idea came from? For Elon Musk, the inspiration for the colonization of Mars came from the idea that in the case of a third World War, we must preserve our species. Amid the rise of destructive nuclear weapons, a third World War could be dubbed as a potential nuclear war. The aftermath of such an episode could be in the form of a great loss of lives, destruction of cities, radiation sickness, firestorms, and nuclear winters. All of such factors combined could draw a thin line between survival and extinction of humans as stated by researchers.
In a conference, Elon Musk emphasized the importance of a self-sustaining city on Mars to accommodate human species in the event of a third world war. He also said that a base on Mars assures better safety as compared to the moon as Mars is farther away from the Earth and we are more likely to survive. Elon Musk believes there should be a seed of human civilization somewhere else apart from the Earth that can revive the world we once knew in case a third world war breaks out.
If Elon Musk and his space agency SpaceX could pull it off and make humans a multi-planetary species, it will be the most ambitious yet expensive project in history costing over 10 trillion dollars.
- Interplanetary Transport System
The daring intergalactic endeavor begins with the development of a really big and reusable rocket that can accommodate around 200 people. SpaceX terms this project as Interplanetary Transport System. A spacecraft will sit on top of a booster capable of producing 28 million pounds of thrust. The booster will make sure of its 42 Raptor engines to accelerate the spacecraft to 5,374 miles per hour.
This spaceship by SpaceX is 3.5 times more powerful than the biggest rocket built to date by NASA, Saturn V that was responsible for carrying Apollo missions to the Moon.
- The journey to Mars
Once the spaceship leaves the Earth, the rocket would leave the crew capsule to orbit the Earth while the booster will travel and land back to Earth. From there, the booster would fetch a fuel tanker and carry it back into the Earth’s orbit where the spaceship will be refueled for its journey to Mars.
According to Elon Musk, the crew capsules will wait in the Earth’s orbit until a planetary alignment result in a shorter distance between the planets; it happens every 26 months. SpaceX plans to have thousands of spaceships in the orbit waiting for the right moment to depart in masses.
When the conditions are favorable, the spaceships will take off for Mars. On the way, the spaceship will make use of solar panels to utilize energy from the Sun and keep the journey as energy-efficient as possible.
A vital part of Elon Musk’s plan to reuse the spaceships for as long as possible. The cost of this project would be insanely high and the only way to keep it going is to rely on reusability and efficiency.
Elon Musk aims to reuse each spaceship 12 times, every tanker 100 times, and every booster 1000 times. It is estimated that transferring over a million people to Mars might take around 40 to 100 years after the first launch of spaceships.
- Building a self-sustainable city
The first step for colonizing Mars would be to build a self-sustainable base that would, of course, require a lot of equipment. A challenge that lies ahead will be to safely land the heavy cargo-carrying spaceships on Mars that have a very thin atmosphere. Landing NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars proved to be quite a hassle even though it weighed just about 2,000 pounds. However, the spaceships, in this case, weigh multiple times over than the curiosity rover. To meet this challenge, SpaceX is developing supersonic retrorockets that allow gently lowering the much heavier spacecraft on the surface of Mars. The first batch of humans on Mars will all be the crew members, builders, and fixers.
Once the supplies start flowing in, the next goal would be to develop a propellant depot and fuel reservoir on the Martian surface to accommodate return trips back to Earth. When all the necessary supplies and equipment will be accounted for, the development of the city could begin.
Elon Musk has plans to send a SpaceX rocket carrying only cargo to Mars in 2022, as stated on the SpaceX website. The next target will be to send both the cargo and crew to Mars in 2024. At first, the spaceships will act as the home for the crew-members as developing a city immediately is not possible.
However, replying to a tweet, Elon Musk replied that the first base, referred to as ‘Alpha base,’ will be developed by 2028. The base will have a power-station, last domes to grow crops and some propellants. Only time will tell how Elon Musk achieves the bizarre and monstrous task of colonizing Mars.
- Final Words
The exploration of Mars continues with scientists having plans to land the first human on Mars by 2030 and Elon Musk’s looking to colonize Mars with the human population by 2050. The UAE and China are also ramping up their efforts for future missions to Mars. Hopefully, one day we’ll finally solve the mystery of life on Mars as well.