The planet Mars has always been a fascinating subject of interest among those who did not closely follow astronomy, especially just before the turn of the 20th century when the idea of Martians inhabiting the nearby planet were possibly sending communications through space as a warning to Earth. Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, an Italian astronomer who classified much of the glowing red planet during his studies in the late 1800’s named a dense network of structures on the planet “canali,” which literally translates to channels. A mistake in the translation led Americans to think he called them canals, which is essentially thought of as a man made sturcture. Around the same time period, Austrian born inventor Nikola Tesla thought he picked up repetitive radio waves that could have possibly originated from the planet, and Mars Fever officially swept the nation. Although more modern technological studies have corrected these unfounded beliefs, scientists are still unsure of whether living organisms once inhabited Mars. Recent studies show the building blocks for intelligent life were once in place on the planet, and although the core appears largely dormant many of those properties are still in place.
Scientists can say, however, with a fair amount of certianty that there is no life on Mars at the present time, because essentally the planet has become incative and is considered dead. While there is signifigant evidence to show that liquid water, thought to be the catalyst of life, was once abundant across much of Mar’s surface, the lack of a proper atmosphere in its current state prevents signifigant accumulations from forming and remaining on the surface. The tectonic plates found beneath the surface of Mars are no longer active; neither are any of the volcanos that scatter across its surface. The polar caps on the planet contain massive amounts of dry ice, and in 2007 NASA scientists determined if melted it would cover the entire planet in thirty-six feet of water. The presence of sediments associated with water in recently explored regions of Mars could mean that there is still traces of flowing liquid on the planet’s surface, but further research would be required to either confirm or deny that theory.
In terms of size, Mars is about 1/6th the size of the Earth, meaning the surface area is nearly equivelant to Earth’s dry land. Much of the surface is covered with fine grains of iron oxide, commonly referred to as rust across our planet; silica-rich asalt is also present in large uantities. Initial studies of the soil found traces of elements required in order for plants to grow but later findings have shown the presence of salt, which would inhibit such growth. While our rotational orbits around each planet’s respective axis is similar, Mars has a longer rotation around the Sun due to its relative distance.
Mars also posesses two separate moons, but both are thought instead to actually be asteriods. The term moon is applied in this case only because of a lack of a better term; since they both orbit Mars they qualify by defenition. The smaller of the two moons, Phobos, is slowly altering its orbit and expected to eventually collide with Mars or to break away from the gravitational pull completely, sending it on an unknown course across our solar system. Both moons orbit dangerously close to the planet, their very existance and how they became associated with Mars is somewhat of a mystery to scientists. Mars is near an asteriod belt and has suffered thousands of direct hits throughout history, so the asteriod theory is currently the most popular explaination.