The fourth planet from the sun has
always captivated our imagination, and while scientists haven't proven there's any life, not even the
microscopic variety, the dusty red planet still commands our attention (and a lot of space
On the planet
The surface of Mars is more
interesting than most planets. Like Mercury, Venus and Earth, Mars is mostly rock and metal.
Mountains and craters scar the rugged terrain.
The dust, an iron oxide, gives the planet its reddish cast. A thin atmosphere and an elliptical orbit combine to
create temperature fluctuations ranging
from minus 207 degrees Fahrenheit to a comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit on summer days (if you are at the
equator). Researchers have recently monitored
huge storms swirling on Mars. The storms are very similar to hurricanes on Earth.
Mars has two moons, Phobos and
Mars was most likely warm and wet
about 3.7 billion years ago. But as the planet
cooled, the water froze. Remnants exist as ice caps at the poles (as shown here). A recent image of Mars taken by the
Hubble Space Telescope shows evidence of
water-bearing minerals in large amounts, and scientists say the deposits may provide clues to the planet's
Is there life on
It has not yet been proven that
there is life on Mars. A NASA announcement in 1996 about microscopic life found in a
meteorite has failed to convince skeptics, and the search continues.
The apparent odd motion of Mars as
seen from Earth stumped scientists for centuries,
finally leading in the early 1600's to the notion that planets orbited the sun in an elliptical pattern. Percival Lowell,
an amateur astronomer who studied Mars
into the early 1900s, thought he saw canals that must have been dug by inhabitants. Upon closer examination with
modern telescopes and planetary probes,
they turned out to be optical illusions.
In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast an
Americanized version of a 40-year-old British
novel by H.G. Wells -- The War of the Worlds. The radio drama was perceived by many as a real newscast about a
Martian invasion near Princeton, New
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