What is Mars? Is Mars habitable?

In this blog, you'll learn detailed information about Mars and its ecology.

Mars in the telescope:

The red planet Mars gave wings to the imagination even in the early days of mankind. Its striking reddish color was reminiscent of blood, so that the immediate outer neighbor of the earth was soon associated with gods of war and wars. Mars is the most Earth-like planet in the solar system and generally allows a direct view of its surface in the telescope. Soon after the invention of the telescope, astronomers were able to distinguish light and dark spots on the surface of Mars and they recognized the bright polar caps, which they correctly traced back to ice. It quickly became apparent that Mars rotates at 24 hours and 37 minutes almost at the same speed as the Earth, a similar one Has axis inclination and is therefore subject to pronounced seasons .

The internal structure of Mars:

Like the earth, Mars is divided into a crust made of silicate minerals, a mantle also made up of silicates and a core made of metallic iron. The red planet's crust is around 85 kilometers thick on average. It is around three times more powerful than the terrestrial crust under the continents. The mantle, which is around 1,600 kilometers thick and consists of silicate high-pressure minerals, connects to the crust . At a depth of around 1700 kilometers, the Martian core finally begins, which consists mainly of a mixture of metallic iron and nickel as well as admixtures of sulfur. Since there is still no seismic exploration of Mars, this information comes from theoretical models.

 A Livable Planet?

In the first three centuries of telescopic observation, the image of an earth-like and life-friendly planet solidified more and more, so that towards the end of the 19th century it was taken for granted that the red planet was full of life. The dark areas were mistaken for bodies of water and their changes were attributed to vegetation that changed over the course of the seasons . Some observers even believed they had seen fine dark lines on the surface, which were interpreted as artificial channels of a highly developed civilization on Mars. These Martian canals are now regarded as an artifact of image processing in the human brain.

Space probes reveal the real Mars

Nevertheless, the image of a livable neighboring world haunted people's minds until the beginning of the space age, when the US space probe Mariner 4 radioed the first close-ups of the earth in 1965 . The disappointment was great, because the images, which only showed about two percent of the surface of Mars, were full of impact craters and were reminiscent of the dead crater deserts of the moon. In addition, the atmosphere of Mars turned out to be extremely thin and dominated by carbon dioxide. The more detailed observations of the space probes Mariner 6 and 7 in 1969 apparently confirmed this picture.

A special world

The turnaround came in 1971 and 1972 when the Mariner 9 spacecraft swung into orbit around the red planet and was able to map it completely. Initially prevented from working by a global dust storm, the probe's cameras soon revealed the special features of Mars. There were giant shield and volcanoes, a huge canyon system stretches over thousands of kilometers and the northern hemisphere of the planet only has few craters on. There were also valleys that were apparently washed out by running water . These are all evidence of a geologically active past of Mars, which was now clearly different from the moon. The following Space probes , Mars has been the preferred target of most exploration robots since the 1970s, added more and more facets to this impression.

The first landings on Mars

In 1976, the US Viking probes landed their first successful landings on the Red Planet, although no space probe has so far found clear evidence of earlier or even currently active life on Mars . Mars is currently orbited by three active space probes that are spying out its surface in detail. And two vehicles (rovers) move on the surface with measuring instruments and cameras that examine the surface and its structures on site.

The two Martian moons Phobos and Deimos

Mars is accompanied by two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos. They were discovered in 1877 by the US astronomer Asaph Hall. They are a maximum of 27 kilometers (Phobos) and 15 kilometers (Deimos) in size. Their shapes are reminiscent of large potatoes. Both moons could be captured asteroids. Were named Phobos (Greek for fear) and Deimos (Greek terror) after the two companions of the god Mars , which in the chariot covered with across the sky.

The Martian atmosphere - just a thin breath

The atmosphere of Mars is extremely thin . Their average pressure is only around seven millibars , which is less than a hundredth of the earth's air pressure at sea level. The Martian atmosphere consists of 95.3 percent carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) , 2.7 percent nitrogen (N 2 ) and 1.6 percent argon (Ar) . The rest are traces of oxygen, water vapor and carbon monoxide, among other things.

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Author: Gamze Özdemir