Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, 142 million miles from its star. It is approximately half the size of Earth, and twice the size of Earth’s moon. Its year comprises 687 days, with one day lasting 24 hours and 37 minutes.
Water and Life on Mars
The water found on Mars is mainly in ice form, but some water vapour exists in the atmosphere, alongside the dominant carbon dioxide. Despite the presence of water, however, the planet remains inhospitable to living organisms, with subfreezing temperatures, and a thin atmosphere which allows solar and cosmic radiation to penetrate the surface of the planet without obstruction.
The dusty red surface of Mars is comprised of various rock types: igneous basalt, sedimentary sandstone, mudstone, impactites and evaporites. Its volcanoes, craters, dry lake beds, dunes, wind and clouds are familiar landscapes. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano which scales to circa 14 miles – close to three times the height of Mount Everest. Equally impressive are Mars’ craters and deep chasms: Korolev crater measures 51 miles across and is filled with ice.
Mars in Culture
Mars has long been known as the Red Planet. Its orangey-red surface inspired the Ancient Romans to name the planet after their god of war. The two small Martian Moons, Phobos and Deimos, were discovered in 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall. Phobos (meaning fear) and Deimos (meaning panic) were the horses that pulled the chariot of the Greek war god, Are. The Babylonians named the planet Nergal after their god of fire, war and destruction. In Sanskrit it takes the name Angaraka, another war god; the Egyptians knew it as Horus the Red; and the Hebrew name was Ma’adim – the one who blushes, which gives its name to Ma’adim Vallis, a 435-mile long outflow channel, larger than our Grand Canyon. Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures refer to Mars as the fire star.
British composer Gustav Holst’s The Planets casts Mars as the Bringer of War and inspired the Star Wars movie theme for Darth Vadar’s Theme, The Imperial March. David Bowie’s celebrated Life on Mars featured on his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, and was followed the next year by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
HG Wells’ 1897 Martian invasion of Surrey, The War of the Worlds imagined a terrestrial conflict with aliens, which reflected on contemporary ideas about evolutionary biology, Darwinism and British Colonialism. Steven Spielberg made a film adaptation in 2005 starring Tom Cruise, but it was Orson Welles radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds which caused a social panic across the US when it was broadcast on 30 October 1938.
MARS music composition by Dan Jones.
This new score plays with the sculpture of Mars in the space.