Mars is one of the 5 planets that is visible through the naked eye. You can look up at the clear sky at night and find the red planet in the horizon. This means, it was even seen by early man who may have been terrorized by the red planet. The planet Mars changes its position every night, unlike stars. Just imagine the superstitions that may have cropped up when the planet was closer to earth and burned like a hot piece of coal. Let us learn about who discovered mars first.
History of the Discovery of Mars
The Egyptians called the red planet 'Har decher' or the Red One. The planet was called 'Nergal' or 'the Star of Death' by the Babylonians.
Greeks called Mars as Ares, the war-god, and associated it with warfare and bloodshed. The Romans too called it the God of war and christened it with its present name 'Mars'. According to ancient mythology, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus, who founded the city of Rome. Hence, they considered Mars as the protector of Romans. The Romans also believed that March was the season of war.
Babylonians made astronomical observations and developed complex arithmetical calculations that helped predicting eclipses solely for religious purposes. The Greeks were the first people to take a rational look at the natural occurrences and referred to Mars, as one of the five 'wandering stars' that moved relative to 'fixed stars'.
The ancient Hindu religious texts called Mars as their deity Mangala, who was born from the sweat of Shiva. It is also known as Angaraka in Sanskrit. The Hebrews called it Ma'adim' or 'the one who blushes'. The Persians called it the Zoroastrian god of faith, Bahram, and the Turks called it Sakit.
Who Was the First Person to Discover Mars?
In 1576, Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer made accurate calculations of the position of Mars with his eyes! He had a really keen eyesight that helped in calculating the position without sophisticated instruments in a matter of just 4 minutes! Wow! That's what can be called hawk's eyesight.
Then German astronomer Johannes Kepler came forth with a revolutionary idea that orbit of Mars is elliptical and not circular. This was the most contradictory statement as most of the astronomers believed the orbits of all planets were circular. Soon, Kepler claimed, not only Mars, but all planets have an elliptical orbit.
Nicolas Copernicus became the first person to develop the heliocentric model of the Solar System. He was able to break the notion that earth was the center of universe and proved that planets of the Solar System revolved around the sun. He published his theory in 1543 and Galileo Galilei backed his claims. Galileo used his rudimentary telescope that helped him discover Jupiter had moons that orbited around it. He also found that Venus underwent phases just like the moon.
In 1659, Christian Huygens, a Dutch astronomer drew Mars with the observations he made using a telescope he designed himself. He also discovered a strange feature on the planet that was later known as the Syrtis Major. Men have always been intrigued by Martians and one scientist claimed there was life on Mars in 1802. He suggested drawing huge figures in snow that will help signaling the Martians. In 1877, Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered several lines crossing one another. He said they were water canals that were made by intelligent life forms.
Mariner 9 was sent to Mars in 1971 that came back with images of huge volcanoes and vast canyons. It helped discover the famous volcano that is not on earth, Olympus Mons. It is so big that it could cover the state of Missouri. It would reach a height of 15 miles above the surface of the earth. In 1975, Viking I and II landed on Mars that analyzed rocks and soil of the planet.
Mars Odyssey was launched in 2001, that is still in orbit and the end date has been extended to September 2010. Many more explorations have taken place since then and future missions are under way. We are still in the process of fully discovering Mars and fulfill the fantasy of existence of life on mars.
The biggest mountain on Mars is the Olympus Mons, which is a dormant volcano. The biggest canyon in the system of the known universe 'Valles Marineris' is also found in planet Mars.
The main reason why Mars was known as the Roman God of war, was due to its blood red color. The red color is actually due to presence of iron oxide, commonly known as rust in the planets soil.
Mars is half the size of earth and has a third of earth gravity.
There are numerous dust storms on Mars that are seen when the planet is closest to Sun and icy clouds of carbon dioxide and dust are seen when the planet is on the farther end of the orbit.
Mars has two moons, Phobos (fear) and Deimios (panic). The Mars moons were discovered by Asaph Hall at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. He named the moons after the mythical horses that drew the chariot of Mars, the God of war.
Scientist have said that Phobos orbits the planet at a very low altitude and that one day it will tear off from Mars gravity. It will survive as a ring and after a few years will rain done as debris on the planet. This may occur about 50 million years from now.
Mars has only 1% air pressure found on Earth. The atmosphere contains 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and trace amount of oxygen and hydrogen oxide.
The equatorial radius of Mars is 3,397 km and the diameter is 6,794 km.
Scientists have recently discovered there is enough water ice under the surface of Mars that can fill lake Michigan twice.
A year on Mars is 687 Earth days and a day on Mars is equivalent to 1.026 Earth days.
Technically, Galileo was the one who first saw the planet with his telescope. So he can be called the discoverer of Mars. Mars had been discovered hundreds of years ago. It was officially called a planet and not a moving star by Galileo. So you need to give credit to all those who have helped in making humans learn more about the red planet. The discovery process has not yet completed, as scientists from around the world continue to analyze interesting facts about the planet.