It’s Maya here, the creator of Mimi’s Life on Mars. I’m writing a series of posts on SN Online in preparation for the publication of Mimi’s Life on Mars, the book! Click here to read part 1 and part 2 of my posts about making comics.
I’ll be writing about Mars for the next few weeks and talking about why it’s such an interesting planet. Read on for some fun facts about Mars, and how we have been making sense of this planet throughout history.
The red planet
We humans have always been curious. We’re fascinated by the unexplored parts of the world, and the unexplored parts of other worlds. Maybe that’s why space is so interesting to us- it’s a completely different world with so many unknowns.
What better place to explore than one of our closest neighbours, Mars? It can be seen in the nighttime sky as a faint, reddish-orange star. Mars has been observed and studied by people all over the world for thousands of years.
Our first written record of Mars observation is as early as 2,000BCE (more than 4,000 years ago) by ancient Egyptian astronomers.
On the left is an example of an astronomical chart found in a tomb from around 1473BCE!
Mars’s reddish colour has given it certain qualities in the imaginations of many cultures. In Mesopotamia, an ancient civilization that covered a large part of Western Asia, Mars was called Nergal. He was the god of destruction, war and plague.
In ancient Rome, Mars was an important military god. In East Asian countries, like China, the planet has been referred to as the fire star and was a sign of trouble, grief and war.
The study of Mars
Our fascination with this planet continued to grow as our technology became more advanced. In the 16th century, Polish astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus studied the motion of the planets.
He developed the theory of the heliocentric universe, where the planets revolve around the sun.
The Italian scientist Galileo Galilei was one of the first people to use a telescope and studied Mars in the early 17th century.
The first detailed map of Mars was created in 1877 by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. The map contained features he called canali, meaning channels in Italian.
In fact, Mars does have a series of deep canyons on its surface, but this word was mistranslated into English as ‘canals’.
This led to the theory that there were people to build these canals. The idea that there might be Martians, or some kind of intelligent life on Mars, has persisted ever since!
This idea was further fueled in 1976 when NASA’s Viking 1 orbiter took a photo of the surface of Mars.
Due to the high contrast of light and shadow in the picture, some people believed they could see a face on the surface of the planet! They thought that it must have been a structure built by Martians.
Since then our technology has improved and in 2001 the Mars Global Surveyor took a clearer picture of the ‘face’, showing that it was just a flat-topped hill, or mesa.
If you would like to see more of the pictures that were taken during this space probe’s mission, click here.
While the idea of life existing on Mars is an interesting idea, no actual structures, artifacts or living beings have ever been found. However, as we conduct more and more research on Mars, we may make some interesting discoveries in the future!