Mars

Mars venteux et Avril pluvieux Font le Mai gai et gracieux = March winds and April showers Make way for May flowers.

Mars  (märz ); called by the Greeks Ares (ā´).—The god of war, of husbandry, of shepherds, and seers, who, as father of Romulus, was the progenitor of the Roman people. He was the son of Jupiter and Juno. He loved, and was beloved by Venus. The wolf and the woodpecker were sacred to Mars.

Is the Planet Mars Inhabited?

The opponents of the doctrine of the Plurality of Worlds allow that a greater probability exists of Mars being inhabited than in the case of any other planet. His diameter is 4100 miles; and his surface exhibits spots of different hues,—the seas, according to Sir John Herschel, being green, and the land red. “The variety in the spots,” says this astronomer, “may arise from the planet not being destitute of atmosphere and cloud; and what adds greatly to the probability of this, is the appearance of brilliant white spots at its poles, which have been conjectured, with some probability, to be snow, as they disappear when they have been long exposed to the sun, and are greatest when emerging from the long night of their polar winter, the snow-line then extending to about six degrees from the pole.” “The length of the day,” says Sir David Brewster, “is almost exactly twenty-four hours,—the same as that of the earth. Continents and oceans and green savannahs have been observed upon Mars, and the snow of his polar regions has been seen to disappear with the heat of summer.” We actually see the clouds floating in the atmosphere of Mars, and there is the appearance of land and water on his disc. In a sketch of this planet, as seen in the pure atmosphere of Calcutta by Mr. Grant, it appears, to use his words, “actually as a little world,” and as the earth would appear at a distance, with its seas and continents of different shades. As the diameter of Mars is only about one half that of our earth, the weight of bodies will be about one half what it would be if they were placed upon our globe.

Nearest to the earth, with the single exception of Venus, resembles the earth more closely than any other of the planets, and is most favorably situated for our observation of all the heavenly bodies, except the moon. It is a globe rather more than half the size of the earth. When Mars comes nearest to the earth its distance from us is about 35,000,000 miles. At these favorable moments its brightness is about equal to Jupiter, and only surpassed by that of Venus. Mars has a very pronounced red color, which is supposed to be due to the prevalence of a rock like our red sandstone on its surface, or possibly to the color of its vegetation.

Its density is much less—about three-quarters that of the earth; so a pound weight placed on its surface would not weigh much more than six ounces, and a ponderous elephant would, if there, be able to jump about with the agility of a fawn.

The heat and light which Mars receives from the sun, therefore, vary enormously, and so cause a difference in the lengths of winter and summer in his north and south hemispheres, the seasons in the north hemisphere being far more temperate than those in the south. Viewed with the telescope, large dark green spots are seen, the rest of the surface being of a ruddy tint, except at the two poles, where two white spots are observed and considered to be due to large masses of snow and ice. It has been supposed that the greenish spots are oceans, and the ruddy parts land. The spectroscope has shown that watery vapor is present in Mars' atmosphere, and appearances like huge rain-clouds sometimes obscure a part of the planet for a considerable period. Physical processes seem to go on there much the same as on our planet; hence many believe that Mars is inhabited and forms, in fact, a miniature picture of the earth.

Beyond the earth the planet Mars (fig. 13) moves in its orbit round the sun; it is the smallest, but one, of the larger  planets, having a diameter of but 4085 miles, and being only about one-seventh the magnitude of the earth; it makes its revolution in 687 days, at a distance of 144,780,000 miles from the sun.

FIG. 13.
FIG. 14.

Owing to the brilliancy and proximity to the sun of Venus and Mercury, together with other causes, no rotation has been observed in them, but as this exists in all the other planets there is no doubt they also rotate, but the nearness of Mars to the earth when in opposition (that is, when the earth is between it and the sun), has caused its rotation to be distinctly visible; the observation of this has been from time to time greatly favoured by certain dark spots which have remained stationary a sufficient time to determine the question very accurately. Mars takes 24 hours and 37 minutes to turn on its axis, or pretty nearly the time the earth does. Its resemblance is still more increased by the axis of rotation being oblique, from all which it is inferred that there is a day and night, winter and summer, and variation of climate very nearly resembling that of our own world, and there are round bright parts situated at the poles of Mars, which enlarge when it is winter there and diminish when summer, just as would the snows of arctic regions, and these are therefore supposed to be portions of the surface of Mars which are actually covered with snow (fig. 13). As to the question of the planets  being inhabited, of course it can never be answered with certainty, but it is a great deal more likely that they are than that the moon is, which, having neither water nor atmosphere, can hardly be supposed to give habitation to any beings similar or analogous to those on earth, while Mars possesses a climate not greatly differing from that of the earth, and has both air and water. Mars has, at certain positions of the earth with respect to it, a partially "gibbous" form, that is, a small portion of the non-illuminated part comes within the lines of our vision it is then of the form seen in (fig. 14), but this can only occur when the earth and planet occupy positions somewhat near to that represented in fig. 15, in which s  is the sun, e e  opposite positions of the earth, and m  Mars.

FIG. 15.