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Mars

Mars as photographed by the Hubble telescope.
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in our solar system. It is named after the Roman god of war Mars (Ares in Greek mythology) because of its apparent red color. This feature has also earned it the nickname "The Red Planet". The prefix areo- refers to Mars in the same way geo- refers to Earth. The astronomical symbol for Mars is ♂, a circle with an arrow pointing northeast. The Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cultures refer to the planet as 火星, or fire star. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features such as craters, giant valleys, and volcanoes. Of all the planets in our Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbor liquid water, and perhaps life.
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Mars 96 (sometimes called Mars 8) was an orbiter launched in 1996 by Russia and not directly related to the Soviet Mars probe program of the same name. The orbiter's intended destination was Mars, but its actual destination was the Pacific Ocean, due to problems with the launch vehicle. The Mars 96 spacecraft was based on the Phobos vehicles launched to Mars in 1988. They were of a new design at the time and both ultimately failed. But for the Mars 96 probe the designers believed they had corrected the flaws of the Phobos vehicle. Alas, they did not get to find out if they had produced a successful design this time due to the launch vehicle failure.

It was, however, a very ambitious mission and the heaviest (intended) interplanetary probe ever launched. It included a large complement of instruments such as the Penetrator, many provided by France, Germany, and other European countries (some of which have since been re-flown on Mars Express, launched in 2003), and the United States. It was made up of the Orbiter, two Surface Stations, and two Penetrators.

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Percival Lowell
Percival Lawrence Lowell (March 13, 1855 – November 12, 1916) was a businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer who fueled speculation that there were canals on Mars, founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and formed the beginning of the effort that led to the discovery of Pluto 14 years after his death. The choice of the name Pluto and its symbol were partly influenced by his initials PL.

Percival Lowell, a descendant of the Boston Lowell family, was the brother of A. Lawrence, president of Harvard University, and Amy, an imagist poet, critic, and publisher. Percival graduated from the Noble and Greenough School in 1872 and Harvard University in 1876 with distinction in mathematics. At his college graduation, he gave a speech, considered very advanced for its time, on the "Nebular Hypothesis." He was later awarded honorary degrees from Amherst College and Clark University.

Topics

Mars Atmosphere ˑ Exploration (Voyager 2) ˑ History

Major Moons ˑ Phobos ˑ Deimos ˑ

Astronomers: Tycho Brahe ˑ Percival Lowell ˑ Gerard Kuiper ˑ Christiaan Huygens

See Also: Formation and evolution of the Solar System ˑ Terrestrial planet ˑ Nebular hypothesis

Bold articles are featured.
Italicized articles are on dwarf planets or minor moons.

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Unusual hole in Mars
Credit: NASA

The hole was discovered by chance on images of the dusty slopes of Mars' Pavonis Mons volcano taken by the HiRISE instrument aboard the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter currently circling Mars. The hole appears to be an opening to an underground cavern, partly illuminated on the image right. Analysis of this and follow-up images revealed the opening to be about 35 meters across, while the interior shadow angle indicates that the underlying cavern is roughly 20 meters deep. .

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