Which planet is known as the red planet? Mars is the next step for mankind in the solar system and has been a source of fear and fascination for mankind. But science is now beginning to unravel the red planet’s mysteries.
By Phil Taylor
Mars is the next step for mankind in the solar system. There has been such a fascination surrounding the planet for thousands of years and it is understandable. The planet is a stark contrast to our own, despite many similarities, and conjures up images that we would not even think of being on our planet. But why are humans obsessed with Mars and why is Mars so distinctive?
It all began 4.5 billion years ago when the solar system was formed and Mars began its life as a planet next to Earth. However, the planet has a weaker gravity and is smaller in size, compared to Earth (where the iron sank to the core) allowed it to be different to its neighbour.
Mars is often called the red planet due to the colour of the planet and how it looks through a telescope, to the naked eye and, thanks to the Mars Rover, video images of the planet. It is unusual that the colour of the planet is red but there is a good reason for it.
Just like Earth, Mars is rich in iron and the surface of the planet is incredibly dusty. According to NASA, the iron minerals oxidise, or rust, causing the soil to look red. So, that suggests that the water on the planet has caused the fourth planet from the sun to have the red colour but similar to Earth it could have life on its planet.
The bloody colour of the planet can be seen from millions of miles away and was even seen by the Romans who named the planet due to its red colour. So, not to quote Monty Python too much, what did the Romans ever do for us?
Romans influence on Mars
Roman mythology has influenced our lives massively and in everyday life they are ever present. They even influenced the days of the week for us with the days named after Roman deities which follow those names of the planets including dies Iovis, “the day of Jupiter”, dies Veneris, “the day of Venus” and dies Saturni, “the day of Saturn”.
Dies Martis, “the day of Mars” is the one we are concerned with. Mars, which is now modern day Tuesday, influenced the Anglo Saxons who used Gods themselves for their days of the week. Tuesday is named for the god Tiw, about whom relatively little is known. Tiw was probably associated with warfare, just like the Roman God Mars.
So who was Mars and why was Mars such an influence? Mars was a Roman God who represented war and second only to Jupiter in the Roman pantheon. He was a very important God, especially with the attitude of the Roman Empire. Despite a lot of the myths being taken from Greek Mythology and their God of war Ares, Mars was more level headed and was the protector for the capital Rome.
Mars’ importance in mythology is incredibly important as it is believed he is the father of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. The month of March is named after him as are festivals and ceremonies highlighting the importance of the God on Roman culture.
So how did he also have a planet named after him? Well it is believed that with his ties to Ares and even before that Babylonians Nergal, a god of war and fire. The Greeks likely adapted this Babylonian nomenclature, calling the planet Pyroeis; think about pyro in our language today. The connection of war and fire was adapted by the Romans to name the planet Mars.
The fire related to Mars is a direct correlation to that of the fiery colour of the planet and the red colour represents blood shed of the enemy of people who tried to defy the Roman Empire.
Could we live on the Red Planet?
Now this is a big question and one we do not know the answer for at the moment. It adds to human fascination surrounding the red planet and how we want to know more about it. However, although we do not know if it is a habitable planet at the moment people are working towards building a colony on the planet.
Elon Musk in particular has always stated how important the planet is to him and in a recent tweet he stated his intentions about building a colony once again:
“About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth and half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens and we destroy ourselves,” the tweet said.
So with Musk’s intention to build on Mars, would you want to be one of the first to live there? Afterall, Mars Real estate might be a reality very soon!