Excerpt for The Mystery That Is Mars by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




THE MYSTERY THAT IS MARS






By


Rob Shelsky



PUBLISHED BY: GKRS Publications

Copyright © 2017

By

Rob Shelsky


ISBN: 9781370249121


All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, printing or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of nonfiction. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of nonfiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

All illustrations and photographs in this book are credited and in the public domain.

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This ebook is licensed through GKRS Publications for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.


* * * * *



Other books by Rob Shelsky include:


Darker Side Of The Moon “They” Are Watching Us! A nonfiction book on the dangers UFOs present.

Time Travel Invasion, a nonfiction book on the real possibility that time travel may already exist.

For The Moon Is Hollow And Aliens Rule The Sky, a nonfiction book on the hollow moon theory.

Ancient Alien Empire, Megalithia, a nonfiction book that documents evidence of an ancient alien civilization on Earth.

Deadly UFOs And The Disappeared, a nonfiction book about the danger presented by UFOs.

And more!


* * * * *

~ DEDICATION ~


For George Kempland 1929—2013


Friend, mentor, and so much more. May we someday, somewhen meet again. I wish to acknowledge you for all your kindness, generosity, and help.

Thank you so very much!




INTRODUCTION



No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's…”


H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds


MARS—our mysterious neighbor! For centuries, it has been an enigma. Moreover, when humans don't know something, their imaginations can run wild. This is just what has happened with Mars over the past several centuries and it has happened to an incredible extent.

Some of those imaginings have been seemingly very farfetched, indeed, as with H.G. Wells' novel, War of the Worlds. Another famous author, Edgar Rice Burroughs also created a strange world, one that had deserts and canals, strange creatures, and marvelous inventions unknown on our planet.

There have been many other such scenarios in fiction relating to Mars and by many other authors over the decades that followed these two men. Movies, too, have done this, and often they are horror films. Either Martians seem to be invading Earth in such movies, or monsters kill hapless astronauts when they land on Mars. In short, Mars has been given the short end of the stick when it comes to just what kind of life might have developed there, and how we humans could interact with it. Far more often than not, Martians, for us humans at least, are monsters.

However, over the last 100 years, this has finally begun to change and our understanding of just what kind of planet Mars is, has become more rational in nature, or so many of us thought. As our technology has grown, so has our knowledge of the red planet. Yet oddly, even as we find more answers, we find that we have even created more questions about Mars than we had before! In addition, some of those questions are monumental ones, and perhaps just as strange as Mr. Burroughs’ version of the planet, or H.G. Wells’ idea of it from his book, War of the Worlds.

Additionally, this time, our imaginings are not just restricted to the world of fiction. Scientists, too, have often come up with different ideas about Mars and some of these are “really out there.” Other scientists, of course, have refuted these so-called flights of fantasy, and have often tried to keep Mars as just another planet, one that is mundane in its makeup, and not so very different from Earth in many ways.

That is, in many ways, but not all, it seems. Mars differs from Earth in some very fundamental and peculiar ways, ones that we couldn’t predict 100 years ago. In fact, it turns out that Mars, the reality that is the planet, is indeed much stranger than fiction.

Moreover, it seems to be getting stranger by the year. We are finding some bizarre things, things for which scientists simply can't account, not only on the surface of Mars, but even on one of its moons. Then there is the matter of the Russian photographs of what appears to be a huge cylindrical ship plying the space between Phobos and Mars itself. Other photographs of the surface of the Red Planet also show bizarre, out-of-place objects. We will discuss that more later on.

We can go further. What was once thought a dead world may have life after all, including not only on the microbial level, but also on the large level, as well, if some of the photographic evidence we've seen is correct. In short, life may be there on Mars and in abundance. What’s more, there might even be intelligent life…of some sort.

As bizarre as all this may sound, we have even more questions to answer about the planet. For instance, and these are just some:

Are Ancient Alien theorists right about Mars? Did They Once Visit Earth?

Did another civilization once occupy our neighboring world?

Was Earth, as some scientists theorize, populated by life from Mars?

Is there ancient evidence of a terrible war or catastrophe on the planet?

Are aliens still occupying the red planet?

Did Mars once have a different orbit?

Is the moon, Phobos, in reality some sort of spaceship?

Is there one or more advanced alien species still alive on Mars?

Do we need to fear our neighboring planet and what secrets it may yet hold?

Are there secret human bases on Mars

Is there a secret space fleet?

Whether any of these turn out to be true or not, these are just some of the questions we need answers to and soon! Time is running out. With regular trips to Mars, manned Mars explorations in the planning, we need to know just what we might be facing. At the very least, we have to understand what we might inadvertently bring back to Earth that might be deadly to us!

In this book, The Mystery That Is Mars, we will consider the available evidence. Each facet of Mars will be explored in an orderly and systematic manner. We will cover each of the questions above and more besides. Thus, we will sort through all the data and attempt to arrive at some conclusions with regard to all these questions. Ultimately, you, the reader, must decide for yourself if the evidence warrants such conclusions.

Why do we need to know if our sister planet, Mars, is just another world somewhat like our own, and one which harbors little that is dangerous, or if indeed, the planet was named aptly for the God Mars, the God of War. Why is it important to do this?

The answer is simple: because our lives and even our future as a species may depend upon finding those very answers. In this book, I will provide information about Mars, what scientist know, as well as what they think they may know.

However, I will go further. I am also including a great deal of material about some of the anomalous things about Mars, and some of it is truly bizarre and frightening in ways. Furthermore, I will also cover some of the major conspiracy theories about the red planet, as well. I will attempt to draw conclusions based on available evidence that seems to be solid. These conclusions might not be yours and I do not intend to try to force my opinions about them on anyone.

Instead, what I would like the reader to do is to read the book. Consider the facts contained therein. Consider the evidence. Reflect on the theories provided, their merits, and weaknesses. Reflect on my conclusions about them. Then, arrive at your own conclusions about it all.

One thing I will say; given the available evidence about Mars now, you might just find my conclusions, and your own, as well, not only “out there,” but also alarming, perhaps even terrifying…so, let’s get started!


PART I—THE FACTS

CHAPTER 1—The Origin Of Mars


The first thing we need to discuss is how Mars came to be Mars and why it is where it is. Scientists used to believe that our solar system was very much like the inner workings of a clock, which ran smoothly since the solar system’s formation. They refer to the fact of the early system having an accretion disk of dust, debris, and gases. All this swirled around our young sun in a huge flat disk.

Gradually, over time, this disk, thanks to radiation from our young sun acting as a form of pressure in the form of a solar wind caused such particles to push outward against the debris, gasses, etc. This caused the material to become denser. As density increased, gravity came into strong effect. Clumps of debris collided and sometimes grew in size. Their increased gravity attracted even more debris and there was no shortage of this at the time. Finally, this debris, gas, and dust accreted into planets, or at least protoplanets. These “protoplanets,” these gathering balls of dust and rubble, slowly grew in size. Some struck others and were destroyed. Others coalesced and grew even larger.

As they grew, their gravitational attraction continued to grow along with them. They attracted even more material yet. Eventually, the various planets formed. After their formation, they went on swinging around the sun for the next 4-1/2 billion years or so, in their present orbits until today. If the early solar system was chaotic, cosmologists and astronomers felt it quickly became an ordered existence, a nicely running sort of clockwork solar mechanism.

This was the original theory based on the facts as known at the time scientists formulated it. This is what teachers taught me as a child in my science classes. The universe, and particularly our solar system, was just like some giant and intricate clockwork mechanism. In fact, there once was a theory of the universe called just that, the Clockwork Theory, although this applied to the whole universe and not just our solar system. Even so, the theory applied to our system, as well.

However, times do change. We’ve uncovered new facts and evidence. Although, still not considered wrong, the accretion theory has had some major modifications and adjustments made to it. For example, it seems the early solar system was far more chaotic than even we once thought.

Yes, protoplanets apparently did roll along in orbits around the sun, but constant collisions with others, or the close gravitational attraction of them, often sent the early protoplanets careening off onto new paths, some to dive into the sun, some to exit the solar system forever as rogue planets, and some to crash into each other. It is theorized this happened with Earth, and that a protoplanet the approximate size of Mars (called “Theia”) impacted our Earth, thus creating the Moon. However, even with this theory there are problems, so we still just consider it a theory and not an absolute fact. As a theory, it might just have to undergo even more modifications yet, consequently.

In other words, the early solar system was an incredibly chaotic place, with perhaps hundreds or even thousands of proto-planets forming, colliding with each other, being destroyed—some forever—some reforming once more. In short, the early solar system was rather like some crazy and complex game of celestial pinball. Earth was involved in this disordered muddle and suffered the consequences, as did Mars, according to current theories.

Mars, it is believed, suffered from her big brother, Jupiter, being so close to her. Jupiter, that largest gas giant of a planet in our solar system was like a huge vacuum cleaner, or so scientists tell us. It grew quickly and sucked up debris around it in a huge swath. Jupiter’s gravitational pull kept growing even as the planet’s mass did, allowing it to gather up even more rubble.

In any event, many scientists say this left less for Mars to accumulate in the way of material, but accumulate what it could, it did. Some researchers say it only took around 100,000 years for this accretion of Mars to occur. Even so, stunted because of being so close to her greedy nearest neighbor, Jupiter, Mars ended up being a smaller world. In fact, it is much smaller than its terrestrial (rocky-like) sisters, Earth and Venus.

Despite this fact, many researchers now believe early Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is today, judging by the available evidence Mars missions have retrieved. Supposedly, it had a much thicker atmosphere with great amounts of carbon dioxide in it. This would cause warming of the planet, since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps sunlight and just in the same way as a glass greenhouse might. Therefore, Mars was warm, wrapped in a thick atmosphere as it was. This allowed the surface to hold liquid water. As we will see later in this book, the planet probably even had some shallow oceans, as well as rivers and lakes early on in the planet’s history.

Then, as Mars lost its atmosphere, being small, with its gravity too weak to hold it, and a disappearing magnetosphere allowing the solar wind to blow the atmosphere away, the planet grew colder and drier over time. The atmosphere thinned.

This, on the face of it, is a good theory, but like most theories of our solar system, it is not without some problems, some of them major ones. Here are some of the main ones:

1. Mars does not seem to possess much in the way of high concentrations of carbonates. Carbonates should be there in abundance if the early atmosphere was so very full of carbon dioxide. This gas should have combined in chemical reactions over time, at least in part, to form other compounds, such as those carbonates. These should have been deposited on the surface of the planet. Again, that does not seem to have been the case to any real extent. We simply don’t find much in the way of carbonates there, certainly, not as much as there should be if this theory is correct.

As proof of this, on Earth, we have many carbonates because of our carbon dioxide. So where did all the carbon dioxide go on Mars, if not into carbonates? Long before most of the once thick atmosphere was lost, the chemical processes should have left plenty of carbonates behind for us now to discover.

Therefore, some scientists think Mars might have once had an orbit closer in to the sun where it was warmer and then it migrated farther out, even as Jupiter is said to have done (first migrating in toward the sun, and then Jupiter migrating out again due to the influence of Saturn). We have no idea if any of these theories are valid at this point. They are really just our best guesses.

2. The orbit of Mars is highly elliptical, whereas Earth has a nearly perfect circular orbit, and one that is barely elliptical in nature. Venus, too, has very close to a circular orbit. Something has influenced in a rather dramatic fashion the orbit of Mars, apparently, so that it is no longer like this.

3. Neither does Mars orbit the sun in quite the same plane as Earth or Venus, or the other planets. When the early accretion disk of dust, gasses, and debris orbited our sun, it was in a flattish plane, with all the planets forming in that same disk/plane. However, Mars is a bit off from that. Some scientists feel it is the closeness of the giant planet, Jupiter, that has caused this effect, and yet, that is only a hypothesis.

4. The planet Mars is quite small (please see comparison image later in this book) and some scientists say that at its present size, it really shouldn’t have any atmosphere to speak of at all…or ever! Although it is a thin atmosphere now, they argue it should be a good deal thinner yet, or virtually nonexistent. Our moon, which is quite large (although not as large as Mars, certainly), has no atmosphere at all, for example.

The problem with this idea is that one of the theories behind Mars losing its atmosphere is the result of an impact by a large object, such as a huge asteroid. Such researchers point to the surface features of Mars, which they say shows such an impact did take place. The blast would have made Mars lose much of its atmosphere. Assuming, of course, little Mars had a thicker one in the first place, but many scientists believe it did.

The majority of scientists also argue it was the loss of its protective magnetic field and the resulting power of the solar wind that drove the atmosphere away from the world. That and with the weakness of the small planet’s gravitational pull, Mars was unable to hold onto its air over the long term.

Either way, both theories call for the Martian atmosphere as having once been much heavier and so warmer. The fact the planet could well have had oceans at one time, would require such a thicker atmosphere, or the seas would either never have formed, or quickly evaporated. Yet, again, such a small world, one so near the asteroid belt and the resulting impacts from many random asteroids nearby, shouldn’t really have had such a thick atmosphere for very long. Yet, we think it once did have this and for quite some time.

How do we resolve the issue? To date, we have more questions than answers about this problem. Our evidence shows one thing; a thick atmosphere and probably oceans, but we have no answers as to how this could have been or have existed there for so long a time.

What we do know is Mars seems in many respects to be a sister planet to Earth, having formed in much the same way (maybe), and yet, it is markedly and rather strangely different in other ways, as well, including its atmosphere, apparently.

Finally, there are other theories of the formation of Mars, including one that involves a destroyed planet, Phaeton, or Phaëton, and sometimes even called Phaethon. This was a planet theorized to have once been between Mars and Jupiter, where the asteroid belt exists now (the remnants of Phaeton, as it is theorized by some). Some researchers think that either Mars was once a part of this Phaeton and was shot off from it after Phaeton was destroyed in some catastrophe (various causes for this catastrophe have been theorized), or the death throes of Phaeton caused a heavy bombardment, or even collisions with Mars, thus damaging its atmosphere, as well as the planet, itself.

This would account for the relatively small size of Mars, being just a “chunk” of its mother world as it were, its eccentric orbit, and its orbit, and even not being quite in the same plane as that of Earth’s orbit. The residue of Phaeton that became Mars had been blown into this elliptical orbit and plane. It might also account for Mars once having had a much thicker atmosphere and water, since it was once part of a larger planet having all this and so only lost it after that planet, Phaeton, was destroyed. We simply do not know one way or the other, but we will discuss this more in depth in a later chapter.

Chapter Conclusion: Whether or not any of this last is true, or even partially true is a matter of conjecture. However, some scientists feel that Phaeton might have actually existed. Where its orbit was more or less predicted to be, a number of very large asteroids have been discovered, including Ceres, Juno, Pallas, and Vesta, all much bigger than average asteroids. With the migration of the planets Jupiter and later Saturn in their orbits, they theorize that gravitational/tidal forces from these giants or from some “internal” force or forces within the planet might have torn Phaeton apart. This left a debris field, the Asteroid Belt, where the planet once orbited, and with the largest pieces now forming the bigger asteroids in that same orbit.

The truth is we simply don’t know how Mars ultimately came to be, or what exactly stripped it of its atmosphere, why it is much smaller than Earth or Venus, or why it has an eccentric orbit, and in a slightly different plane from Earth. Yet all these things are true, and somehow, someway, we have to account for them.

What makes this accounting difficult is new information keeps coming in, and it is always adding to our knowledge, but also adding to our questions about Mars. The more odd data we get, the more we stretch to try to explain it all. There is no doubt most scientist think Mars simply formed from an accretion disk and then was negatively influenced by the closeness of giant Jupiter. This is possibly true, but again, even this theory doesn’t explain all the facts, like the lack of carbonates being in abundance on Mars. These are all oddities for which we cannot yet account.

Several researchers have hypothesized different explanations for the current state of our solar system, including Immanuel Velikovsky in his book on the subject, Worlds In Collision, which most scientists refute as just a form of pseudo-science. Whether or not Velikovsky might actually be right, or at least partially right, is still a subject for some very real debate. Even so, his work does explain some of the oddities we see in our solar system.

In the next chapter, we will focus on these oddities, especially those of Mars in more detail, and after that, the odd moon of Mars, Phobos, as well. As we shall see, the oddities just don’t stop coming…


CHAPTER 2—Some Basic Facts About Mars


Before we get started, it is necessary to consider the red planet itself. We need to understand what we already know about it. This information will act as a starting point for us. We have to be able to discern what we're talking about here and what might be different or strange about our sister world as compared to our own. So, let’s get started.

Here are some basic facts that we now know about Mars:

1. Mars, like Earth, Venus, and Mercury is a terrestrial world. This means it is rocky-like, rather than like Jupiter or Saturn, which are gas giants. Like Earth, Mars has an atmosphere, but it is much thinner than Earth's. The Martian atmosphere is mostly composed of carbon dioxide, although there are other trace gases as well. In fact, we would not be able to breathe the air of Mars, because it is about 96% carbon dioxide and only contains about 0.2% oxygen as opposed to 21% oxygen here on Earth. We would gasp like fish out of water on Mars.

2. Mars is the farthest rocky world from the sun, being the fourth out. Moreover, as rocky worlds go, there is only one smaller than it, and that is Mercury, closest planet to the sun.

3. Many people often typically refer to Mars as the red planet, because as seen from Earth, it has a distinctly reddish color. This is because much of the surface of Mars is reddish. This tint is due to oxidized iron compounds, or in other words, types of rust. The Romans associated this color with blood. The ancient Chinese referred to Mars as “the fire star,” for the same reason, it’s uniquely red coloration. Even to our naked eyes, the planet, seen as a star in our skies, looks reddish.

4. The planet has two moons, Phobos, and Deimos. Both are quite small compared to our moon.

5. Where the Earth is one astronomical unit from the sun, or approximately 93 million miles, or 149.6 million kilometers, Mars is about 1.52 astronomical units from the sun. That is, it is 141.6 million miles, or 228 million kilometers. At its closest point to us, Mars is 33.9 million miles, or 54.6 million kilometers away from us. This is an approximation because the distance varies depending upon where Earth and Mars are in relation to each other in their orbits around the sun at any given time.

6. Mars takes almost 2 years to orbit the sun, just about twice as long as the Earth does. That is, about 1.9 Earth years, or 687 of our Earth days.

7. The first recorded historical mention of Mars was by Egyptian astronomers in approximately the Second Millennium BC.

8. By our standards, Mars is generally a very cold world. Its surface temperature can be as low as a minus 153 or so degrees centigrade (or -243°F), but it can, on occasion in summertime (summer on Mars, that is), get as high as 20°C (68°F). Therefore, at those times, in the peak of summer at the equator on Mars, one could be comfortable in shirtsleeves. That is, except for the lack of oxygen, deadly carbon dioxide atmosphere and the harsh solar radiation and cosmic rays that strike the surface of that world, which would be fatal to the unprotected in very short order.

Now we come to some peculiar and rather interesting facts about Mars:

9. Earth and Mars share about the same area of usable land. Despite Mars being a small world, being only about 15% of the earth and its volume is just a mere 10% of Earth's mass; Mars has no oceans or seas now. Therefore, all of its land is, theoretically, available for use. However, because of the small size of Mars, its gravity is considerably less than Earth, being just a little over one-third of our world. Therefore, like the Moon, if you chose to jump, you could jump much higher than on Earth. On Mars, that would be about three times higher than you could here.


A comparison of Mars in size to Earth.

Source: NASA


10. Another interesting fact is Mars is home to the largest volcano in the solar system, of any planet or moon in it, for that matter. This monster is Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano and it rises approximately 21 kilometers above the surface of the planet. Moreover, it is some 600 kilometers in diameter. The thing is huge by any standards for volcanoes!

Current evidence indicates the volcano actually might still be active, because some lava flows from it seemed to have occurred recently in history. So high is Olympus Mons, that some scientists say it actually rises above the thin layer of atmosphere on Mars. In other words, the peak of that volcano actually sticks out into the vacuum of space. This is strange, that such a small world would have the solar system’s biggest volcano….

11. Mars is a difficult world to get to, in fact more difficult than our other neighboring planet, Venus. Missions to Mars had been mostly unsuccessful if you look at the numbers. Out of 40 missions to the planet, only 18 have managed to arrive or land there successfully. I only include missions that went directly to Mars here, and not ones that just passed by it on their way to somewhere else. Altogether, though, there were some 68 missions. The first such mission started its journey to the red planet in 1960. Moreover, it isn’t just the United States having had this problem of so many failed missions. All the other countries that have tried have had such problems, as well.

12. Mars may not have much of an atmosphere, but it is home to the largest dust storms of any world in our solar system. Sometimes they are planet wide and can go on for long periods.

13. As mentioned, Mars has rather an odd orbit. It is highly oval-shaped, or elliptical. This is even more so than just about any other planet in our solar system, but it is not quite the most extreme in this respect. Still, there are questions as to why the orbit of our sister planet is so eccentric.

14. Mars has two moons. One of them, the moon, Phobos, is destined to die. In a mere 22 to perhaps 40 million years (figures vary on this), a mere blink of the eye in geological times, the strange moon, Phobos, will get too close to Mars and be torn asunder. It will probably end as a thin ring of debris around that planet before disappearing entirely. The bombardment of Mars by pieces of Phobos would not make a pleasant spot for vacation during that time.

15. Mars has a very similar sort of tilt to it compared to Earth, that is, a 25° tilt on its axis, while our planet has a 23.5° tilt. This means that Mars has seasons just as we do here on Earth, although they are each almost twice as long as ours are. The odd thing about this tilt is that we believe our Moon helps keep Earth at a reasonable angle, acting as a stabilizer for Earth in this respect.

Without this stabilizing effect, scientists theorize the Earth could just go on tilting, even ending up on its side and so sort of “rolling” along in its orbit around the sun. In other words, our planet would tilt at all angles over time, and disastrously so for life on our planet. Yet, despite having no moon of any size capable of acting as such a stabilizer, Mars still has very much the same tilt as our world and seems to have had this for some long time...why this is so, we do not know.

16. Ancient Mars had water, apparently lots of it. Many scientists agree on this fact. The question seems to be for how long it had this water. Moreover, just how much of it was there? Again, many scientists think Mars actually had an ocean at one time and a much thicker atmosphere to go with it. This means Mars was once warmer and wet!

17. The evidence now indicates from satellites orbiting Mars that there is still water! Photographs show what appear to be seasonal flows. Whether this is a highly salty water, or fresh is a matter of conjecture. There is also water in the form of ice at the Polar Regions in the frozen soil there. Furthermore, there is even evidence that where a probe landed, there is water in the soil. A photograph shows what appears to be a water spot evaporating from underneath the craft at the landing site, if only a trace amount. Even so, there must be water there, if only in small amounts!


Ancient Mars with seas?

Image Source: NASA


18. Mars has a huge canyon that dwarfs the American Grand Canyon in size and depth, because not only is it the most massive such canyon known on any planet in our Solar System, but it is the deepest, as well. The Valles Marineris, as named, is almost as wide as the United States, being some 3,000 kilometers in length, and up to eight kilometers in depth in various places.

Compare this to our Grand Canyon, which is only 800 kilometers in length and less than two kilometers deep at its lowest points. The Valles Marineris, its cause, is a mystery. How the thing formed is still unknown. Some scientists once theorized that it formed as Mars cooled and shrunk in size, thus leaving a large crease or crack in its surface crust, but this has since been pretty much discounted. There does seem to be some ongoing geological activity in the canyon. There are other theories as to its formation and we shall discuss those later on this book.


View of Valles Marineris, “the Grand Canyon of Mars

Source: NASA



Another View of Valles Marineris

Source: Wikimedia


Chapter Conclusion: Although scientists once considered Mars a sort of “failed Earth,” we now know that our sister world is much more varied in its makeup than we thought. We also have seen some surprising differences between Mars and Earth, and yet some marked similarities, as well, such as its axial tilt, for example. Mars is a world of mystery in its own right. In addition, there are some very strange peculiarities about the planet. We will discuss these in more depth later on in this book.

In any case, now that we’ve seen the basics about Mars, let’s look at its moons, especially the weird little moon, Phobos.


CHAPTER 3—The Weird Moon, Phobos


Now we come to the moons of Mars, Phobos, and Deimos. These are Greek names, with Phobos meaning fear, and Deimos meaning panic or terror (depending on one’s translation). The names came from the horses of the god, Mars, (or the Greek version, “Ares”) and they, according to legend, hauled the chariot of that god. Since Mars was the god of war, the names fear and terror are fitting appellations for those moons.

Deimos does not seem to be anything too out of the ordinary as far as we can currently tell, although, its origin just might be. For a long time, scientists thought that both moons of Mars were actually captured asteroids, but this is now a major question and/or a point of dispute. The orbits of both moons do not seem to fit with their having been captured and pulled into orbit around Mars from the Asteroid Belt. Captured objects tend to have erratic or eccentric orbits. The orbits of both Deimos and Phobos are quite circular.

Therefore, scientists are now unsure just what their origins might be, or where they initially came from. However, the moon, Phobos, definitely has a spectroscopic analysis that is consistent with the idea it might have been an asteroid, since the analysis is similar to those of asteroids, but it has certain problems in this regard, as well, which we will touch on later.

Deimos is small, even smaller than Phobos, being only around 9.9 miles, or 11 kilometers long. These figures vary some, depending on the source, but are not far apart. It takes about 30 hours to orbit Mars. When viewed, the moon seems little more than a cratered rock. However, being some 14,573 miles, or 23,460 kilometers from Mars, the moon, Deimos, is over twice again as far from the planet as Phobos is.

Phobos is by far and away the more bizarre moon of the two. It has some very singular oddities about it. First, though, let’s start with a few basic facts about that moon:

1. Like its sister moon, Deimos, Phobos was discovered by Asaph Hall, an astronomer of the late 1800s. He found the moons in 1877.

2. Again, Phobos is aptly named as a companion to Mars, the God of War, since it is the Greek word for “fear” (as in “phobia). The moon is not large, although it is approximately seven times larger than Deimos. Again, Phobos orbits Mars much closer in than Deimos. Phobos does not have a spherical shape, rather being lumpy and irregular in its contours. This is one of the reasons why some think it to be a captured asteroid, since as mentioned, it closely resembles asteroids in the Asteroid Belt in this regard. The moon has a spectroscopic analysis similar to that of a carbonaceous chondrite asteroid (C-type asteroid), which further lends support to the idea it might have been an asteroid. Yet, there are oddities here, too…

3. Phobos has some weird characteristics. The moon orbits a mere 6,000 kilometers, or about 3,700 mi from the surface of the planet. So close is this, that the moon orbits the red planet four times a day! This makes it the closest moon to a planet in our Solar System by far. In fact, Phobos makes a full orbit of the planet in just seven hours and thirty-nine minutes. So quickly does Phobos zip around Mars that it goes much faster than the red planet can rotate. This means that from the ground, Phobos rises in the west and crosses the sky in just about four hours and 15 minutes. This also means it sets in the east!

4. Another oddity about Phobos is that it has a very low albedo, meaning it doesn’t reflect light well very well at all. In fact, Phobos is one of the worst reflecting moons or worlds in our solar system. The moon’s albedo is just 0.071, which is extremely low. Considered airless, the surface temperature of Phobos ranges from a high of minus four degrees centigrade, when receiving direct sunlight, to a -112 degrees centigrade in areas not receiving such light.

5. Phobos has a singularly large crater, Stickney Crater, and this feature dominates the moon’s landscape. The crater is big, being about 9 kilometers or a little over five-and-one-half miles in its diameter. So big is the impact crater, scientists think it must have come close to destroying the little moon when the meteorite hit. Inside the crater is an even smaller impact crater. This tells us that Stickney is older, having had to form first.

6. There is also a feature known as “the monolith,” a strange outcrop, or jutting monument of rock on the moon. This is roughly rectangular in shape.

7. There are also “grooves” on part of the moon’s surface. These grooves virtually cover Phobos. Most seem to be about 30 meters or about 98 feet deep and appear to be anywhere from 100 to around 200 meters wide. They do seem remarkably consistent in this respect. The grooves are up to 20 kilometers in length (about 12 miles, approximately). At first thought to be rays (streaks of debris thrown out by the impact that created Stickney Crater), this has since been reconsidered, and because they do not radiate out from the crater as such rays should. Nor do they look like “rays” in any case. Rays are usually the result of debris cast from a crater, but these are actual grooves in the surface of the little moon.

Images taken by the Mars Express Explorer craft show the grooves seem to have the main summit of Phobos as their center, and not the crater. This, too, would detract from the idea they are rays from Stickney Crater.

Researchers can’t account for this either, other than to surmise that the grooves are the results of debris thrown from successive meteor impacts with the moon, thus forming a “chain” of craters that appear now as grooves. Nobody really can account for why these craters should be in such chain formations. Moreover, when looking at the grooves, nobody knows why they should be in such neat parallel lines, so they are still a major question that way, as well. (See images below.) Some of the grooves do seem to be those chains of craters, judging by images taken by various spacecraft, but others do not. Others seem to be just regular grooves. Again, whether just grooves, or crater chains, nobody knows how they could have come about.

8. Phobos has a very low density for its size. In fact, it is too low according to most scientists. Scientists estimate the mass of Phobos to be 1.0659×1016 kg (1.78477 nEarths), and its mean density to be just 1.876 g/cm3, which is quite low, too low for Phobos to be solid by all accounts.

This has raised the question as to whether Phobos might be hollow, or have a high porosity. Some astronomers conjecture it might actually be more a pile of loose rubble barely held together with only a shallow crust as an overlay, acting as a binding force for it all. However, since it has definite and seemingly permanent features on the surface, this remains a big question, because such a loose collection of “rubble” should shift and change with time. Moreover, how could it survive an impact such as that created by whatever formed the Stickney Crater if it was just a loose collection of rubble barely held together?

Therefore, others feel it may truly be hollow. Some even claim it could well be an alien spaceship disguised as an asteroid, or even hollowed out from one and then placed into such a neat and circular orbit around Mars for some sort of observational purposes.

Still others think there may be a good amount of water trapped in the little moon, and this could account for its low density. However, data on the surface material, known as regolith, shows no hydration (water content) of any significance at all, so this, too, is still just a theory and one with little evidence to support it. Those same scientists now theorize that perhaps the water is residing below the dry outer crust. This water would most likely be in the form of ice, if so.

9. As mentioned, Phobos may be “temporary.” Unlike Deimos, Phobos is tightening its orbit around Mars, moving closer to it by about one meter every hundred years. Although this may not seem like a lot, it has consequences. This means that ultimately, if this continues, Phobos will either crash into Mars, or tear itself apart (most likely event) as it gets too close to Mars and so then form a thin ring of debris around the planet for a time, before disappearing completely as the fragments rain down upon the planet over the millennia. Estimates vary on the moon’s ultimate disastrous fate with some saying as little as 11 million years, and some saying it will be closer to 44 to 50 million years, depending on circumstances.


Phobos

Source: NASA


Impact Crater, Stickney

Source: NASA


Odd shaped Phobos with grooves prominently shown

Source: NASA



Image close-up of “monolith” on Phobos

Source: NASA


10. There is an absence of dust rings. Astronomers think Phobos should have a 100-meter layer of dust or regolith on its surface, although there is little actual evidence to support this theory. If there is such a layer, it means (or has been predicted by scientists several times) that both Phobos, and its sister moon, Deimos, should have some sort of dust rings around them. Yet, none has been discovered at all to date, despite many attempts in this regard to find them.

In addition, it is unknown how such a thick layer of dust/regolith could be on the surface of Phobos. The belief is the dust is the result of numerous meteor impacts over the ages, but there is a problem; Phobos is so small, its gravity is so minimal that scientists can’t account for how the dust and debris would stay on the moon’s surface.

When the meteor/asteroid impacts occurred, it should have just exploded back out into space because of so little gravity acting to hold it there. For instance, a human weight of about 150 pounds would only weigh about two ounces on Phobos. The weight of some small particles of dust would be negligible by comparison, virtually zero, and certainly not enough to be captured by the little moon. This means the rebound after impact should have allowed the dust to reach escape velocity from Phobos (the speed required to escape the tiny amount of gravity Phobos does possess).

Chapter Conclusion: Like Mars, there is much about Phobos that is truly weird and there is much that scientists don’t know or cannot account for at this point. However, there are theories which just might provide answers and we will discuss those later on in this book.


PART II—A QUESTION OF LIFE ON MARS?


CHAPTER 4—Was There Once Life On Mars?


Now that we’ve covered the basic facts of Mars and its moons, we need to move further afield. We need to consider some less certain matters about Mars before we then go on to discuss some truly weird things about the planet itself, its moon, Phobos, and some major theories regarding just what might be going on around the planet.

First, let’s consider the following:

Was there once life on Mars, and/or is there now? Let’s go with the first part of this question first, with regard to ancient Mars having had life. Did it? Well, nobody knows for certain, but there is a very good chance it did. Researchers base this on the following suppositions:

1. Life seems to thrive everywhere on Earth where it seems remotely possible for it to do so. From searing, boiling temperatures near fumaroles (volcanic-like vents) in the depths of our deepest oceans to high in the atmosphere, life exists on Earth in many forms. Moreover, life, at least certain forms of it (microbial, virus, spores, etc.) seem to be able even to survive in the harsh conditions of the vacuum of space for long periods.

This is no small feat! Space, as most people know, is a vacuum. It is subject to incredibly cold temperatures, and harsh radiation, as well as extreme heat when something is in sunlight. Space is not a pleasant place for life, obviously. Yet, experiments aboard the International Space Station have shown some forms of life, if only on the microbial and/or viral and spore level, do seem to be able to survive for long periods in such horribly harsh conditions.

2. As mentioned earlier, Mars, according to many scientists was a warmer and wetter place. In fact, it was amazingly Earth-like at one time they say, complete with land, sea, lakes, and rivers. This means there should have been enough water there for life to develop. In addition, life does seem to need water; at least, it does here on Earth and that’s all we have to go by.

3. Mars also had a much thicker atmosphere, it seems. This means life had protection, was protected from harsh solar radiation and cosmic rays. This, too, would help life develop.

4. Mars apparently once had a planetary magnetic field, or magnetosphere, as it is called. This, too, would have helped protect life as it developed on the planet, since the magnetic field surrounding Mars would have shield such life from harmful cosmic rays and effects of the solar wind.

In short, if life develops the same way everywhere in the universe as it does on Earth, requires the same sorts of environments and necessities, there is no reason, given that Mars once had all the necessities for life in abundance that life shouldn’t have evolved there. This would be just as it did on Earth. Moreover, some scientists, mainstream ones, theorize that life on Earth might have originated from life on Mars.

The upshot of all this is, Mars should have at least begun to develop life a long time ago, longer ago than it did on Earth, because Mars cooled faster than our primeval planet did (being smaller and farther from the sun than Earth).

Do we have any solid evidence for this having happened? As it happens, we do. This knowledge hasn’t come easily to us. Yet, the more we learn about the red planet, the more we begin to believe life had to at least, once have existed on Mars. We think this because of several factors:

1. Martian Meteorites. Some Martian meteorites, blown off that planet by asteroid and/or large meteor impacts, have made their way to Earth over millions of years. These are old meteorites, ones having spent a long time in space, perhaps billions of years even, as some scientists think. Yet, in a NASA report released in August of 1996, at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, and at Stanford University, researchers showed evidence of what appeared to be fossilized remains (microscopic) in one such ancient meteorite.

Now at first, this was highly disputed by many scientists at the time, was the subject of much controversy, but over the years after having had the pendulum of disputes swing in both directions, many scientists now think the find was real. Many now feel the microscopic fossils of bacteria-like creatures are just that, fossils.

Moreover, their origin is Mars! If not exactly “cast-in-concrete” evidence, even so, this lends strong credence, is definitely compelling data supporting the idea that, at least, primitive life once inhabited Mars sometime in the ancient past. Scientists theorize this must have been around three-and-a-half billion years ago. This find was reported in the Science Journal.

Additionally, the evidence from this meteorite was not just from one single bit of data, but rather many. As one researcher put it:


There is not any one finding that leads us to believe that this is evidence of past life on Mars. Rather, it is a combination of many things that we have found.”


This was the Johnson Space Center planetary scientist. Dr. David McKay who said this also said:


They include Stanford's detection of an apparently unique pattern of organic molecules, carbon compounds that are the basis of life. We also found several unusual mineral phases that are known products of primitive microscopic organisms on Earth. Structures that could be microscopic fossils seem to support all of this. The relationship of all of these things in terms of location—within a few hundred thousandths of an inch of one another—is the most compelling evidence.”


In addition, Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Richard Zare at Stanford University said:


It is very difficult to prove life existed 3.6 billion years ago on Earth, let alone on Mars. The existing standard of proof, which we think we have met, includes having an accurately dated sample that contains native microfossils, mineralogical features characteristic of life, and evidence of complex organic chemistry.”


These researchers were exhaustive in their efforts to come to such conclusions. As researcher, Dr. Everett Gibson put it:


For two years, we have applied state-of-the-art technology to perform these analyses, and we believe we have found quite reasonable evidence of past life on Mars. We don't claim that we have conclusively proven it. We are putting this evidence out to the scientific community for other investigators to verify, enhance, attack—disprove if they can—as part of the scientific process.”


So just what kind of Martian meteorite are we talking about here? Well, it is an igneous (meaning volcanic-like in origin) stone, which weighs a little over four pounds. Dating of the rock shows it is just about 4.5 billion years old (about the time Earth formed). Scientists think the rock came from under the surface of Mars and that a major impact (meteor or asteroid) sent it hurtling into space. However, despite being from underground, there should have been water available to allow microbial life to form even there, just as it does on Earth.

Mind you, the fossils aren’t large, being at most only about 1/100 the diameter of a human hair or even less, and with the majority being more like only 1/1000 in size. The fossils are mostly tubular looking, almost worm-like in shape with some more rounded in shape. The intriguing part of this is that these fossils amazingly, are very much like such microbial fossils also found on Earth! This fossil-bearing meteorite, referred to as ALH84001, was discovered in 1984 in Antarctica.


Meteorite ALH84001

Source: Public Domain


Chapter Conclusion: So what can we glean from all this information? Well, let’s sort through it:

1. We have strong evidence that Mars was once much different from what it is today. There is solid evidence; some would even say incontrovertible evidence that Mars once had much more surface water than it does now.

2. This had to mean Mars had a thicker atmosphere at one point, and scientists theorize it might have been very similar to Earth’s early atmosphere in which life developed here.

3. Mars, judging by the available evidence, also probably had a magnetic field to help early life survive an otherwise lethal cosmic ray bombardment.

4. These two things mean that conditions very likely were suitable for the development of life on Mars in the ancient past, just as life evolved here on Earth under such conditions.

5. Martian meteorites found here on Earth, one in particular, Meteorite ALH84001, shows real evidence of microscopic fossils. Although originally highly controversial, as to whether these were actual fossils or not, and hotly disputed as such at the time of discovery, more recent technology (since developed), does seem to indicate these probably are actual fossils. A team of leading researchers certainly thinks so, having staked their professional reputations on this idea.

Although we don’t have “absolute proof” there was once life on Mars, we have ascertained there probably was. Again, there were all the right conditions on that planet early on in its development. There was a thicker atmosphere, liquid water, protection from a magnetic field, warmer environment to allow for the development of life. Moreover, we have at least one meteorite that seems definitely to show Martian fossils. This last almost constitutes, for all practical research purposes, a “smoking gun” of evidence in this regard.

Therefore, in conclusion, we can at least safely say that there quite probably was life on early Mars. The preponderance of current evidence supports this conclusion. So again, and this can’t be stated too often, it would seem there was definitely once life on Mars!

However, that doesn’t help us to know if there is still life on Mars today. That’s the next big question and we will discuss this topic in the next chapter.


CHAPTER 5—Current Evidence For Life On Mars?


Now that we have discussed the fact that it is most likely life once may have existed on the red planet, the next question is to determine if there is life currently existing on Mars. Is there? Well, we have some tantalizing information that there just might be such evidence! First, let’s remember these points:

1. Mars almost certainly has water even now. Water seems to be a prerequisite for life, and again, Mars has some water, as recently determined by our probe there.

2. Remember that Mars, at the equator, can get as high as human tolerant temperatures in the summer. This means life could survive on Mars, temperature-wise, in such conditions, just as it can here on Earth.

3. Moreover, microbes can survive an incredible range of extremely harsh conditions here on Earth. These include extreme temperature ranges as mentioned above, ones that would kill us humans in an instant, but also various degrees of salinity in water, chemical compositions in water that make them more like a toxic soup to humans, and even in the depths of the vacuum of space!

Therefore, the conditions on Mars are no worse than those extremes here on Earth in many respects. This means the extremes on Mars should be no more a barrier to certain types of microbial life than those same extremes found here on Earth. After all, microbes can live at the bottom of the ocean around volcanic vents, on the tops of the Himalayas and Antarctic, and even in boiling, toxic, mud pots in Yellowstone National Park. So why couldn’t such “extremophiles,” as such bacteria are called, exist on Mars? There is no reason they couldn’t.

In line with that, we have some real evidence life might exist there now. NASA has been exploring Mars for some long time now. In 1976, NASA sent a couple of probes. These were the Viking probes, Vikings 1 and 2. Their purpose was to try to determine if life currently existed on Mars. To do this, the Vikings carried with them three separate means for detecting such (experiments) to try to determine the answer.


Viking 2 on Mars

Source: NASA


One of these experiments, the Labeled Release, was to become the subject of much controversy, because it actually found something in the way of evidence for life! It did this by digging up a small sample of the uppermost layer of soil. The experiment then called for the LR to add a tiny amount of water and this water had nutrients in it, as well as radioactive carbon atoms suspended in that water.

One of the first things the LR was able to determine was the soil closely resembled “veggie-garden dirt,” as one source put it. In other words, the soil was very much like that which one would find in a standard vegetable garden on Earth.

The LR was designed to discover if microbial life of any sort might be in this soil. If there was such life, the theory was the Martian microbes would then “eat” (or metabolize) the nutrients in the solution and then ingest the radioactive carbon atoms in the process. This means that as a waste produce, the microbes would then give off those radioactive atoms, or alternatively, methane gas (a byproduct of such metabolism). Detectors could then measure these radioactive atoms.

This was a carefully thought out experiment, one wisely designed, because the researchers also used a number of “control” procedures to quantify and verify the results, as well. For example, the experiment also included raising the soil’s temperatures to different heat levels, as well as isolating any possible microbes in darkness. This last was to cause any microbes that might have used photosynthesis to die.

What were the results? Well, they were actually astounding. The control experiments, used as a safeguard and a guarantee of sorts that any other results would be valid, all turned out to show nothing, exactly as hoped. However, the LR did show evidence of life! In addition, the results were not only positive for signs of life, but robustly so!

Neurobiologist, Joseph Miller of the University of Southern California (at the time), and once holding position of the NASA Space Shuttle Director, stated that:


The minute the nutrients were mixed with the soil sample, you got something like 10,000 counts” of radioactive molecules—a huge spike from the 50 or 60 counts that constituted the natural background radiation on Mars.”


There was one problem with all this. Despite the astounding results of the one experiment, the others did not show signs of life. Therefore, NASA, without further corroborating proof to back up the evidence simply couldn’t declare there was life on Mars.

This was disheartening, of course, and so after a brief flurry of news in the press at the time, the whole experiment became forgotten. However, the story doesn’t end there….

Much more recently, Doctor Miller decided, along with his researchers, to check the same data again. This time, he used a specifically designed mathematical test, a “filter” of sorts, to separate any biological results or signs from all the ones that did not contains such evidence.

The result? Doctor Miller’s group said there was definite evidence of life on Mars! As he put it:



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