Telescopic Observation Of The Planets in Space: Mars

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The aim of this research is on the solar system by using telescopic observation. But our interest would be on Mars with a special focus on its uniqueness and its difference from other planets. We plan to answer questions like how it was formed, its atmosphere, and its geology. We will compare it to the other planets in the solar system and compare their similarities and differences, and the changes we observe as it orbits around the sun. Our direction would be directed towards the terrestial and jovian differences between the planets. Mars is the fourth planet in the solar system and it has red appearance(Introduction to Astronomy, 2002). It is a terrestrial and has a thin atmosphere, mainly composed of carbon dioxide. Mars has nearly the same land size as the Earth thou the Earth is bigger in size, but most of it is covered by water. It also has the tallest mountains in the solar sysrtem(Space Com, 2006). Telescopic observation of universe started with Galileo, who invented the first telescope. Others, have be unveiled to improve on the accuracy and to have a better view of the universe. These includes Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory(NASA, 2013)c. In the year 2002, a new make of telescope called Space Infrared Telescope Facility(SINTF) was launched, which will give infrared images of the universe, that have never been seen(NASA, 2006)a. Objects in the universe are mostly detected through the light or heat that they emit, which are picked by a sensor and help to creat images of what is being observed. The main method of research will by reviewing scentific journals, websites and books.

In conclusion, when we are through with this research, it will be evident that there is a lot of similarities and differences between the planets in the universe. It will also indicate, the direction the observation of the universe is going and what new technologies needs to be applied to achieve greater understanding of the same.

Keywords: Universe, Solar system, Telescopes, Technologies, Atmospheres, and Galaxies.

Telescopic Obsevation of The Solar System: Planet Mars

In the intial stages, universe observations were done through naked eyes, and this was very innacurate and unreliable. Galileo came up with the first telescope in the year 1609(Introduction to Astronomy, 2002). Since then, they have become the main pillar in astronomy. The main type of telescopes are optical ones, and these are either refractors or reflectors, meaning, they use lenses or mirrors(NASA, 2006)a. The current modern telescopes are the reflector types, which have better resolution and are easly handled. It is important to note that, telescopes work by collecting radiant energy which is then directed to a calibrated detector for resolution(Encyclopedia Britanica(EB), 2017).

The fact that the atmosphere does not transimit radiations of the same wavelength equally well, restricts the astronomical observation on the earth to a very narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum. To minimize these negative effects, it has forced asronomers to look for high attitude and low humidity areas for best results. Telescopes for all wavelength from infrared to gamma rays have been carried by robotic spacecraft observatories such as Hubble Space Telescope(HST)(EB, 2017). This has in essence improved the resolution of the observed images.

The Solar System:

This system was discovered in the age called Renaissance(NASA, 2011)f. It is a sun centred system of celestial motion(Introduction to Astronomy, 2002). In short, the solar system is composed of the sun and everything that travels around it. It is elleptical in shape, and consists of the sun, the planets and their moons, along with coments, asteroids and other smaller bodies(NASA, 2011)f. The solar system formed more than 4.5 billion years ago. The arrangement of the planets and other bodies in the system is due to the way it formed. Nearest to the sun, only rocky material could withstand the heat, and hence the first four planets are terrestrial, that is, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars(NASA, 2013)c. Their main characteristic are that they are small, with solid, rocky surfaces. Materials like, ice, liquid or gases settled on the outer space of the solar system. Gravitation pull, pulled these materials together leading to formation of gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, and ice giants, Uranus and Neptune. Since Galileo Galilei came up with first Telescope, we have learned much about the system and what lies beyond it, through ground based telescopes, spacecraft and mathematic models(NASA, 2013)c.

Planet Mars

This is known as the red planet, and has been studied extensively through ground based observatories. It is a very difficult planet to study, even with large telescopes, because of its small size. The first spacecraft to land in Mars was Mariner 4, in 1965. This was followed by many others, until Pheonix landed there in 2008(Nine Planets, 2015). There are other orbiter spacecraft, still orbiting Mars and sending data to the research station. These include, Mars Reconnaissance orbiter and Mars Express. Mars orbit is elliptical, which results in a wide temperature variations. This has a significant effect on ist climate. It has an averange temperature of -55 degree centigrade(C)(-67 degree franheit(F)). Martian surface temperature ranges from as little as -133C(-207F) at winter pole to as much as 27C(80F) on the day side during summer(Nine Planets, 2015).

Mars has some of most varied and exception terrain of any of the terrestrial planets, some of which consists of very interesting sights(NASA, 2013)c:

The largest mountain in the solar system, the Olympus Mons, which rises 24 kilometre(km) (78,000 feet), and is 500 km wide. It also has a rimmed cliff around 6 km (20 000 feet) high.

It also has a huge bulge on its surface, which is 4 000 km wide and 10 km high, which is called Tharsis.

There is a system of canyons, 4 000 km long and 2-7 km deep. These are reffered to as Valles Marineris.

An impact crater has been observed in the southern hemisphere which is over 6 km deep and 2 000 km in diameter. This is known as Hellas Planitia.

The southern hemisphere is composed predominately of ancient cratered highlands similar to ones on the moon. On the contrast, the northern one, consists of plains which are much younger and lower in elevation. An abrupt elevation divides the two hemispheres and its cause is not known. Mars Global Surveyor data indicates that, Mars crust is about 80 km thick in the southern hemisphere and about 35 km in the northern. It is also known to have a low relative density in comparison to the other terrestrial planets. This means that its core is composed of a lot of sulfur in addition to Iron(iron and iron sulfide)(Nine Planet, 2015).

Like Mercury, Mars appears to lack active plate tectonic for now. There is also no evidence of any recent horizontal surface movement, such as folded mountains so common on Earth. Lateral plate motion has not been observed, therefore hot-spots remain under the crust and stays in a fixed position relative to the surface. This, together with lower surface gravity may account for the formation of the Tharis bulge and the huge valcanoes(Nine Planet, 2015).

Some evidnce of erosion has been observed on the surface including large floods and small river system. This shows that, in the past, there must have been water(or any other liquid) on the surface . Large lakes or oceans, might also have been there, as seen on the images of layered terrain, which were taken by mars global surveyor. This points to a wet episode which occurred a long time ago. The age of the erosion channel is estimated to be about 4 billion years old(NASA, 2013)c.

From history, it appears like Mars was very much like the Earth. It had carbon dioxide, which was used up to form carbonate rocks, and unlike the Earth,with its plate tectonic, Mars is anable to recycle its carbon dioxide back to its atmosphere, and hence can not have a significant greenhouse effect. The surface of Mars is thus much colder than the Earth would be at that distance from the sun(Nine Planet, 2015).

Mars has a thin atmosphere composed of the reminant of carbon dioxide(95.3%), nitrogen(2.7%), argon(1.6%), oxygen 0.15% and water(.03%). There averange pressure is also very low, about 7 millibars(less than 1% of the earth), but it is thick enough to support very strong winds and dust storms that cover the entire planet even for months. The greenhouse effect produced by it thin atmosphere is only enough to raise temperature by 5 degree(K), less than what is seen in Venus and Earth(Nine Planet, 2015).

The two poles of Mars have permanent ice caps, composed of water ice and solid carbon dioxide, which are vissible even with a simple telescope. This ice has a varried concentration of dark dust. In the northern hemisphere, during summer, the carbon dioxide sublimes completely, leaving a residual ice of water(NASA, 2013)c. Mars Express, has also shown that similar ice water residual exist in the southern hemisphere cap as well. Scientist believe that there might be water ice hidden below the surface at lower lattitude. Large, none global magnetic waves exists on various regions of Mars. This was detected by the Mars Global Surveyor, and they are thought to be remnant of earlier global field, that has since disappeared(Nine Planet, 2015).

At night Mars is easy to find with the naked eye, it is a difficult but a rewarding target of any rudimentary telescope, but only for the three or four months of the Martian year when it is closer to the Earth. Its brightness and size varies with its distance from the Earth(NASA, 2013)c. To improve the technological abservation and study of planet Mars, the following things needs to happen:

NASA is working on new type of space abservertories, that is James Webb Space Telescope, which will be an observatory of its kind for the next decade. It will be able to study the whole history of the universe in infrared. The Parker Solar Probe will be able touch the sun unlike other spacecraft that exists(NASA, 2013)c. On Earth and in space, NASA is developing and trying the best and most advanced technologies for future human and robotic exploration. Technological advancement at NASA provides a spring board for new space technologies, and creating a pathway that matures them for future use. This advancement in technology will improve NASA’s capacity to aid us reach our future deep space destinations(NASA, 2011)b. It is also important to note that these programs are very expensive. A case in point is when we look at NASA’s 2011 budget, there is a provision of $4.3 billion to build a space shuttle and international space programs(NASA, 2011). Therefore, it shows that those new technology advancement will cost as much if not more.

Advantage of Studying Mars

This will enable us learn more about planet Earth, and studying Mars is important not just bacause of their similarities but more so their differences(NASA, 2006)a. It will help us understand the planet history and evolution(Huffington Post, 2016).

Some of the things to consider, what causes climatic changes on Mars? Why is it so different from that one of Earth? The climate of the two planets have diveated so much, why? What do we expect to learn about our own future climate changes, from studying Mars(NASA, 2006)a.

Availability of hot springs, like ones on Earth, salt deposits similar to those of salty lakes that evaporated, sediments in freshwater rivers beds and deltas, pure snow and ice(Huffington Post, 2016), serves as a good reason to indicate that Mars could have provided a good enviroment for life to originate and thrive(NASA, 2011)b.

The reason reseachers prefer studying Mars to other outer space bodies like the ice cold moons(NASA, 2006)a, is because, its intial history is well preserved in its geological rock record, and researhers find it easier to access it(Huffinton Post, 2016). Similar record on Earth has been completely spoilt by erosion and various geological activities, therefore to get that evidence, we look to Mars, because it is possible at that time conditions in both planets might have been similar(NASA, 2006)a.

Similary, if there was no life on Mars, what was the reasons? What is missing on Mars? How could life began on Earth but not on its neighbouring planet, with similar conditions.(Huffington Post, 2016). Answers to these concerns will help us understand exactly how life started. The unspoilt Martian rock has preserved most of this record, and since they formed at same time as the ones on Earth, they can be studied in detail, and they will give insight on how living things formed(NASA, 2006)a. Understanding why Mars lost its gravitional pull, will make researcher know how to take care of the one on Earth, and thus helping us preserve our climate as it is for our survival. It is important to underline that, to predict the Earths future, will require learning the complex interplay between different factors and comparing them with those on other planets. This will give a clear view of how they work as well as how their various components interact(Huffington Post, 2016). The closer the similarities, the more useful the comparison and the deeper the insight. Mars due to it resemblance to the Earth, gives a good learning opportunity(NASA, 2006)a.

James Webb Space Telescope(JWST)

This is the newest make of telescope developed by NASA. The preparation of the device has been on going for more than 20 years(NASA, 2015). It will be an advancement from the older Hubble Space Telescope, and has the capability to capture images in vissible, infrared and ultra violet spectrum. It will help us in studying the formation of the early galaxies and also how the solar system has evolved(NASA, 2015)d. This in essence is a very new technology being developed for future use. JWST will mainly work on the infrared spectrum, though it will use the other spectrums, that is, the visible one. It will be able to capture images through dusty clouds, to see planets system forming and stars. It will also show the connection between these system and the solar system. These capabilities have been achieved by the use of the following technologies(NASA, 2017)e.

Shapes of mirrors fitted were measured by use of New Wavefront Sensing Technology.

The way the structure of JWST will behave in space at temperature of -450F, were tested by use of high speed optical sensors.

It was also fitted with new near-infrared detectors.

Application Specific Intergrated Circuits(ASICs), which are programable were also used. These were very crucial, in camera repair in case of malfunctioning.

To conclusively study an events in the solar system, the duration of the study should be done in at least one orbit. For Mars, an orbit takes about 1.8 Earth years. This data that is collected is used to compare with data for other seasons, in order to make a definite conclusion(NASA, 2013)c.

Conclusion and Recommendations

From the fore going, we can deduce that a lot of information has been gathered by use of telescopes, whether ground based or the one on spacecrafts. This information have been used in determining weather patterns, evolution paths and many scientific discoveries about planet Earth. The technology used also becomes applicable in other fields of science, medicine and in many other areas(NASA, 2017)e.

The discussion also indicates the limitations in this field especially in terms of capabilities of the telescopes, spacecrafts and deployment of human being in bodies or areas that are subject of scientific studies(NASA, 2013)c. Moving forward, research have to be directed on the improvement of the limitation of the telescopes in use now. This is in terms of clarity of images sent to research centers, resolution of data received by the telescope and capability of the device to withstand very harsh climatic conditions. Also spacecraft used for mission deployment has to be innovated in such a way that it does not malfunctuion during its mission(NASA, 2017e.


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Huffington Post(2016). Why Study Mars. Retrieved Dec, 4, 20017 from…/why-study-mars-to-better-understand-the-earth_us

Introduction To Astronomy(2002). Introduction To Telescopes. Retrieved Nov 28, 2017, from

National Auronautic Space Administration(2015)d. New Atlas. Retrieved Dec, 4, 2017 from…/4061

National Auronautic Space Administration(2017)e. James Webb Space Telescope. Retrieved Dec, 5, 2017 from

National Auronautics Space Administration(2011)b. Fiscal Year 2012 Budget. Retrieved Dec, 4, 2017 from…/2011/feb/HQ

National Auronautics Space Adminstration(2013)c. Our Solar System. Retrieved Dec, 3, 2017 from

National Auronautics Space Adminstration(NASA)(2011)f. Solar System Exploration. Retrieved Nov 28, 2017, from

National Auronotic Space Administration(2006)a. 21st Century Explorer. Retrieved Dec, 4, 2017 from

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