Named for the god of war
Compiled by Susan Ramsay
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. It is also known as the Red Planet, because of the colour of its landscape, which even the very earliest astronomers in history could see.
Terror from space
In 1938 a radio drama, written by H.G. Wells, was broadcast. It was so realistic that it caused panic all over the United States. It was called The War of the Worlds. It was about alien invaders from Mars. People thought the programme was a real news broadcast. The drama was read by Orson Wells. A few years ago it was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning.
Scientists thought Mars was the most likely planet in our solar system - other than Earth - to have life. Astronomers thought they saw straight lines on its surface. They thought the lines were water canals or roads made by intelligent life. Also, Mars changes colour in different seasons. Scientists thought this might prove it had plant life.
God of war
In English, Mars is named after the Roman god of war. Astrologers are scientists who study the planets. They believed the planet Mars could help them to win wars.
In the night sky
Mars can be seen without a telescope. It is brighter than Venus. It has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Scientists think the moons might have been asteroids.
In the news
Nasa's Phoenix spacecraft has discovered two minerals on Mars. This means there could have been water on Mars in the past. The minerals - calcium (kal-see-um) carbonate (kar-bon-ate) and sheet silicate - do not usually form unless there is water.
Phoenix landed in the Martian arctic plains in May. It was on a three-month mission to study whether the environment could be friendly to life of any kind. One of its main goals is to find out whether the ice ever melted.
Nasa decided to make the mission longer. It will go on till the end of the year, if Phoenix can survive.
now do this
Can you unscramble the names of these planets?
1) piretuj _______________________________
2) pentneu ____________________________
3) rams _________________________________
4) areth ________________________________
5) snuve ________________________________
6) curmery ____________________________
Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury