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How Did Mars Get Its Name?

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planet mars and sun

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in our solar system. It’s known for its reddish, iron-rich surface, and many believe it could have fostered life in the past due to evidence of ancient waterways and similarities to Earth. Speaking of the past, have you ever wondered how Mars first got its name? If you did, then you’re in luck. Mars was given its title when it was discovered by the Romans many millennia ago as a tribute to one of their beloved gods. There’s a lot more to it, and you can read below for the full scoop!

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Why Did the Romans Choose Mars as The Planet’s Name?

Hundreds of years ago, the Romans named the Martian planet after their god of war; its deep red color resembles the blood from battle. It also represents the masculinity of males, in contrast to Venus, which was attributed to femininity.

roman soldier

Image Credit: Wajari Velásquez, Pixabay

When Was Mars Discovered?

Back in 1610, the world-renowned astronomer Galileo Galilei first observed Mars through one of the most advanced technological devices—the telescope. Now, telescopes have evolved with sharper imaging and greater magnification so we can view it up close from many millions of miles away.

Why is Mars Red?

The Red Planet gets its fascinating color patterns from the rusted iron terrain. This is caused by oxidation, which we observe when we throw out our old iron products such as nails, car parts, or tools. 

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Image Credit: joshimerbin, Shutterstock

telescope divider 2Is Mars Hot?

You might think Mars is a hot planet due to its red color, but that is far from the truth. Instead, the temperatures are extremely cold, reaching down to –81° Fahrenheit on average. Its distance from the Sun inhibits its ability to hold onto warmth from the Sun’s rays. In addition, the atmosphere is almost non-existent, so that doesn’t help either.

Were There Other Names for Mars?

The Roman Empire wasn’t the only superpower to give our red planet a name. The Egyptians and Greeks created their own terms for the desolate world. Greece was happy to name Mars  Ares, the Greek god of war, which is the equivalent of the Roman name. Even the Babylonians named it after war—there must be an eternal battle on the surface there! On the other hand, Egyptians called it “Har Decher.” This translates to “the red one,” and we still use a version of it today, nicknaming it the Red Planet.

Planet Mars

Image Credit: ART-ur, Shutterstock

The Future of Mars

Scientists around the world have seen Mars as a perfect destination to research the potential for life or the ability to sustain life. Even the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, is determined to make the Red Planet our next home. Despite its relation to warfare, Mars may eventually be a new place to call home.


Featured Image Credit: Colin Behrens, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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