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Magnificent Mars
     

Magnificent Mars

by Ken Croswell
 

Mars has long offered the prospect of another living world near Earth. Although NASA's first spacecraft dashed visions of little green men tending canals, recent voyages have painted a picture of an intriguing planet that may have once resembled Earth, with warmth, water, and possibly life. Mars may answer the great question "Are we alone?"; for if Mars, like Earth

Overview

Mars has long offered the prospect of another living world near Earth. Although NASA's first spacecraft dashed visions of little green men tending canals, recent voyages have painted a picture of an intriguing planet that may have once resembled Earth, with warmth, water, and possibly life. Mars may answer the great question "Are we alone?"; for if Mars, like Earth, gave rise to life, then trillions of other worlds throughout the universe have surely done the same.

Harvard-trained astronomer Ken Croswell set the standard for elegance and eloquence with his stunning photographic triumph, Magnificent Universe. Now, with insightful prose and astonishing images, he presents the red planet's full glory in Magnificent Mars, showing volcanoes taller than Mount Everest, spiral-shaped polar caps of ice, and a canyon system that could stretch from Ohio to California. Here is a concise synthesis of the latest research on Mars, accompanied with the very best full-color images, expertly reprocessed to look even better than NASA's own versions, from the Hubble Space Telescope, Viking, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and other spacecraft. Highlights include a foldout panorama of the Martian surface; a never-before-published, rainbow-colored topographic map; and a sequence showing a full rotation of Mars, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope. Many of these images have never appeared in a book before. Few have ever looked so good.

In lyrical prose, Dr. Croswell weaves these stupendous images into a virtual tour of Mars by organizing them around the four elements — Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. From the northern plains of Vastitas Borealis to the towering Olympus Mons and other volcanoes of the Tharsis bulge, we explore the red planet's geology, topography, and surface. From the frigid climate to the massive dust storms that can engulf the entire globe, we examine the thin Martian atmosphere and the clues it preserves to the planet's wetter past. And, from the flood channels that spill into Chryse Planitia to the vast potential lakebed of ancient Hellas, we see stunning images of ancient rivers and floods, triggering speculation that a warm, wet Mars may have given rise to life that survives to this day. The tour concludes with a voyage to the planet's two potato-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos, complete with rainbow-colored topographic maps. Unique color-coded tables on Mars, its atmosphere, its life history, its moons, and NASA missions to the planets appear in a useful reference section, along with a glossary and suggestions for further reading.

With its large format, superb images, and compelling text, Magnificent Mars is the next best thing to standing on the red planet itself. In future years NASA will launch numerous missions to Mars, and Magnificent Mars is the definitive guide to what these spacecraft will see. Indeed, the first human explorers to Mars may want to take a copy of Magnificent Mars aboard their spaceship.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Mars's recent close approach to Earth has been accompanied by a small flurry of publications about our neighbor in the solar system. Astronomer and popular science author Croswell (Planet Quest) brings forth a contribution distinguished by its coffee-table format (and price). As an overview of Martian geology and hydrology for the lay reader, this well-organized book compares favorably with William Hartmann's more fragmented A Traveler's Guide to Mars: The Mysterious Landscapes of the Red Planet. The text itself is difficult to read, however, owing to the use of reverse type. But the real strength of this title is its visual appeal; the copious digitally enhanced photographs and color-coded topographic maps are truly magnificent. Buy it for the pictures, if the budget permits. Otherwise, consider less expensive options: Oliver Morton's more literary Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World or Jeffrey S. Kargel's forthcoming Mars: A Warmer, Wetter Planet. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743226011
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
11/05/2003
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
10.74(w) x 14.14(h) x 0.86(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION: Welcome to Mars

Welcome to Mars. Magnificent Mars is your ticket, a journey in words and stunning pictures that explore the red planet from pole to pole. With them you climb atop mighty volcanoes that dwarf Mount Everest, snake down giant canyons that could stretch from Ohio to California, dig through thick ice that caps the planet's poles, even poke through craters that puncture the moons of Mars.

This neighbor world may hold the key to whether life abounds throughout the universe. On Earth life arose and flourished, but there's no guarantee it did so elsewhere. In its youth, however, Mars was wetter and probably warmer. If ancient Mars also gave rise to life, then many other worlds in the cosmos have surely done the same.

Furthermore, Mars offers the chance to study a planet's history in a way that Earth doesn't. Terrestrial oceans, rainfall, continental drift, and volcanic eruptions have largely erased the Earth's distant past, whereas much of the Martian surface preserves a record of the ancient era when life was struggling to arise on Earth — and possibly Mars.

Magnificent Mars centers around the four elements of Mars: EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER.

EARTH explores Martian geology, from the planet's iron core to its rocky mantle and surface, unfolding new, rainbow-colored topographic maps that show the striking dichotomy between the planet's smooth northern plains and its cratered southern highlands. Spacecraft have landed on Mars and witnessed the surface close up, while meteorites from the planet allow scientists to analyze Martian rocks in the laboratory.

AIR describes the Martian atmosphere, thin and cold, which nevertheless whips up ferocious dust storms that envelop the globe. The air's present composition offers clues to its past, revealing that long ago the atmosphere was thicker, laden with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor that warmed the world below.

FIRE explores the red planet's volcanoes, the tallest mountains in the solar system. In their youth, the volcanoes not only flooded much of Mars with lava, but they also emitted the greenhouse gases that warmed the planet. On rare occasions, the volcanoes still erupt: spacecraft images reveal lava flows only a few million years old, and most of the Martian meteorites are young volcanic rocks. When the largest volcanic province arose, it cracked the planet's crust and created Valles Marineris, the largest canyons in the solar system.

WATER discusses the fourth and final element, thought to be crucial to life. All terrestrial life requires liquid water, and ancient Mars had rivers, likely lakes, and possibly even an ocean. Furthermore, enormous floods carved channels whose remains testify to the water's fury. Perhaps, billions of years ago, a pool of water, stirred by winds and warmed by nearby volcanoes, shuffled its chemicals in just the right way to give birth to the first living beings in the solar system; their fossils may still be preserved in the ruddy Martian soil, waiting for the first Mars-bound astronauts to discover.

NASA spacecraft have returned thousands of images of Mars and its moons. In choosing the very best, I selected images from these spacecraft: Viking 1 Orbiter, Viking 1 Lander, Viking 2 Orbiter, Viking 2 Lander, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, the Hubble Space Telescope, Apollo 17, Galileo, SOHO, and the Soviet Phobos mission. Expert astrophotographer Tony Hallas then digitally repro-cessed these images to bring out the very best color and sharpness, with the ambitious goal of making them look even better than NASA's own. I thank those who helped me obtain the highest resolution images, which are vital to such a large-format book: Antoinette Beiser, Michael Caplinger, Xaviant Ford, Peter Neivert, Greg Neumann, Mark Robinson, Damon Simonelli, Deborah Lee Soltesz, Peter Thomas, Adrienne Wasserman; and NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lowell Observatory.

Numerous scientists provided me with insights about Mars. I thank Mario Acuña, Victor Baker, Michael Carr, Philip Christensen, Kenneth Edgett, Robert Haberle, William K. Hartmann, James Head, Bruce Jakosky, James Kasting, Christopher McKay, Jeffrey Moore, Tobias Owen, Timothy Parker, Robert Pepin, Damon Simonelli, David Smith, and Charles Yoder.

I thank those who read the manuscript in its entirety and offered their comments: Alex Blackwell, David Hudgins, and Richard Pogge.

I thank my acquiring editor, Stephen Morrow, for his enthusiasm for this ambitious project; my current editor, Andrea Au, for her diligence in executing it; my copyediting supervisor, Loretta Denner, for her exactitude; and my senior production manager, Peter McCulloch, for seeing that the images reproduce as beautifully as those in Magnificent Universe. Finally, and especially, I thank my agent, Russell Galen, for his support of my work.

Copyright © 2003 by Ken Croswell

What People are Saying About This

Marina Benjamin
Magnificent Mars is packed with interesting facts and statistics, yet Ken Croswell weaves the planet's physical credentials into a story of discovery so fluent and compelling that you forget you are reading a science book (author of "Rocket Dreams" )
Sir Arthur C. Clarke
Our little neighbor Mars will be the first New World of the century that has just dawned. Ken Croswell has done a superb job in outlining what is known, and what is suspected, about the next home of mankind beyond the Moon.
Keay Davidson
At last, that rare hybrid: a visually striking and scientifically reliable popular book on Mars for those who quit trusting NASA's hype machine after the 'Mars rock' fiasco. Although Magnificent Mars sparkles with entertaining history, it also offers an unusually balanced, fluff-free summary of research on, and debates about, the Red Planet.

Taxpayers, legislators and Presidential candidates who seek straight talk on what we've found there-or might find after spending billions of additional dollars-couldn't get a trustier guide than Ken Croswell, one of the world's best astronomy writers. (author of "Carl Sagan: A Life" )

Sir Patrick Moore
A splendid survey of what we know about Mars, valuable both to the beginning and to the expert. It is skillfully written and beautifully illustrated. Recommended without hesitation! (host of the BBC's The Sky at Night)
Neil deGrasse Tyson
In Magnificent Mars, Ken Croswell explores the science, the culture, and the romance of the red planet. So thorough is Ken's treatment that, at times, I felt as though Mars had written its own autobiography. (Astrophysicist and Director, Hayden Planetarium, New York City )
Dr. Robert Zubrin
At last, a work that synthesizes the latest discoveries on the red planet into an accessible yet accurate form. Magnificent Mars is a magnificent book. (author of "The Case for Mars" and President of the Mars Society )
Dr. Robert Jastrow
Ken Croswell's Magnificent Mars is visually exciting, beautifully written, and includes an excellent account of the greatest treasure hunt of all time--the search for signs of Martian life. (director (retired) of the Mount Wilson Institute )
Dr. Owen Gingerich
Ken Croswell has done it again! By combining specially processed images of Mars with an elegant and informative text, he offers us a feast for the mind as well as the eyes. (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics )
Dr. Michael H. Carr
In Magnificent Mars, Ken Croswell has succeeded in producing a fitting tribute to our spectacular neighbor. It is an accurate, up-to-date, and highly readable account of how the planet with its huge volcanoes, deep canyons, and dry river beds might have formed and evolved, and whether some form of life might have gained a foothold there. The numerous, large format images, many culled from the latest spacecraft returns, make one gasp in wonderment and awe at this truly magnificent Mars. (U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, and author of "The Surface of Mars" and "Water on Mars")

Meet the Author

Ken Croswell is the author of several highly acclaimed books, including Magnificent Universe and See the Stars: Your First Guide to the Night Sky. He earned his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University and lives in Berkeley, California.

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