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Is there vegetation on Mars?

Findings of the last few years by two American spacecrafts the Mars Global Surveyor and the Odyssey give renewed hope to find vegetation

In the picture: a section of the south pole region of Mars where there is some probability that the subjects photographed in it are plants

Of all the planets, Mars is the one that holds a spell over astronomers, this is due to a number of properties that give it a certain resemblance to the Earth. The first reason is its angle of inclination similar to that of the Earth, which indicates a change of seasons similar to those we experience every year: autumn , winter, spring and summer although they are longer since his year is equal to 687 earthly days. A second reason is that its circadian rhythm is almost identical to that of the Earth. His day is equal to 24 hours and 37 minutes. A third reason is atmospheric presence.

The Martian atmosphere mainly contains 2 CO, but at the same time it is extremely thin. Attest to this is the atmospheric pressure-7 millibars. Fourth reason and it is the most interesting, its poles have ice. The polar ice expands in winter and shrinks in summer. This fact was noticed from the moment they started pointing telescopes at the star.

In the observations made in the 19th century, it was noticed that in those areas that are freed from ice, the surface of the ground darkens. The accepted hypothesis was that these dark areas were plants. There were astronomers who claimed that the dark color was greenish blue. This color spreads from the melting line of the ice towards the equator. The impression was that in the spring and summer moisture is released from the polar caps that nourishes any type of vegetation (Ben Bubba 1975: 98).

Ever since spacecraft began transmitting images of the surface to Earth (to date over 000 photographs have been transmitted to Earth from Mars) it became clear that the northern ice cap contains mainly water ice and the southern ice cap contains mainly CO200 ice (dry ice). These discoveries raised questions about the hope of finding vegetation on the surface of Mars. Vegetation by its nature needs water, so if there was any hope for its presence, the only place it could be found was in the North Pole.

Findings of the last few years by two American spacecrafts the Mars Global Surveyor and the Odyssey give renewed hope to find vegetation. The first findings are photographs in particular from the South Pole region in extremely high resolutions up to .21 meters per pixel. In photographs from the South Pole region, formations reminiscent of vegetation are seen in them. The most prominent photographs are the photographs whose catalog numbers are:
m0402021, m0402672, m0402186 ( From these formations we find
inside craters. Other findings are those transmitted to Israel by the Odyssey spaceship, and from them it appears that near the South Pole there are huge amounts of water underground that, if they covered the Earth, would reach a height of 500 meters.

If it is indeed vegetation, it is difficult to know what types it is since the resolution of the photographs is not sharp enough to be able to distinguish details on the order of a few centimeters. In any case, there is a possibility to examine the programming of plants from another point of view. Plants, unlike animals, breathe 2CO and emit oxygen. Here it must be remembered that the total 2 CO on Earth constitutes 0.045% of the total atmosphere and its weight is 10 to the power of 14X 2.385 and is sufficient for all terrestrial vegetation. Mars is smaller than Earth, its diameter is 6800 km, therefore its surface area is also smaller. The Martian atmosphere is thinner and its density is 1% that of the Earth (Manson 1997). On its surface these data could allow the presence of vegetation. In terms of the vegetation in the place, they have an abundance of 2CO and inexhaustible amounts of water. As for the craters inside which vegetation is probably visible, from a topographical point of view their height above the ground varies between 1-2 km and it should be taken into account that the atmospheric pressure at the bottom of them is greater than outside them, which may encourage the development of vegetation in these places.

If the vegetation is indeed concentrated in certain areas on Mars, a conclusion is required that as a result of its oxygen emissions, during their flowering season the concentration of this gas in these places is higher than the global average for Mars.
An important fact that must be considered is that the density of the atmosphere changes from season to season as a result of the shrinkage or expansion of the South Pole ice cap. In the summer the atmosphere is richer in CO2 and in the winter the atmosphere loses this gas (Mazar: 200112:) and from this we can conclude that with the coming of winter, when the CO2 condenses and reaches To the ground as ice, the vegetation loses the source of gas essential for its existence and it withers. With the arrival of summer, with the increase in the concentration of gas in the atmosphere, it begins to bloom again. At the same time, the oxygen concentration in these areas rises and falls accordingly.

Since the day of Mars is equal to that of the Earth, it is likely that the daily biological clock of the Martian vegetation is also similar to that of the Earth, but due to the greater distance of the planet from the Sun, the amount of heat it receives from the Sun is smaller. The solar constant of the Earth is 1353 watts/km583 and that of Mars is 0.43 watts/kmXNUMX. That is, the solar constant of Mars is XNUMX% of that of the Earth
Oliver1984:13)) A more efficient utilization of sunlight for photosynthetic processes will require a large surface area to absorb a greater amount of sunlight or in the process of evolution unique mechanisms have developed that allow
more effective utilization of this energy.

Since her plants are fed by various salts and elements such as nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, calcium and potassium which are essential for the continuation
Its development and these it achieves through the roots that suck them from the ground, one can assume that in the areas
These, under the ground are the salts either as crystals or as solutions in the underground water. It will therefore be possible to find high concentrations of the aforementioned elements in these places.

A good way to test this model is to land spacecraft in the same places where these formations have been observed. These spacecraft will be equipped with automatic biological laboratories similar to the Viking spacecraft and will also take close-up photos. The spacecraft will collect these samples using robotic arms and bring them into the laboratories for testing. If the results are positive, it will be one of the most important breakthroughs made so far in space exploration.

* The article was published in the journal "Astronomy" of the Israeli Astronomical Society, winter 2002.


1. Ben Bova - Discoveries in the Outer Space Published by Am Oved 1975 206 p.

2. Mazar H.-"Ghosts in planets and moons" Astronomy Fall 2001 volume 27 no. 3 p. 8-14


4 Mercury January-February. .” Radiation in the Solar System" -Oliver B. M

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5. Manson A-Mars and the development of life John Wiley and Sons 2nd Edition 1997

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