Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

May 28, 1997
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

Mars: Just The Fiction
Credit: The Viking Project, NASA

Explanation: For centuries, astronomers have observed Mars, patiently compiling many facts and theories. Like a distant mirror of Earth dwellers' hopes and fears for the future, Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, has inspired profound works of fiction as well. Classics of the science fiction genre with visions of Earth's alluring planetary neighbor include H.G. Wells' terrifying "War of the Worlds", Edgar Rice Buroughs' John Carter adventure series (Thuvia, Maid of Mars, The Gods of Mars, A Princess of Mars, The Warlord of Mars), Robert Heinlein's youthful "Podkayne of Mars", and Ray Bradbury's reflective and philosophical "The Martian Chronicles". Through the years scientific theories about Mars have been disproven, but the sense of wonder and adventure embodied in these works of fiction remain with us. As two spacecraft from Earth now draw close to the red planet- in dreams, desires, and a quest for knowledge - we are once again bound for Mars.

Tomorrow's picture: Southern Neptune

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.