Magnificent Mars (Hardcover)

By Ken Croswell

Free Press, 9780743226011, 224pp.

Publication Date: October 21, 2003



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.

Praise For Magnificent Mars

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.

Dr. Owen Gingerich Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 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.

Dr. Michael H. Carr U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, and author of The Surface of Mars and Water on Mars 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 riverbeds 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.

Dr. Robert Zubrin author of The Case for Mars and president of the Mars Society 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.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson astrophysicist and director, Hayden Planetarium, New York City 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.

Dr. Robert Jastrow director (retired) of the Mount Wilson Institute 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.

Keay Davidson author of Carl Sagan: A Life 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.

Marina Benjamin author of Rocket Dreams 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.