More than any other planet beyond Earth, more than any other heavenly body discovered since the rapid expansion of telescopes, Mars has made a multi-millennia-long career out of taunting humanity. Named for the Roman god of war, Mars is usually visible to the naked eye as a red, flickering pinhole in the night sky. But with only a beginner’s telescope, the many contours and colors of the Martian landscape become clear, and a bizarre and intriguing world lays waiting to be discovered.
Mars is often called the red planet due to its blood-red appearance to the naked eye. But one look through the telescope shows that in fact Mars is rusty orange-brown, streaked with long, jagged black lines and capped on both ends with swirls of pure white. Mars is literally rusted over with iron oxide, but recent meddling by Mars probes has uncovered interiors of a much brighter and more colorful nature.
Mars naturally reveals its dark soil as an endless swarm of dust devils scribbles all over the face of the planet, creating aimless, almost smoky trails. A close look reveals spirograph swirls in the paths of the dust devils. After their activity dies down, the wind sweeps new dunes into the rust and soil, making the darkness of the swirls appear uniform with the top layer of orange rust.
The Abalos Undae dune field’s cobalt color is due to its basaltic composition, while the areas with red and white are probably collections of dust. Located in the icy lands before the northern ice cap, it is believed that the dunes were formed partially by melting ice. Though uncertain, it would appear that the dunes are frozen in place, with only the loose sands on top migrating with the wind.