It’s a city! It’s a state! It’s a country! No — it’s a planet! Breaking with tradition, Oxford University Press has selected Mars as the Place of the Year 2012.
Mars, visible in the night sky to the naked eye, has fascinated and intrigued for centuries but only in the past 50 years has space exploration allowed scientists to better understand the Red Planet. On 6 August 2012, NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed on Mars’ Gale Crater, and by transmitting its findings back to Earth, Curiosity has made Mars a little a less alien. Among many other accomplishments, Curiosity has swallowed Martian soil and discovered an ancient stream bed. Today, NASA is expected to make a possibly mars-shattering announcement at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
With an eye to the future of scientific discovery, Oxford University Press has chosen Mars in celebration of the place that has kept Earthlings excited and engaged this year. Your votes, combined with the votes of OUP employees, and the opinion of our expert Atlas of the World committee, easily led to Mars’s victory, outperforming Syria, London, Calabasas (California, USA), Greece, Istanbul, CERN, Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Artic Circle, and Myanmar/Burma.
Here are some of the many reasons why we’re so excited about Mars:
- While scientists have been mapping Mars from afar since the 19th century, it still represents the new and unknown — the fascination of cartographers and atlas-makers.
- Space exploration! Astrophysics! Astronomy! Geophysics! Astrobiology! There’s much to know about the universe and Earth’s place in it, and Mars is just one fascinating piece in the puzzle.
- Mars is home to the highest peak in the Solar System (Olympus Mons), but no life forms (as far as we know).
- Space exploration poses problems for traditional international diplomacy. The Outer Space Treaty is only the beginning of a complex legal framework.
- Although named after the Roman god of war, Mars acts as a muse to some of the great writers and artists, including H.G. Wells and David Bowie.
- Did Mars Curiosity steal your iPod? Curiosity wakes up to these tracks and premiered will.i.am’s Reach for the Stars by beaming the song back to earth. Even Britney Spears wants to know more.
- Mars continues to inspire new generations to study, to dream, and to stay curious.
Oxford’s Atlas of the World — the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The Nineteenth Edition includes new census information, dozens of city maps, gorgeous satellite images of Earth, and a geographical glossary, once again offering exceptional value at a reasonable price.