The Science & The Martians

There are 3 areas of scientific concern here:

Laser Light: How Much Hits Mars?
Using mainly a 1W red laser & 1-5W blue lasers, with Mars at 40 deg alt in the sky, we were able to rain 7-10 Quadrillion photons per second down onto the surface of Mars. This was @ 2020 opposition of Mars (close approach). That’s > 4.5mW [energy-intensity in joules per sec] hitting Mars. So maximum 300 Million photons are smashing into Mars per Sq Km per sec ( [‘effective’ surface area’].
Physical/Chemical Effect On Mars
When scientists consider the future ‘terraforming’ of Mars, a major consideration is the early need to generate a useful atmosphere. Mass CO2 sublimation from the poles is described as a means to effect a greenhouse effect – which may help generate an atmosphere and allow surface water. Well, on a very small scale, our laser photons are liberating CO2 into the Martian atmosphere.
Biological effect On Mars
Scientists still believe there might be very primitive life on Mars. If there is, it is probably photosynthetic, and it might just prefer blue/red laser light to sunlight. Our laser light may, to a tiny extent, also encourage growth of ‘dark plants’ which could enhance any greenhouse effect, plus produce O2. It is also thought that high energy blue-UV light probably first sparked life on Earth.

We used this equation for air mass [Earth]:

air mass calculation

Direct incident sunlight intensity (approx):

Id =Io x 0.7^(AM^0.678 )

Whilst this can also be used to provide approximation for our direct laser light intensity leaving the Earth’s atmosphere., we must acknowledge that it rather under-estimates the intensity of red photons and significantly over estimates the intensity of blue photons (shorter WL blue light is affected much more by Rayleigh scattering).


1-5W strong blue lasers:
<3mm initial beam diameter; divergence 1.5-2.5 mRad, wavelengths 450nm

1W strong red laser (the most used):
<3mm initial beam diameter; divergence 1.5mRad, wavelength 650 nm

100mW red ‘nano’ laser:
<4mm initial beam diameter; divergence <0.5mRad, wavelength 650nm


Calculate energy of a photon:

photon energy




Blue photon = 4.4 x 10-19 J in energy

Red photon = 3 x 10-19 J in energy

Mars effective Surface area (disc):

SA = π r2

So can 300 blue photons per sq m/s actually liberate CO2 from surface into atmosphere? Yes, they carry sufficient energy (see below). They affect spin/heat of surface atoms and molecules – including H2O ice and may create reactive CO2 radicals.
Can these photons provide energy to any photosynthetic life? Absolutely, it is a very efficient process of energy transfer.
Could it break chemical bonds and start life?… possibly (blue photons)!
Is it measurable? Impacting photons could be detected. A difference in intensity (when laser applied) might be measurable within the dark region (during a Mars gibbous phase). The resultant effect is too small to measure now.


We believe that our project here (‘The Martians’) is an honourable one with ethical goals. In order that others may scrutinize our practice, we must maintain transparency in all that we do. Within this website, we make assertions about the science and legal aspects of ‘The Martians’ project. When this applies to the use of strong laser applications to Mars (in order to create a ‘factual possession’ of land on Mars), we know you couldn’t possibly just take our word for it. So we have sought out some of the World’s most respected subject matter experts (PhD astrophysicists and Professors of International Law) in order to gain independent critique – by way of written/published reports.

See the website’s Legal section to interrogate the independent legal reports.

W.R.T the science, we engaged with several world-elite professors of astrophysics. Some (such as Professor Ben Moore, Zurich) gave brief but valuable critique by email…. but we commissioned the increasingly prominent US astrophysicist, Dr Paul Sutter (Professor, Stonybrook Uni and Flatiron Institute, NYC) to produce a formal report. Paul is also a regular expert presenter on Discovery & Science channels as well as the Weather Channel.

If you scroll down towards the bottom of this page you can see excerpts from his report and links to his calculations (he used Jupyter Notebook).  In short, his calculations supported our calculations of intensity of impacting (Mars) red laser photons (the 1W red laser is our ‘workhorse’ – for blue laser we had made a slight over-estimation.  His optimal figure of 300 photons/m^2/s did agree with our optimal (at closest approach) estimate for red laser intensity @ Mars.

He was happy with the laser being aligned to a telescope with auto-tracking mount (so Earth’s constant rotation is accounted for). He was happy with our very minimal targeting adjustments for Mars velocity. He was happy with our assumption that light reciprocity could be reasonably assumed above very low angles. The divergence of the laser beam does allow for such approximation.

All the astrophysicists, including Professor Ben Moore and Professor Paul Sutter, did agree that 300 photons per square meter per second would have a very tiny effect (in terms of amount of CO2 liberated into the atmosphere). They say that such a small effect would currently be too small to measure.

We think it is fair to state that most of these scientists were surprised to learn that independent legal experts suggest that this persistent, repeated application of lasers to Mars (causing only trivial physical effect) could be considered sufficient to represent an early form of factual possession (a little more that just symbolism, and perhaps enough for ‘provisional’ inchoate title = a provisional legal foothold). See our Legal section.


So, why did we pick Mars and lasers in order to initiate celestial land possession and also provoke an update to space laws?…

  1. We think the space laws need updated, mainly to keep us all safe from aggressive weaponization (the existing law, Outer Space Treaty, is losing strength/support and was not strong enough to begin with).
  2. It has been proposed that there might be enough frozen Carbon dioxide (CO2) on/in/under the surface of Mars to cause an atmospheric greenhouse effect if it were liberated (by sublimation into the atmosphere). It is proposed that this might generate a sufficient atmosphere (non breathable, at least initially) to allow easier/safer habitation and astronaut wearables (no pressure suits), perhaps small lakes of surface water (in summer) and maybe support the growth of O2 producing cyanobacteria. Now in truth, there may not be enough CO2 for all this to happen … but that is still uncertain … and it might still be part of a terra-forming solution.  See Elon Musk’s suggestion that we could “NUKE” the Martian poles to do this “the fast way.”
  3. Strong laser light (targeting Mars from Earth) will liberate some extra C02 (on a large scale this is termed ‘sublimation’) into the Martian atmosphere.  Each blue photon carries >10 times the energy (red photons = 7 times) required to liberate one molecule of CO2 (the enthalpy of CO2 sublimation (at -78deg, 1atm) is 25.2 KJ/mol = 4.2 x 10-20J per molecule). Note that Mars has less that 0.01 of Earth’s atm pressure; and a blue photon carries 4.4 x 10-19 J in energy (red photons = approx 3 x 10-19 J).  * See the P/T graph below  *
  4. Such an action is physically trivial but is in keeping with the acceptable criteria required to prove early ‘factual possession’ of barren land (see international law and private law for case-law examples). Mars may be of high strategic importance (and is, of course, celestial), but it is pretty barren land and existing international law does apply to space. This action (laser applications over 12 years+), together with our strategic/legal/governance plans for the Martian land, does mean that we can correctly claim to be in early “de-facto possession” of the land on Mars. This is supported by independent legal experts. Please visit our legal pages to read more on this matter (including the legal reports) … and to see how the full realization of our Mars Land Claim will lead to a timely update to space laws (to help space commerce, keep us safe from weapons and manage debris).

With regard to the use of these lasers:

Earth’s air mass is a significant impediment, especially when Mars is “low in the sky”. Refraction also becomes a significant issue at low angles (more of that further below!) Below 10 deg alt the calculations become unreliable. So we try to laser Mars when it is well above this angle.

The equation used does not discriminate between different wavelengths (hence colors) of light. The air mass (molecules) scatters more blue light photons than longer wavelength red photons (hence blue skies and orange-red sunsets). At low angles (laser light must travel further through air mass) This “Rayleigh Scattering” is significant at low altitudes, hence we routinely deploy powerful red lasers (100mW and 1W) if the target planet is <30deg in the sky.  Above this angle we routinely employ both the 1W red laser and strong blue lasers (1W-2W-3.5W).  The blue lasers are used mostly when spectacular visibility is required – video/photos for interested media outlets. Overall, we have applied most laser applications to Mars when it was/is > 20 degrees elevation. So the estimate of 7-10 Quadrillion photons per second smashing into Mars is an average approximation when using red or blue lasers (slight under-estimate for red and over estimate for blue).

Because of this issue, from 2017 until early 2019 we used high energy Infra-red lasers (2W PLE-Pro 808nm IR “JetLaser”) with <2mRad beam divergence) for when Mars was lower in the sky. This required use of a night-vision IR headset (“Yukon Spartan”). Although we could target Mars effectively, avoid light pollution and (less) danger to aircrew, it was a tricky process and difficult to ensure laser protection for the left eye. Nevertheless, we persevered with this whenever Mars was <20deg until sudden laser failure in Feb 2019. Since then we have returned to red and blue visible light lasers (green “EVO” laser only for programmable Morse Code messaging: “we claim peaceful possession of Planet Mars.”

Note: there is minimal Rayleigh scattering on Mars (v sparse atmosphere), but there is some “Mie Scattering” by dust particles. Red light suffers more deflections so our calculations reduce Io for red laser by 33% (so our estimates will be further off the mark during one of Mars’ frequent dust storms).

The best performance to date (calculated) was using the 1W red laser (WL=450nm; divergence = 1.5 mRad) at Mars opposition in 2020. Each Sq Km of the effective surface area of Mars (the presenting disc) was impacted by 300 million photons per second (300 per square meter per second).

Mars moves through space at  nearly 54,000 mph (86,700 kph) so has progressed more than 26000 miles (~43000 km) in 30 minutes. That’s a bit more than 6 times the diameter of Mars. For the purpose of laser targeting, it is the velocity of Mars (speed & direction) which is important. We always check the current orbital position of Mars/Earth. Note that special relativity applies. The velocity of the laser light source (Earths orbital & rotational velocities) does not matter.

Light time from Earth to Mars varies from 3 to 22 minutes.  We don’t do very much laser application once the light time exceeds 17-18 minutes. Over 11+ years we have averaged twice weekly applications during nearly 20 weeks/year (we are also keen astronomers, so do study other celestial objects, without firing a laser!). The laser is precisely aligned to the telescope eyepiece (in daylight, the laser dot is carefully aligned with a small object >1.5km distant). We always keep Mars in the centre of high-power field of view (FOV), but depending on the relevant light time (and Mars velocity), we can very slightly adjust the firing position in anticipation of Mars’ progression. The requirement is minimal/none when Mars is close at opposition (3 minutes light time each way) but we must anticipate Mars movement over 30 minutes when the Earth-Mars light-time is 15 minutes. Although our powerful lasers comprise tightly collimated beams, the inevitable divergence is such that even when Mars is close at opposition, the beam width (depending on ‘beam-divergence’ specs) is 10 to 30 times the diameter of Mars! We should not miss our target. If our laser targeting of Mars is accurate then the number of photons impacting Mars is higher than our average predicted (the beam is not in fact uniform – it is more centrally concentrated).

Next issue: refraction. OK, at the outset we can state this: light follows the principle of Helmholtz reciprocity (or reversibility). It would follow the same path in either direction provided the medium(s) and the wavelength/polarization of light used remains the same… so in such circumstances it re-traces its original path. For the most part, that holds reasonably well for our situation … but there are variations that we must accept – the air medium does not absolutely ‘remain the same.’ Yes, the Earths’ atmosphere is not uniform (incoming light effectively curves evermore to the ‘normal’) plus there is movement/turbulence. Nevertheless, we have assumed that reciprocity/reversibility applies. Also, the refractive index is slightly different for different wavelengths. This differential refraction is termed dispersion (see prisms and rainbows) and is more pronounced at low angles. Blue light is more affected than red, so at low angles Mars may appear to have a blue crown and a red base. In such circumstances it is reasonable for us to aim level with the lower pole of Mars when using a red laser at low altitude .  Refraction is another good reason for us targeting Mars when it is higher in the sky (>20 deg).  Apart from that, refraction does not affect our practical targeting of Mars … other than being another good reason to abandon laser applications when the light time to Mars exceeds 17-18 minutes. Mars varies in apparent diameter from 25 arc-seconds (closest approach) to 3.5 arc seconds. A single arc-second is the size of a US dime (coin) seen from 4 km (2.5 miles)! So ,Earth’s atmospheric changes could lead to significant targeting errors when Mars is especially distant.

So, what happens when powerful laser light reaches the surface of Mars?..

Laser light photons do carry a lot of energy, especially the shorter wavelength blue laser photons. They carry approximately 10 times the energy needed to liberate one molecule of CO2 from surface into atmosphere.  The red photons each carry about 7 times the energy needed.

Vast areas of solid CO2 “dry ice” are found in the polar regions (they recede in the Martian summers, especially in the north), but there are also areas all over the planet which accumulate a frosting of dry ice overnight. It usually sublimates within an hour after dawn, unless in the shade. Lower regions within craters also retain dry ice for longer.  Such CO2 sublimation is a constant dynamic process (our lasers will ‘add a bit more’).  All these dry ice zones (when facing us) are vulnerable to our powerful laser photons. Obviously the resultant effect is physically very small and trivial, but it is definite and represents a tiny but beneficial ‘controlling effect’ upon the geo-atmosphere of Mars. It is not, we assert, legally trivial (based on existing case-law in Public International law and private law). Of course, our opinion on that is not sufficient. We have engaged with several of the worlds most respected legal experts in this matter. Their encouraging reports are linked to within the Legal section of this website.

Note also: some eminent scientists believe that powerful blue-UV photons may have actually sparked life on Earth. Could they do similar for Mars?

For more info on the science base, please go to the science Q&A section of the FAQ page:  FAQs

NOTE: Clearly the most important matter here is the safe and responsible deployment of powerful lasers into the night sky. We have strict standard operating procedures. We strongly advise our growing membership NOT to join in the laser activities. Although this could, arguably, strengthen the claim of factual possession, it brings too much risk. We advise all members to refrain from such actions … instead they must permit the core Mars Register team to safely administer the applicable laser activities on their behalf.

See here for info on this important matter: ‎



*** Expert Appraisal: Professor Dr Paul Sutter PhD (Astrophysics Professor, Stonybrook Uni, NYC, USA):

Prof. Sutter states:

“When a laser photon reaches Mars, many things can happen: it can scatter in the Martian atmosphere, it can simply reflect off the surface, it can be absorbed by rotational or vibrational modes in individual molecules or the lattice of carbon dioxide ice, and so on. Yes, some collection of photons may deliver enough energy to the surface in the right way so that some carbon dioxide breaks away from the surface and float around in the atmosphere (perhaps permanently, perhaps only for a little while).”

“… is there any measurable difference on the surface of Mars (in terms of amounts of carbon dioxide) when the laser is on versus when the laser is off? My guess is no. The ~300 photons/m2 (at best) must compete against a variety of other factors. Natural ones include the Sun itself (the laser will only ever shine on the dayside), starlight (as you mentioned), and thermal radiation/conduction from the Martian surface and atmosphere.”

Dr Davies asks:

” … I asked about H-reciprocity (light reversibility). We assume it applies despite knowing it is an approximation for Earth’s atmosphere (air turbulence is, perhaps, too significant to apply this at low angles). You say it is a one-way operation. Sure, but we are (prior to very slight adjustment for Mars velocity, depending on M-E-M light time) essentially shooting Mars where we see it (i.e. retracing the incoming path). Our aim can only be accurate if reciprocity/reversibility does reasonably apply (so refraction is not factored in). Do you really think it is not a relevant consideration?”

Prof. Sutter replies:

Thank you for clarifying your need for reciprocity; that makes sense. However, given the size of the beam by the time it reaches Mars, there is no need to worry about this.

Dr Davies then asks:

“… you advise that Earth’s rotation covers 0.75 mrad in 10 seconds. This is interesting but I don’t feel we need to consider it, even though we apply the beam for up to 2 minutes constant (then rest one minute and restart, safe skies permitting).  Once I have Mars in centre of FOV (and thus pre-aligned precisely to the laser beam), the telescope auto-tracking mount does a pretty good job of accounting for Earth’s rotation. Mars usually will remain in centre of lower-power FOV. But of course, the further Mars is from Earth, it’s speed & direction (velocity) is important to consider. We do not generally apply laser to Mars when light time M-E-M exceeds 34 mins ( practically, the maximum adjustment we have applied does result in Mars being 5 x Mars-diameters “ahead” in the telescope FOV (still pretty central!)…. and it stays in that position over the duration of laser application.  So ‘…’ I gather that you think that’s “fine.” Correct?”

Prof. Sutter then states:

“Yes, this is fine. My point here was to highlight that the movement of Mars itself is many orders of magnitude smaller than its apparent movement due to the rotation of the Earth.”

Dr Davies asks:

“Mars is in a gibbous phase (<90% illuminated) for 2-6 months either side of close approach. The next quadrature (West) is in late August 2022 (<85% illuminated). Using 1W red laser over the 144M Km we estimated an optimal 15 photons/m^2/s impacting the near margin of the non-illuminated crescent (we accounted for Rayleigh scattering @ Earth, variations in Earth’s atmosphere, Mie/dust scattering @ Mars {Id x 0.66} and the reduced angle of incidence to this crescent {Id x 0.33}).
I don’t ask you (as I didn’t ask the others) to do the math … but, assuming this figure is true, is there a potential near-future capability to detect those 15 red photons/m^2/s arriving on the dark crescent (in addition to red photons from starlight etc.). I gather this may be possible?…”


Prof. Sutter replies:


” … my first 0th-order guess is that no, that few number of photons would not even be detectable on the night side (keep in mind you’re also competing against infrared photons emitted by the surface and atmosphere).”


Links to Prof. Sutter’s calculations:  Zip-file containing Jupyter Notebook calcs  // PDF-Screenshot


And … Professor Ben Moore (University of Zurich):

“i am not a lawyer but i fail to see how shining a light on something gives possession.”


** So, in summation … the astrophysicists find that our assumptions and results are tolerably correct. They agree that perhaps 300 photons per square meter per second are impacting Mars when it is close. They also agree that these impacting photons will have many different effects, including CO2 liberation into the thin Martian atmosphere. Most agree that this effect is too small to measure. Most are surprised to learn that this persistent use of lasers (over 12 years+) may be considered (by world leading expert lawyers) to represent an early factual possession of Mars … a provisional legal foothold on Mars. Click for the Legal pages.


Confidence level in our science base
CO2 sublimation @ surface of Mars
The Martian surface atmospheric pressure is more than 100x less than that on Earth. The temperature ranges -150 to +20 degrees celsius (can be less in some polar areas). Sublimation of solid CO2 “dry ice” into gas is easily triggered. Each impacting photon has sufficient energy to sublimate a molecule of CO2 into the atmosphere. You can see how a slight increase in atm pressure could create “summer stability” for water lakes on Mars.