1. Where is Mars?
Mars is the fourth Planet from the Sun, after Mercury, Venus, and Earth. Mars is about 141,600,000 miles away from the Sun. The closest Mars has gotten to Earth was about 35 million miles away. However, it is usually 140 million miles away from the Earth.
2. The Red Planet
Mars is known as the red planet, because the surface appears red. The surface contains iron oxide, which gives off its red color. Iron oxide can also be found in rust and blood, which is why they are also red.
Mars is the second smallest planet, with the smallest being Mercury. The radius of Mars is about half that of Earth, giving it only about 25% the surface area of Earth. The Pacific Ocean actually has more surface area than the whole planet of Mars. However, because Mars is a desert planet, it has about the same amount of land as the earth, since the Earth is 75% water.
Mars is named after the Roman God of War. Many ancient societies, such as the Samaritans and Indians, associated Mars with their own Gods of War. It is believed this is because of the red coloring, which ancient colors believed to be blood.
Mars has two moons. Their names are Phobos and Deimos. Both moons are small and do not appear as perfect circles like our moon does. Phobos orbits so close to Earth that it will eventually be torn apart by Mars’ gravity, and the debris will fall to Mars.
The surface of Mars is covered in red dust and rock. The dust is very thin. Under the dust lies soil, containing nutrients like sodium, potassium, and chloride. The crust is believed to be about 30 miles deep, and in one piece. This means there are no plates moving in the crust like there are on earth. Under the crust is dormant mantle made up of silicon, oxygen, iron, and magnesium. Scientists believe the Mantle has a texture like paste. Finally, the core is made of iron, nickel, and sulfur. Because the core doesn’t move, Mars has no magnetic field.
The atmosphere on Mars is about 95% carbon dioxide, making it too think to support life. There is also about 3% nitrogen, 1% Argon, and less than 1% each of Oxygen and Carbon Monoxide. The average temperature is about -80 degrees F, but it can get as cold as -195 degrees F. Because it is so cold, water can’t exist in liquid form. Ice has been found however, at the polar caps and beneath the surface.
8. Days and Years
One day on Mars, meaning the time Mars takes to turn in 1 circle, is 1 day and 40 minutes on Earth. One year on Mars, which is the time Mars takes to circle the sun, is 687 Earth days. This is 1.88 Earth years. Because of the difference, Mars seasons last different lengths. Summer is about 6 months long, with Fall lasting 5 months, Winter lasting 3 months, and Spring lasting 7 months.
9. Geological Features
Mars has some of the most interesting geological features in the Solar System. These include Olympus Mons and the Valles Marineris canyon. Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain in the entire Solar System. The Valles Marineries canyon is the longest and deepest canyon in the Solar System.
While no humans have been to Mars yet, we are trying. We have sent orbiters to orbit Mars, and rovers that travel on the surface. These have given us pictures of Mars and have allowed us to study the planet from here. Mars is the most studied planet besides our own.
Learn more with these Mars websites.