Mars Facts

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Mars was Formed Approximately 4.6 Billion Years Ago

Mars facts reveal that Mars was formed about 4.6 billion years ago through the accumulation of dust and debris cast off from a large rotating disk of gases that once surrounded the Sun. The dust and debris bonded together to create small objects that continued to build and grow as they collided and merged with more and more objects over the course of several million years before eventually breaking apart and forming the planet Mars. It is believed that the distinctive layers of the planet – the outer crust, inner mantle, and center core – were created from the extensive heat and energy generated by the impact of colliding objects, and that the Martian atmosphere was created from gases released from the planet’s interior when it began to cool.

The Discovery of Mars Cannot be Credited to a Single Individual

Mars has been visible to the naked eye for centuries and has therefore been observed by countless peoples from earth’s earliest civilizations. For that reason, no single individual has been credited with its discovery. Mars facts tell us that the Ancient Egyptians were among the first to record the existence of Mars in 1534 BCE. Scientific observation of Mars began in the mid-1500s, when Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe produced the first accurate calculations of Mars’ position in the solar system without the benefit of a telescope. Brahe was followed by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who among the first to observe Mars through a telescope in 1610, and German scientist Johannes Kepler, whose Planetary Laws of Motion provided the first scientific evidence to support the claim of Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus that the planets revolved around the Sun rather than the Earth.

Mars is the 4th Largest Planet in the Solar System

Mars is the fourth largest planet in the Solar System and the fourth planet in distance from the Sun. It is located approximately 142 million miles (228 million km) from the Sun and takes 24 hours and 37 minutes to complete one orbit, making a day on Mars slightly longer than a day on Earth. Mars facts reveal that the atmosphere of Mars is thin and dusty, comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide, and is very cold, with an average temperature of -80°Fahrenheit. Mars has no water – as far as we know, anyway – with the exception of the ice on the polar ice caps at the North and South Poles. Mars is one of the easiest planets to see in the night sky due to its rusty reddish tint, which is caused by the presence of large amounts of iron oxide in the dust on its surface.

Mars is Composed Primarily of Rocks and Metals

Mars facts tell us that the physical body of Mars consists of an outer crust, inner mantle, and center core that are composed mainly of silicate rocks and metals. The outer crust consists primarily of basalt, a type of volcanic rock leftover from the planet’s early years, and a rusty-colored iron-rich dust that gives the planet its red tint. The inner mantle is made up of a soft concentration of silicate rocks and minerals, while the center core is composed of a solid mass of iron, nickel, and sulfur that does not move. This solid, unmoving core is the reason Mars does not have a magnetic field, which leaves it vulnerable to the constant exposure of radiation. The Mars atmosphere is very thin and dusty. Composed primarily of carbon dioxide, it contains trace amounts of argon, nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon monoxide and supports temperatures that range from -284°Fahrenheit to 86°Fahrenheit (-140°Celsius to 30°Celsius).

The Temperature on Mars Can Drop as Low as -225°F (-153°C) during Winter

Mars facts show that the climate on Mars is very cold. The planet experiences an average temperature of -80°F (-140°C) and lows of -225°F (-153°C) at the poles during winter. The cold temperatures are due primarily to the planet’s distance from the Sun and the thin atmosphere, which is caused by the planet’s inability to generate sufficient gravity to retain the necessary gases for producing and retaining heat. Without sufficient gravity, critical gases are lost into space by the constant forces of wind and radiation that batter the planet, leaving it with a cold, thin atmosphere that is inhospitable to human life.

Mars is Known as the Red Planet

Mars is known as the “Red Planet” due to its reddish glow in the night sky. Mars facts reveal that this reddish tint is caused by the high content of iron oxide (essentially rust) that is prevalent in the powder-like dust that covers the planet’s surface. Scientists believe the red dust was initially formed millions of years ago when the environment on Mars was wet and warm, and speculate that it may now be caused by superoxidation, a process by which rust would be created through the exposure of iron oxide to ultraviolet light. Mars has long been associated with war and destruction. It is presumed that early Roman astronomers were prompted to name it after their Roman god of war due to the association of its reddish color with the bloodshed of war.

Mars has 2 Moons Named for the Mythical Sons of Ares

Mars has two small moons that were discovered in 1877 by Asaph Hall, an American astronomer who named them Phobos and Deimos after the mythical sons of Ares, the Greek god of war. Mars facts reveal that Phobos is the innermost and larger of the two, rotating just 5,826 miles out from the surface of Mars and measuring approximately 14 miles in diameter. Deimos is approximately nine miles in diameter and rotates more than twice the distance from Mars as Phobos. Their small irregular shapes and gray surface color have prompted some scientists to speculate that they may have once been asteroids that were captured by the gravity of Mars.

Mars is One of Four Terrestrial Planets in the Solar System

Mars is classified as a terrestrial planet, which means it is composed primarily of rocks and metals and has a hard surface, much like that of Earth. There are four terrestrial planets in the solar system – Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. Mars facts reveal that terrestrial planets are also known as “inner planets” because they are closest to the Sun. They are smaller than the gas planets and share physical characteristics such as mountains, valleys, craters, and volcanoes. Terrestrial planets are different from gas planets in that they have a hard, solid surface and thin atmosphere, as opposed to the undefined surface and dense atmospheres of the gas giants.

Mars Does Not Have Rings at Present, but Scientists Predict it Will in the Future

According to scientists, planets need a strong gravitational field in order to develop rings. Mars facts tell us that while Mars does have a gravitation field, it is not strong enough to accommodate the formation of rings. Rings are formed when objects enter a planet’s gravity and break apart due to the force of the planet’s rotation. The debris from the breakup then forms into a ring that falls into an orbital pattern around the planet.

Although Mars does not have rings at present, scientists predict it will have rings one day in the future. Mars facts show that Phobus, the larger of Mars’ two moons, is rotating closer and closer to the surface of the planet, leading scientists to predict a collision or breakup sometime within the next 50 million years. When this happens, Phobus is expected to disintegrate into pieces and form a rocky ring that is predicted to orbit the planet for an indeterminate amount of time before falling back to the surface.

Mars is More like Earth than Any Other Planet in the Solar System

Mars and Earth share many similar characteristics. Mars facts reveal that both are terrestrial planets, meaning they are made up primarily of rock and metal, and both have about the same amount of surface area made up of mountains, valleys, canyons, volcanoes, and large polar ice caps. Like Earth, Mars tilts on its axis at an angle away from the Sun, which causes it to have four distinct seasons that produce wind, clouds, fog, dust storms, and occasional frosts. Due to its distance from the sun, a day on Mars is a little longer than a day on Earth, at 24 hours and 37 minutes.

Mars is Home to the Largest Volcano in the Solar System

Mars facts reveal that Mars is home to Olympus Mons, the largest and highest mountain and volcano in the solar system. At 16 miles (25 kilometers) high and approximately 374 miles (624 kilometers) in diameter, it is three times as high as Mount Everest and about the size of the state of Arizona. Located in the Western Hemisphere of Mars, Olympus Mons has been visible to astronomers since the early 19th century. It is estimated to be about 100 times the size of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on earth, which is located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Dust Storms on Mars Can Blanket the Entire Planet in Just a Few Days

Mars is home to the largest dust storms in the solar system. Some can last for months at a time, covering the entire planet in a thick coating of dust in just a few days. Mars facts tell us that dust storms on Mars are powered by the Sun, which heats the atmosphere, causing the air to move, lifting the ever-present dust that covers the surface of the planet. Mars is more vulnerable to dust storms during the summer months, when the planet experiences greater variations in temperature. Many of the dust storms on Mars originate from Hellas Basin, a deep impact crater that is roughly the same size as the Caribbean Sea. The lack of sunshine during dust storms is of particular concern to scientists, who rely on it to power the Martian rovers they have exploring the planet.

The Gravity on Mars is 62% Lower than the Gravity on Earth

Mars facts tell us that gravity on Mars is about 62% lower than gravity than Earth due to differences in mass, density, and radius. Even though both planets have about the same surface area, Mars is only half the diameter of Earth and has less density. This difference in gravitational force is of primary concern to scientists, who are interested in learning how long-term exposure to low gravity affects the muscle mass and muscle performance of astronauts. A recent study conducted on International Space Station astronauts showed that during missions lasting four to six months, astronauts experienced a loss of up to 15% of their muscle mass and 30% of their muscle performance. Learning how to cope with health and performance related issues related to changes in gravity is one of the biggest hurdles NASA faces in sending astronauts to Mars.

The Mars Valles Marineris Canyon Would Stretch from the East to West Coast of the U.S.

Mars is home to the largest canyon in the solar system. Known as Valles Marineris, the canyon extends for 2,500 miles along the Martian equator and reaches a depth of up to six miles. If it were located in the U.S., it would stretch across the entire country, from the East Coast to the West, and would dwarf the Grand Canyon, which is 227 miles (446 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) deep. The canyon is named in honor of Mariner 9, the NASA orbiter that discovered it in 1971 during the first ever orbit of the planet.

It Takes Approximately 16 Months to Travel to Mars and Back

A trip to Mars and back can take anywhere from 150 to 300 days, depending on the alignment of Earth and Mars, the velocity of the launch, and the distance the spacecraft has to travel based on the position of the planets. Missions to Mars are generally scheduled during what is known as Mars Close Approach, which refers to the point in time when the two planets come closest to each other in their orbit around the Sun. Planning a trip to Mars is far more complicated than most people realize. Factors mission planners must consider include the motion of the planets, their individual distances from the Sun, and how long the spacecraft will have to wait before the planets are once again aligned for an optimal return trip to Earth.

Mars is Visible from Earth with the Naked Eye

Mars is one of five planets in the solar system that can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It is one of the easiest planets to find due to its distinctive red tint and the brightness and steadiness of its light. Mars and other planets can be distinguished from stars by observing certain characteristics of their appearance. Stars will appear as small pinpoints in the sky and will seem to twinkle due to turbulence in the atmosphere, while planets will have a more substantial appearance with a solid, steady light. Mars facts reveal that Mars is only visible during certain months of the year when its orbit brings it closer to the Earth. During that time, it can often be seen about an hour after sunset in the east-southeast portion of the sky, where its size and brightness will vary according to its relative position to Earth.

Mars Experiences 4 Distinct Seasons, Much Like Earth

Mars experiences four distinct seasons similar to those we experience on Earth, but with some key differences. Due to the tilt of its axis, Earth’s orbit is almost completely circular, causing it to travel at a steady speed and with little variance in distance from the Sun. For this reason, seasons on Earth are relatively short and about the same length as each other. By contrast, seasons on Mars are longer and affect far greater seasonal change, due to the effects of the planet’s elliptical orbit, which causes it to travel at varying distances and speeds during its orbit around the Sun. Regardless of the season, the climate on Mars is always very cold. Even in summer, when daytime temperatures may reach as high as 70°F (21°C), nighttime temperatures can still drop as low as -100°F (-73°C) – very cold, indeed!

Scientists Believe There Might Once Have Been Life on Mars

Although Mars today is cold, dry, and barren, scientists say it wasn’t always that way. Researchers reveal that recent analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows credible evidence that Mars once featured a wet environment that could have supported living organisms. They are convinced Mars was once home to a vast ocean that covered more than one-fifth of the planet, but believe this was lost as the atmosphere thinned, causing a drop in pressure that allowed it to drift off into space over time. The thinning atmosphere resulted in lower temperatures, as well, rendering the planet unable to sustain water in a liquid form.

Today, with an average temperature of -67°Fahrenheit (-55°Celsius), the only water remaining on Mars exists in the frozen state at the polar ice caps. Mars facts reveal that when the temperature on Mars does rise above average, the low atmospheric pressure eliminates any chance of water by turning the ice directly into a gas and omitting the liquid stage entirely. Scientists haven’t ruled out the possibility that life does exist on Mars today, speculating that any life forms would have to exist beneath the planet’s surface in a shielded water source largely untouched by the harshness of the planet’s environment.

Sunsets on Mars are Blue

NASA’s Curiosity rover recently recorded a startling image of a deep blue sunset on Mars. Scientists say the blue sunset is caused by dust particles in the Martian atmosphere that allow blue light to penetrate more readily than red, yellow, and other colors with longer wavelengths. The deeper blue of the sky on Mars, as compared to the light blue sky on Earth, is due to the lesser amount of sunlight received on Mars as a result of its greater distance from the Sun.

Current Mars Inhabitants Include the Mars Opportunity and Mars Curiosity Rovers

Mars is currently home to Mars Exploration and Science Laboratory rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity. Opportunity has traveled more than 26 miles over the past 11 years in its trek across the Martian terrain. Opportunity’s accomplishments include the discovery of the first meteorite ever found on another planet and the discovery of smectites, a type of hydrothermally altered clay mineral that forms in the presence of water, the most conclusive evidence yet that Mars once had water. Recent data from Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, reveals the discovery of an ancient streambed in exposed bedrock that may have once held knee-deep water, and the possibility of liquid water located just below the surface of the Gale Crater.

Mars Facts – Facts about Planet Mars Summary

Mars FactsMars is one of four terrestrial planets, and is the fourth planet from the Sun. It is known as the “Red Planet” due to the reddish tint caused by the iron oxide in its iron-rich soil. The surface of Mars is rocky and barren, with physical characteristics that include mountains, valleys, and craters. The atmosphere is cold and dry, composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide, and produces temperatures as low as -225°F (-153°F), making it inhospitable for human life. Mars is easily recognizable in the night sky due to the brightness of its rich red hue.

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