Mars is an intriguing planet to draw because of its diversity. While lacking oceans, it boasts the Valles Marineris Canyon and hosts the highest mountain in our Solar System – both iconic features that add character and variety.
Astronomical artists have long been drawn to our planet’s breathtaking terrain, which they have depicted through stunning drawings long before spacecraft ever reached Earth. Here are a few such inspiring drawings.
1. The Red Planet
Mars’ distinctive red hue comes from iron-rich minerals in its surface dust known as regolith that have gradually been exposed to air for billions of years, giving the planet its characteristic blood-red hue.
Mars experiences some of the harshest climate conditions in our Solar System due to its elliptical orbit around the Sun which creates short summers and long cold winters.
2. Mars in Space
Mars is one of the closest planets to Earth. Its orbit strays slightly outside Earth’s, making it possible for astronomers to study both its solid surface and atmospheric phenomena with relative ease.
Since 1965 when NASA conducted its initial successful flyby of Mars, space agencies have sent many probes into orbit around it to gather vital data about its terrain such as volcanoes and canyons.
Mars features polar ice caps that form when water vapor from its atmosphere freezes into thin layers that mix with dust picked up by wind, before melting away to leave great deserts behind it. At its poles, much of this trapped moisture forms permafrost; scientists speculate that water once flowed on Mars’s surface.
3. The Martian Landscape
Mars’ geology has left a profound mark on its landscape. Giant volcanoes, canyons and impact basins formed one to three billion years ago are still visible today.
Southern hemisphere terrain resembles that found on Mercury or the Moon; by contrast, northern low plains exhibit relatively smooth surfaces modified by both wind erosion and eolian processes.
Large circular basins similar to those seen on the Moon or Mercury’s multiring basins are prominent features of this region. While some basins may remain indistinct on a colorized shaded relief map (Figure 6.1), most can easily be detected.
4. The Martian Sky
Mars offers many breathtaking features, from its vibrant red surface to icy moons that can be easily observed using a telescope and some essential accessories.
Mars’ distinctive sky color results from microscopic particles scattered throughout its atmosphere scattering light differently. Small air molecules and dust tend to scatter blue light; with larger dust particles more likely to disperse red hues.
Due to this factor, Martian skies vary dramatically in brightness at various times of year – prompting stargazers to first notice that Mars revolved around its sun.
5. The Martian Desert
Mars is a stark desert world with only a thin atmosphere; yet its landscape offers many otherworldly qualities.
One of Mars’ most striking features are its dunes, which resemble those on Earth. Orbiters have captured images of them all over its surface – even near its poles!
Scientists have observed dune fields as evidence of past floods on Mars’ surface. Due to the planet’s extreme cold and thin atmosphere, liquid water cannot exist on it for very long.
Orbiters have discovered that some of the dry river channels on Mars’ surface were formed by glaciers in ancient Mars. According to scientists, enough water from these glaciers may have filled these channels over a 100 miles wide and 1,200 miles (2,000 km long.). They found some channels over 60 miles wide and 1,200 miles long!
6. The Martian Skyline
Mars is an extraordinary planet that orbits around only one star, yet boasts its own distinct skyline.
If you were ever lucky enough to visit Mars, it would be an unforgettable sight. The red planet would blaze with light from both its sun and moons; while above you, stars in the Milky Way glistened brightly overhead.
At dusk on Mars, the skies take on an amber hue due to the presence of iron oxide particles that scatter light similarly to how Rayleigh scattering does here on Earth.
Social media users have recently claimed that NASA’s Curiosity rover captured an image showing Earth, Venus and Jupiter lined up along Mars’ skyline. Unfortunately, this claim is likely false and could even have been created digitally.
7. The Martian Sea
One of the most striking features of Mars is its massive ocean, which once covered half of its northern hemisphere. Researchers speculate that this vast body of water – some parts a mile deep in places – provided an ideal environment for ancient life on Mars.
Penn State and NASA researchers recently unveiled topographic maps in a joint paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets that offer new environmental evidence of an ocean-sized body of water on Mars’ low-lying northern hemisphere three billion years ago, consistent with an extended warm and wet climate. Furthermore, these topographic maps offer strong evidence for sea-level rise consistent with an extended warm and wet period on its planet.
8. The Martian Mountains
Mars boasts some of the largest mountains in our solar system, including Olympus Mons which stands 16 miles tall – three times taller than Mount Everest!
Tharsis, an expansive volcanic province spanning nearly 3,000 miles on Mars, hosts four major shield volcanoes that make up its topography.
Mars boasts mountain ranges similar to Earth’s Himalayas and Rocky Mountains – short but nonetheless spectacular!
As with the Moon, Mars displays many volcanoes and rift valleys which serve as indicators of its past history and may suggest water once flowed on this planet.
9. The Martian Landscape
The Red Planet boasts a unique terrain. From densely cratered ancient highlands in the southern hemisphere to sparsely cratered younger plains in its northern regions.
Mars’ surface features a diverse combination of impact craters, carbon dioxide and water ice polar caps, intercrater plains, old shield volcanoes, and scattered mountain ranges. Mars has experienced major geologic events like meteorite bombardment over millions of years as well as climate shifts over its lifetime.
Early in Mars’ history, its atmosphere was warmer and thicker, permitting liquid water to flow across its surface and collect in rivers, small seas or lakes. Later as temperatures decreased, however, water became trapped in polar caps or groundwater sources, only being released again through large floods.
10. The Martian Sky
Mars has long been the subject of great curiosity since Galileo discovered it in 1610. Centuries of observations by telescope and spacecraft have revealed many features about Mars such as clouds, winds, four seasons, polar ice caps and volcanoes.
HiRISE, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter camera, makes clear that Mars is alive with activity. Sand dunes whirl and dust devils roll across its sun-warmed equator while water vapor rises from hidden ice deposits found in mid-latitude craters.
Percival Lowell and William Herschel both believed they had seen canals on Earth that could transport water from its polar ice caps, only for these sightings to later prove to be optical illusions.