Mars has had a lot of different spacecraft land on its surface over the years, and it’s been a popular destination for researchers. Here’s a look at what we know about the planet and how we’re going to explore it in the future.
Mars is the Red Planet
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and orbits it once every 687 days. It is a rocky world with many interesting features like canyons, volcanoes and craters.
It has a lot of iron oxide, which makes it look red. NASA says this is because of the iron minerals in its regolith.
This material is made from the loose dust and rock on Mars, which oxidizes when it comes into contact with the air and water. The red colour is caused by rusty iron-rich minerals.
It has polar ice caps, which grow and shrink over time. These are made of dry ice, not liquid water, like we find on Earth.
It’s a hot planet
Mars is one of the most well-known planets in space and has long been a point of interest for astronomers, scientists and science-fiction fans. The planet is often featured in movies and TV shows.
While it looks like a reddish hot place, it’s actually much colder than Earth. Mars averages -60 degrees Celsius, but can be as cold as -125 degrees C near the polar caps during the winter.
This is due to the fact that Mars has a thin atmosphere and the distance it has from the sun means that heat is lost quickly.
Another important factor is that the Martian atmosphere is very low in pressure. It has only 1% of the pressure that Earth has at sea level.
It’s a cold planet
Mars is cold because it’s far from the Sun and its atmosphere isn’t as thick as Earth’s. It also doesn’t get as much heat from the Sun as Earth does, so it can’t retain heat like our planet.
However, despite its coldness, it’s possible to find evidence that Mars once had liquid water on its surface. Scientists use a variety of tools, including radar instruments and mineral mapping equipment, to hunt for water ice and chemicals that form when liquid water is present on the planet’s surface.
But even with these discoveries, we’re not completely sure if there was ever any life on Mars. Because of its temperature and the way its atmosphere is thin, it’s unlikely that liquid water could remain on the planet for any length of time.
It’s a dry planet
The thin atmosphere of Mars keeps it from getting too hot or too cold, but it doesn’t protect the planet from solar winds. It also doesn’t have a magnetic field, which makes it vulnerable to radiation from the Sun.
Scientists believe that in the past, Mars had a thicker and more protective atmosphere that was able to hold onto water. However, over time, that atmosphere was lost to space.
As the result, Mars became cold and dry. It was also geologically dead, because volcanism was no longer able to release heat. This caused the atmosphere to start losing its carbon dioxide. This caused a lot of heat loss and pressure loss, too.
It’s a wet planet
Mars was once a wet planet with rivers and lakes. But in the past three billion years, that water has all but disappeared.
Researchers have long wondered how a planet that was once covered in liquid water could be so dry today. They came up with a few theories, including one that suggests dust storms could have swept water molecules away from the planet and into space.
However, now a new study from NASA says that it may have been the atmosphere of early Mars that made it a dry planet. The team used a model to simulate what would have happened if CO2 and other greenhouse gases were able to warm the planet’s atmosphere in the past.
It’s a rocky planet
In the early days of our Solar System, rocky planets formed from the dust and gas particles in the disk of the Sun. As these planets orbited, the star’s wind blew away most of their gases, leaving the planets with only rocks and metals intact.
Today, our Solar System has four rocky planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. All of them have a rocky core, a hot mantle of rock and metal, and a crust of solid rocky material on their surfaces.
Like most of the other rocky planets in our Solar System, Mars has an incredibly thin atmosphere that is influenced by weather patterns. These include winds, dust storms, and seasonal changes in cloud types.
It’s a volcanic planet
Mars is a volcanic planet that has produced several types of features, including giant shield volcanoes and flood basalts. Shield volcanoes, for example, form over places in the mantle where heat flows are unusually high and large amounts of magma are produced.
These shields can grow to enormous size over many millennia, and when they do, the lava that flows out is basic and unevolved, which means it’s highly fluid and spreads out over a wide area.
The molten rock that forms these shields is called magma, and it comes in all different sorts of flavors. The most common Earth-type igneous rock is basalt, which is dark gray and iron-rich.
However, there are also a lot of other kinds of magmas. Some are thicker and stickier than others, which makes it harder for gas bubbles to escape smoothly once they form.
It’s a magnetic planet
Mars is not a magnetic planet because it doesn’t have a global magnetic field like Earth. Instead, it has small patches of induced magnetism.
A global magnetic field is important for a planet to survive large solar storms that would strip away its atmosphere. It also helps protect a planet from radiation particles.
Eventually, the Martian dynamo, which powered the planet’s global magnetic field, shut down around 4 billion years ago. The resulting feeble remnant of the field is now confined to its weakly magnetized crust.
Scientists have long puzzled how this happened. But new research suggests a simple answer.
It’s a gas planet
A gas planet is a large celestial body composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, which are the same basic elements found in stars. Unlike rocky planets like Mercury, Venus and Earth, gas giants do not have a well-defined surface, but their atmospheres become denser as they approach their core.
The earliest gas giants in our Solar System were ejected into space from the young cores of dying stars. This is a process called core accretion.
Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus formed as rocky worlds, but grew larger because of their gravity, eventually attracting the gas around them.
Ice giants – the third group of planets – form from the same material, but the ice is heavier than the hydrogen and helium. Because of this, they are considered a different type of planet than the gaseous Jovian planets.
It’s a planet with a moon
Mars is a planet with two natural satellites, called Deimos and Phobos. These moons are small asteroids that have been drawn into Mars’ orbit by its gravity.
The moons are tidally locked to Mars, meaning they always present the same side towards the planet. The outer moon, Phobos, orbits Mars faster than the planet itself rotates so tidal forces will eventually break it up.
This week, the full moon will pass in front of Mars, a rare event known as a lunar occultation. This will occur on December 7-8 and can be seen from many parts of the world.