Cool Facts About Mars

Mars offers much to discover. From canyons and extinct volcanoes to its changing seasons and weather patterns – including large dust storms – its terrain reveals much.

Planet Mercury is the second smallest planet in our solar system and its red hue comes from iron oxide deposits on its surface, giving it a rusty hue. Mercury has two small moons called Phobos and Deimos which may be captured asteroids.

1. It has a lot of water

Mars boasts abundant freshwater in its polar ice caps, yet lacks much in other ways. Its atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide and water vapor; scientists don’t yet know if that combination is enough to support life on the surface; they believe however that it represents an initial step.

Mars is known as the Red Planet due to its soil’s abundance in iron oxide. Ancient Greeks and Romans associated its red hue with Ares, god of war; other cultures also took note of its reddish hue: Chinese astronomers called it Firestar while Egyptian priests refereed to Her Desher, or The Red One.

Estimates suggest that at one time Mars had as much water as Earth does today, with oceans, lakes and rivers covering significant portions of its surface. Today however, most of Mars’ water remains in basins or rivers or frozen beneath its polar ice caps; scientists use “global equivalent layer” (GEL) measurements to quantify how thickly spread across its surface it would be; GEL estimates for Mars are only around 2% thick.

Mars’ polar ice caps contain enough liquid water to cover its entire surface, but much of the planet remains very dry. To locate all the water on Mars would take an enormous effort, yet scientists are making strides toward doing just that – looking for signs of past flooding such as river channels and flood plains; also analyzing rock layers for normal and heavy water molecules with heavier water molecules featuring an extra neutron within their hydrogen atoms that scientists have discovered is more common on Mars than Earth.

2. It has a lot of methane

Mars has long captivated human imagination. As one of our nearest planets and with amazing features that make it both scientific and culturally captivating (such as its role in Total Recall or potential for future life) Mars is more in our thoughts today than ever before.

While living creatures on Earth produce most of the methane in our atmosphere, scientists have yet to find convincing proof of life on Mars. When NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) began sniffing out methane near Gale Crater on Mars it surprised all.

Methane is an organic compound composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms – two of the most abundant elements in our universe. Methane forms naturally when these two compounds come into contact in water environments or wetland environments where anaerobic bacteria decompose dead plant matter, or through geological processes deep underground and meteor impacts on Mars’ atmosphere.

Methane does not last long in Mars’ atmosphere as it quickly oxidizes to carbon dioxide and water, prompting scientists to believe that methane on Mars must either be continuously produced or recently released from somewhere on the planet.

But if methane was being produced at an increasing rate on Earth, its natural fate would likely be to disperse across all corners in less than 100 years. Scientists were therefore quite excited to find evidence of methane on Mars – this could indicate something is currently releasing methane onto its surface from somewhere on the red planet.

3. It has a lot of volcanoes

Mars boasts many volcanic rocks and features, including one of the solar system’s largest volcanoes; moreover it also hosts numerous smaller volcanoes and lava plains – yet scientists hadn’t witnessed much active volcanism there until recently when a team of researchers discovered what may be an entirely new volcano near Noctis Labyrinthus (Labyrinth of Night) in Tharsis region, known for its wild landscape.

Noctis Mons was named by researchers because its appearance recalls those of Mars’ shield volcanoes, which form mountains with broad and flat profiles that feature calderas at their summits and lava flows. But unlike Earth’s volcanoes, those on Mars are far larger: three times taller and several times wider in diameter than Mauna Loa in Hawaii is one such giant shield volcano.

One reason behind their extreme sizes on Mars may be related to its lack of plate tectonics. On Earth, plate movements will displace a volcano from its source of magma and limit how long it can continue erupting before eventually ceasing development; but on Mars these volcanoes would stay put over hotspots until reaching their final, massive size.

Scientists are fascinated with this discovery as it indicates some activity may still be taking place on Mars. Researchers plan to submit their work for publication by peer-review journals while at the same time studying high-resolution images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to see if there’s evidence of volcanic eruptions on its surface; should any emerge, researchers plan to drill further down into them for better views into what lies underneath.

4. It has a lot of rocks

Although Mars is often associated with being red, its surface features many mountains, canyons and craters that have created numerous mountains ranges and canyons.

These rocks were formed through volcanic eruption, glacier action and meteoroid impacts. Due to Mars’ gravity being only 37% that of Earth, meteoroids can pass through its atmosphere and land on its surface (see photo).

Blast material from meteorite impact can leave behind what scientists refer to as a bouncing rock track, providing scientists with clues as to where and what the rock came from before its impact on Earth. Researchers can also use chemical composition analysis of rock samples found to determine whether or not they originated on Mars.

Due to Mars’ lack of rainfall and humidity, its surface features no soil cover like it would here on Earth; most of it consists of exposed rocks or materials susceptible to being worn away by wind, sun and ice (see photo below).

Mars’ polar ice caps stand out as being made mostly of water ice – just like their counterparts on Earth – and so can grow and shrink with seasonal changes, just as ours do.

Another fascinating fact is that Mars, or “sol,” only extends a little more than 24 hours for one day! While this might seem minor, this tiniest difference could prove important when creating timekeeping systems on Mars – especially given that sunlight may be dim at times!

5. It has a lot of dust

The Red Planet has long captured human imagination with both scientific curiosity and cultural wonder. Researchers attempting to gain more knowledge about it face many difficulties when trying to comprehend dust.

Dust storms on Mars may appear dramatic, but they are actually relatively regular events. Dust is produced by rocks being gradually worn away over time while winds and dust devils spread sand and loose particles throughout its surface. This process continues indefinitely as rocks get weathered away with time as wind and dust devils blow loose particles around its surface.

Mars has a thinner atmosphere than Earth, making it easier for dust particles to rise into the air and remain suspended for extended periods. As such, dust storms on Mars often last months to clear. Due to lower gravity and less-dense atmosphere conditions on the Red Planet, they often feed off themselves once started.

Scientists do not fully understand what causes global dust storms, but they believe an energy imbalance may be to blame. This could include changes to how much sunlight the planet receives during summer or the way solar energy enters through its southern hemisphere and gets absorbed.

Science has discovered that certain types of dust in the atmosphere can obstruct solar panels on spacecraft from receiving enough power, forcing rovers such as Spirit and Curiosity into safe mode to conserve battery power – something Ingenuity currently faces with wheels suffering damage due to dust build-up according to NASA chemist James Gaier.

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