Mars, known as the Red Planet in our solar system, stands out with its bright red hue that comes from iron oxide dust present in its regolith (loose dirt and rock covering the planet’s surface).
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and roughly half as large as Earth. It orbits it with an eccentric path, meaning it doesn’t exactly follow its orbital path around its star.
What is Mars?
Mars (pronounced Air-EEZ), commonly referred to as the Red Planet, is the fourth planet from our Sun. At roughly half the size of Earth and possessing only a thin atmosphere, its surface features canyons, volcanoes and dry lake beds which would only have formed through liquid water processes.
Planet Earth has an overall red hue due to fine dust. Rusty iron-rich dust clings tightly to frozen carbon dioxide molecules in its atmosphere and causes streaks of discoloration across its surface, contributing to this unique hue.
Mars’ two permanent polar ice caps are one of its distinctive characteristics. During winter, both caps lie in complete darkness, depositing 25-30% of atmospheric CO2 as carbon dioxide dry ice in slabs on their surfaces. Once exposed to sunlight again, however, CO2 sublimes and forms large clouds of water-ice clouds.
Mars features many features unique to it, such as Olympus Mons – its largest volcano and second highest mountain – along with Valles Marineris, one of the biggest canyons in our Solar System and Phobos and Deimos as two small moons.
How big is Mars?
Mars is the second-smallest planet in our Solar System, behind Mercury. At its equator it measures 4,196 miles (6,752 km), while from pole to pole its diameter varies between 2,111 miles (4,000 km) and 4,196 miles (6,752 km).
Mars orbits its axis every 24.6 hours, similar to Earth. Due to this rapid rotational period, its surface bulges outward from its center much like Earth does – partly because of the difference in diameters at either pole, and also because of an eccentric orbit that creates this irregular shape.
Mars shares an axial tilt of approximately 25 degrees with Earth, meaning its amount of sunlight varying across its surface throughout the year, giving rise to seasonal variations on Mars.
Olympus Mons is one of the largest volcanoes in our solar system at 16 miles high and 600 kilometers wide, while Valles Marineris system of valleys extends 7 kilometers below it.
How long does it take to get to Mars?
Mars has increasingly become a topic of conversation as humans consider whether to visit one day. More space robots have visited Mars recently, making the prospect more appealing; but before any human mission takes place there remain several critical questions that need to be answered first.
For traveling to Mars, first you need a fast rocket capable of evading Earth’s gravitational pull and then launch it at exactly the right moment.
Mars and Earth orbit around the Sun in ellipses, meaning their distances keep shifting over time – hence why launching from Earth to Mars takes such an extended amount of time.
Earth and Mars are approximately 140 million miles (225 million km) apart; however, travelling this distance would take months or years with current technology.
What is the temperature on Mars?
Mars experiences temperatures that average -81 degrees F (-60 degrees C). This makes the planet far colder than Earth, even during its summer season when temperatures can still be relatively chilly.
Reason being, Mars has an extremely thin atmosphere which cannot store heat. Winter at the poles can drop temperatures as far down as -195 F (125 C).
Water exists on Mars in some spots, though due to its cold temperatures and thin atmosphere it cannot thrive long on the surface. However, liquid water exists within ice caps on its poles as well as below its surface.
At times, carbon dioxide snow can come down from Mars’ ice caps; however, due to its thin atmosphere it soon dissipates into water vapour instead of reaching the surface.
Mars experiences dramatic daily temperature variations between day and night, typically with fluctuations of 50-60 degrees. Temperatures on Mars typically range from 205K during nighttime (-68 degC) to 275K during afternoon but typically only reach their stable state near sunset.
What is the climate on Mars?
Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, has long captured scientists’ imaginations. Its rocky surface, deep red hue and visibility in the night sky all serve to make this distant world worthy of study.
Scientists are keen to gain more information on Mars’ climate and weather patterns, in order to better assess whether it can support life as well as understanding how this might have evolved on its surface.
Researchers have undertaken comprehensive investigations of Mars’ climate from space and on Earth with robotic missions such as NASA’s Curiosity Rover and Viking Landers.
Winter brings with it water ice and carbon dioxide ice that cover our planet’s polar caps, forming layers which shrink and grow with each season.
What is the surface of Mars made of?
Mars is home to a complex combination of old impact debris, sand-blasted gravel, and iron oxide (rust), giving its warm red hue. This hue results from iron being exposed to oxygen during its exposure in Mars’ thin atmosphere and being oxidized over time.
The northern hemisphere of Mars has been formed by volcanic activity while its southern half features smooth plains – this geological formation mirroring Earth, Venus and Moon respectively.
Volcanic mountains such as Olympus Mons and Elysium Mons jut out from Mars as massive domes of hot rock, while their shield-forming volcanic cones also cover its polar regions with an insulating blanket of water ice and carbon dioxide.
Clouds on Mars can be seen from spacecraft, ground-based rovers such as Curiosity, and Earth’s big telescopes. Clouds tend to form near large volcanoes as winds pass over them and condense ice particles onto them.
Mars experiences severe storms during its summer in its southern hemisphere, which spread dust all across its surface. On a smaller scale, dust devils form.
What is the name of Mars?
Mars is one of the most iconic planets in our solar system and often inspires fascination from people worldwide. It’s often called “The Red Planet”, due to the iron oxide chemicals found within its soil that look similar to rust.
Phobos and Deimos, the two moons orbiting Mars, feature many craters formed from meteor impacts; some scientists speculate they were captured asteroids previously by its gravity.
Olympus Mons is one of the largest volcanoes in our solar system and could cover New Mexico with its lava flows if left to continue spreading across its expanse.
Mars’ surface is covered with a thick layer of regolith, composed of loose dust and rocks oxidized over time to produce its characteristic reddish hue. This hue may be due to iron mineral presence on Mars’ surface or could simply indicate where once flowing waters once existed on its surface.
Planet Pluto boasts an array of canyons, channels and outwashes as well as many craters – boasting some of the highest mountains in our solar system.
Where is Mars in the sky?
Mars the red planet shines brilliantly in the nighttime sky, yet for optimal viewing it should be observed during its four to six week close approach to opposition – when its nearest position to Earth makes the stars seem closer together and appears brightest in the sky.
Telescopes provide the best way to view our planet, yet using one isn’t always straightforward.
Choose a night with clear air to maximize observing success; any hint of fog in the atmosphere could make observations more challenging.
Depending on your country, Mars can usually be seen both morning and evening; once it reaches opposition in December 2022 it becomes an evening planet.
Astronomers frequently examine Mars with satellites and robot explorers. But telescopes provide a more direct way of studying its surface, giving astronomers a direct glimpse of Mars’ terrain and climate.