The planet Mars has fascinated scientists and the general public for decades. Its rusty red appearance, two moons and a thin atmosphere have kept it a focus of curiosity.
Despite the planet’s lifeless appearance, it is a very active and exciting place to explore. NASA has sent several missions to Mars and rovers that drive around, taking pictures and measuring things.
It is the fourth planet from the sun
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and is the second smallest planet in our solar system. It is also known as the red planet because of its red color from iron oxide and dust covering the surface.
The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It has a very thin atmosphere and the temperature is very cold, at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It has many volcanoes and is the home of the largest mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons.
It is about 4.5 billion years old and formed together with the other planets in our solar system. Its central core is made of iron, nickel, and sulfur.
A thick layer of rocky material surrounds the solid core and is called the mantle. The crust is formed from iron, magnesium, aluminum, and calcium.
Scientists think that the planet was once covered with liquid water and had a denser atmosphere. This may have helped to create life on Mars.
Like all other planets in the solar system, Mars revolves around the sun and orbits in an elliptical path that is slightly inclined to the plane of our solar system’s orbit. This means that some parts of the planet receive more or less sunlight throughout the year than others.
Since Mars is very close to the sun it experiences a short but fiercely hot summer in the south and a long but mild winter in the north. This is because the axis of the planet points toward the sun during summer and away from the sun during winter.
This means that the sun looks about half its size from earth when seen from mars. This is why it is called the red planet and why it has such a large polar ice cap.
The planet has two moons, Deimos and Phobos, that are thought to be asteroids pulled in by the gravity of the planet. The larger of the two, Phobos, gradually gets closer to Mars at a rate of about 2 cm per year.
In addition to its two moons, Mars has a few polar ice caps and some frozen water. These ice caps are caused by the low temperatures of Mars and its atmosphere. There are also some seasonal caps of frost that can be seen in winter. The frost is created by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
It is half the size of earth
Mars is about half the size of Earth. The planet is about 3.389 km or 2.105 mi in radius and 6.779 km or 4.212 mi in diameter. This makes it a tiny planet, but it is still considered a world worth studying by scientists.
Like all the planets in our Solar System, Mars was formed from a pre-solar nebula, a cloud of swirling gas and dust that eventually became the Sun. As the dust merged with the swirling gas, it became the first planets in our Solar System.
When we look at the Sun from Mars, it appears about half the size of it does from Earth, because Mars is so much closer to the sun than Earth is. Likewise, it takes Mars only one Earth year to orbit around the Sun whereas Earth takes almost twice as long to complete the same journey.
We can see the red surface of Mars with the naked eye, and it is a very bright object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of -2.94, comparable to that of Jupiter and Venus. It is often referred to as the ‘Red Planet’, which comes from the fact that the dust on the Martian surface looks red due to iron oxide.
The surface of Mars is very dry, and it has a thin atmosphere that is primarily carbon dioxide-based. This is different to the atmosphere on Earth, which is mainly nitrogen and oxygen with traces of water vapor and other gases.
Winds on Mars can also cause dunes on the surface, including horseshoe-shaped ones and series of parallel ridges that are found in crater floors. They can also create towering dust devils that blow dust all over the Martian landscape, leaving complex curlicues on their path.
As a result, the Martian surface is very rocky and has many tectonic plates. Its crust is mainly made of silicate rocks, such as iron, magnesium, aluminum and calcium.
Scientists have discovered that liquid water has never been seen on the planet’s surface, but there are landforms that suggest it may once have been there. These include hematite concretions (image above), and the Ma’adim Vallis, a valley that is thought to have been created by flowing water long ago.
It has two moons
Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, is the only rocky planet in our solar system with two moons. The smaller one is called Deimos, while the larger one is called Phobos. These two moons were discovered in 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.
Both moons are very small, and they have an irregular shape with many craters on them. These craters show that these moons have been hit by space debris and are very rough on their surface. They are also made of carbon rocks and ice, which make them look very much like asteroids.
Astronomers are not sure what caused these moons to form. There are many different theories, including that they were asteroids that got gravitationally pulled into orbit around Mars.
However, recent studies have indicated that these moons might be fragments of a larger Martian satellite that was destroyed by a giant impact. This theory explains why they have multiple craters on their surface and it helps explain how they formed.
Scientists are trying to figure out how these moons came to be, but it will take more research and sample return missions to resolve this question. The upcoming Mars Moons eXploration mission from Japan will attempt to send landers to these moons and collect samples for further analysis.
The smaller moon is called Deimos, and it orbits a lot farther away from Mars than the bigger one does. This means that it takes a lot longer for it to travel around the red planet. This makes it a little fainter in the sky than the larger moon is.
As a result, it is very difficult for an Earth-based telescope to see this moon, which is the reason why there were no images of it before it was discovered. But on August 1st, 2013, NASA’s Curiosity rover captured 41 images of the moons as they were eclipsed from the red planet’s surface.
Both moons are very dark in colour, and they have a very rough surface with lots of craters on them. They are very similar in size to the other planets in our solar system, and they were probably born asteroids that got gravitational tugged into orbit by Mars’ gravity.
It is very cold
Mars is a cold, dry planet with a thin atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide. Its average surface temperature is -81 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below freezing, so it’s not a place that would be hospitable to life.
The Sun is a big factor in how warm or cold a planet is, as are its distance from the sun and the amount of water it contains. When the Sun is closer to the planet, it shines more strongly and warms the planet’s surface. But when the Sun is farther away, it shines less intensely and cools the surface.
That means that a planet’s temperatures can be very variable, just like the weather on Earth. On Mars, for example, the northern hemisphere experiences a short but hot summer, while the southern hemisphere has a long and cold winter.
This is because Mars revolves around the sun in four seasons, and the axis of the planet tilts like Earth’s axis does. When the planet is closest to the sun, it experiences a short but hot summer.
And when the planet is farthest from the sun, it has a long and cold winter.
Another reason why Mars is so cold is because of its thin atmosphere. It’s made up of 95% carbon dioxide, which can trap heat in tiny concentrations. If the atmosphere was thicker, this might be a way to keep the surface of the planet warmer.
But it’s not always the case that a thin atmosphere can make a planet warmer, as Venus shows. In fact, if a planet had an atmosphere like Venus’s, it might have been much warmer in the past, astronomers say.
If the atmosphere was rich enough in heat-trapping carbon dioxide, this might have kept the surface of Mars warmer billions of years ago. This is because carbon dioxide can absorb sunlight, which in turn can warm a planet’s surface.
If it were warm, then the polar ice caps on Mars might have been more likely to contain water – and perhaps liquid water – than they are today. This might explain why the gullies and dry lake beds on the planet’s surface look so different than they do today.