Mars, one of the inner planets of our Solar System, is often known as “the Red Planet” due to its distinct red hue and iron oxide coating. With two natural satellites or moons named Deimos and Phobos as natural satellites or moons circling it. Also dubbed as “the Fourth Planet”, its axis of rotation tilts 25 degrees off that of Earth.
It is a planet in our solar system
Mars, located within our solar system and part of the Milky Way Galaxy, is one of the brightest planets visible with naked eye observation. Located within Orion-Cygnus Arm of Milky Way Galaxy and boasting an approximate diameter of 2,400 kilometers, Mars stands as one of the brightest planets visible with naked eye view due to the oxidization or “rusting” of iron in its surface rocks and regolith (its soil). Its reddish hue comes from this process of iron corrosion on its surface rocks and regolith (its soil).
Mars boasts two tiny moons named Phobos and Deimos that are potato-shaped due to having insufficient mass for gravity to make them round. Together these moons orbit Mars at approximately 228,718,000 miles from its Sun; its complete orbit around Earth takes 687 Earth days.
Mars, like Earth, features seasons, polar ice caps, extinct volcanoes and canyons – with much lower temperatures due to being further away from the Sun.
Mars likely features a dense core made up of iron, nickel and sulfur surrounded by a soft mantle of silicon, oxygen and magnesium, while its crust may consist of basalt – an example of volcanic rock. Mars also boasts an atmosphere consisting largely of carbon dioxide which provides very dry conditions on its surface.
Mars may contain water vapor and other volatile substances in its interior, yet there is no evidence to support that there was ever liquid water present on its surface. It is likely that Mars once had thicker atmosphere than it does now and therefore water might have flowed freely across its surface.
It is a red planet
Planet Mars or “the Red Planet” features some of the largest volcanoes on the Red Planet, such as Olympus Mons, one of the Solar System’s major mountains, at 17 miles (27 km). Olympus Mons stands nearly three times the height of Earth’s highest mountain Mount Everest; furthermore it hosts Valles Marineris–one of three largest rift systems–in its home planet’s neighborhood.
Mars’ atmosphere consists almost solely of carbon dioxide, making life very hard to sustain on this distant world. Furthermore, its surface is covered with craters and red dust; temperatures average -81 degrees Fahrenheit on Mars while its tilt axis tilt varies over time leading to different climates on the planet.
Scientists have long observed Mars from space. Galileo Galilei was one of the first to use a telescope to observe features on Mars; Percival Lowell later discovered canals that suggested evidence of lost civilizations. Now many spacecraft orbit Mars including MAVEN and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission; in 2018 even Europe Space Agency’s Mars Express noticed what appeared to be an anomalous mixture of water and ice beneath Planum Australe.
Mars’ vibrant rust color comes from iron minerals present in its regolith – loose dust and rock that blankets its surface – that have oxidized into red pigmentation as they come into contact with oxygen, leading to its name by Romans being associated with their god of war, Ares. Mars has an elliptical orbit which brings it close to the sun during southern summer but far away during northern winter, leading to dramatic shifts in climate throughout history.
It is a planet with two natural satellites or moons
Mars boasts two natural satellites or moons named Phobos and Deimos, discovered in August 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall and named for Greek mythological characters Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror). Both characters accompanied their father, Ares, god of war into battle as his followers.
Up until recently, the formation of Mars’ moons remained unknown. Although they resemble asteroids in size, their origin remains a mystery; too small to explain how they could have been captured by Mars and shaped into moons with nearly circular and equatorial orbits. One theory suggests that as part of its formation process Mars experienced a huge collision with a protoplanet; this impact produced massive debris clouds but astronomers still don’t understand why only two small satellites instead of an enormous moon like Earth’s were created as opposed to more substantial satellites such as Earth has.
Phobos and Deimos orbit closely to Mars, often appearing to pass within inches of its surface when seen through telescopes. Their closeness enables them to be used as landing platforms for spacecraft launches; Phobos completes one orbit around Mars every 7 and 1/2 hours while Deimos takes 30.
Astronomers suspect both moons may have once been asteroids; their colors resembling dark carbonaceous chondrite asteroids from an ancient group called carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. Therefore, it is likely they were once asteroids before Mars “captured” them, evidenced by their being lumpy, heavily cratered and covered in dust; additionally their proximity to the ecliptic (the plane in which planets and their moons move around the Sun) suggests this theory further.
It is a planet with underground sources of water
Scientists speculate that Mars once contained lakes and rivers, though their existence remains hidden below its dry surface today. Recently however, scientists have identified salty pools on Mars’ surface, suggesting it likely once had an interlinked groundwater system; their discovery raises hope for microbe survival on the Red Planet.
Planetary scientists have for years searched Mars for signs of life. Recently, however, scientists made an important breakthrough: discovering a giant underground aquifer with enough liquid water under its south pole ice cap has increased chances of finding life on its surface; furthermore it enhances their chance that Mars possesses conditions favorable to support such life development.
This aquifer may lie buried under the south pole ice in Planum Australe region and was detected using radar measurements from European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. This discovery marks an important milestone because researchers have for the first time identified liquid water on Mars – it could have an enormous effect on search for extraterrestrial life!
Though Mars never sees temperatures exceed freezing, solar heating still warms some areas where salt-laden ground lowers its freezing point and allows solar heating to warm the topmost layer of soil, leading to melting ice that releases its water vapor into space.
In the past, similar processes melted some polar ice caps. Along with its aquifers and permanent polar ice caps on Mars, there is evidence of two permanent polar ice caps during polar winters that trapped air to turn 25-30% into CO2 ice slabs; when these melt in summer they are carried around by huge winds around the globe and dispersed throughout its atmosphere.
It is a planet with a moon
Mars is a small red-colored planet with two natural satellites. Its surface is dry, cracked and full of impact craters; yet some areas possess flat low-lying plains which rank among the smoothest in our solar system. Galileo was the first person to use a telescope for observations of Mars back in 1610. Over subsequent centuries visual observers made numerous key discoveries; Christiaan Huygens was responsible for drawing accurate pictures of surface markings as well as being first to note its spin. Later Asaph Hall discovered two polar caps which contain 25-30% of Mars atmosphere as slabs made up of carbon dioxide ice.
Both moons that orbit Mars are covered with impacts from meteorites. Phobos is the larger of these two moons and is shaped like a potato with dark spots from meteorite impacts. Its orbit is elliptical with closest approaches occurring approximately every 100 years; Phobos is currently speeding towards Mars at an accelerating rate and within 50 million years may either hit its target directly or break apart into pieces that form rings around it.
Deimos, the smaller moon of Mars, is an unstable pile of rubble held together by gravity. Studies of its composition and density indicate it may have once been an asteroide that became captured by Earth’s gravitational pull, suggesting its composition may have come from this source. Ultraviolet light reflecting off of its surface suggests it is not very dense, giving it the appearance of being “rubble pile-ish”. When flying past Phobos on its latest flyby of Phobos by Mars Express spacecraft it noted the moon tugged hard on its robot lander; most likely caused by an asteroid’s gradual descent onto its parent planet over time.