Mars is known for its bright rust color, which is caused by iron-rich minerals in its regolith. This loose dust and rock covers the Red Planet’s surface.
Over the centuries, Mars has been a subject of fascination for many people. This has led to a great deal of speculation and mythmaking about the possibility of life on this cold, barren planet.
The Red Planet
Mars is a cold desert world that is about half the size of Earth. Its surface has rusty iron in it, which gives the Red Planet its color.
Many people think that Mars once had water, but it’s unclear if it is still there today. Some scientists have spotted evidence of lakes that may have been created by liquid water that once flowed across the Martian surface.
Another possibility is that Mars’ climate was warmer than today, and microbial life was able to thrive in the early days of its formation. It’s possible that the atmosphere on primitive Mars was rich in carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
Mars is about 1 1/2 times farther from the sun than Earth is, so a year there lasts much longer — 687 days, compared to 365 for our home planet. This elongated orbit means that certain parts of the planet receive more sunlight than others during different times of the year, creating seasonal differences.
Mars has a thin atmosphere that is mostly carbon dioxide and other gases, including nitrogen, argon, oxygen and trace amounts of water. This atmosphere reflects the sunlight and gives the planet a tan color, not the bright blue hue we see on Earth.
The Martian weather and climate are similar to those on Earth, with clouds, winds, seasonal changes, polar ice caps, volcanoes and canyons. However, since the planet is farther away from the sun than Earth, its average temperatures are much colder.
Scientists have used telescopic observations to learn more about the weather on Mars and how it affects the surface. It has also been studied by the Curiosity rover, which was able to detect methane and organic compounds on the Martian soil.
Mars is one of the closest planets to the sun, and it’s also one of the most fascinating. Thanks to a combination of volcanic eruptions, impact craters, crustal movement, and atmospheric conditions like sandstorms, it has some of the most stunning topographical features in the entire solar system.
Many of these features have changed dramatically over the planet’s long history. These features include the Valles Marineris canyon system, a vast 200-mile-long (320 km) river valley that stretches across more than 3,000 miles of the Martian surface.
Another fascinating feature is the Tharsis and Elysium volcanoes, averaging about 25 kilometers high. These “hotspot” volcanoes were formed during periods of extreme warmth on Mars, a phenomenon that scientists think was caused by greenhouse gases.
The planet also has polar caps, which change in size depending on the season. These are made of solid carbon dioxide ice, condensed from carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere.
Mars’ climate is controlled by the energy balance at the surface and changes diurnally, spatially and seasonally. It is influenced by the axial tilt of the planet’s orbit and its comparatively large eccentricity.
Because of these factors, seasonal and latitudinal variations on Mars affect the global atmospheric circulation in the lower atmosphere. Measurements from past missions like MRO-Mars Climate Sounder (MCS), TGO solar occultations, and MAVEN-Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) retrievals of dust, water ice, CO2, and O3 vertical profiles have helped in characterizing the atmospheric temperature, moisture, and aerosol dynamics.
Dry ice on Mars mainly consists of carbon dioxide, which freezes in winter and partly sublimates in summer. These dry ice particles are visible as icy caps on both poles, even with the smallest telescopes.