Questions About Mars
- It is easy to forget that Earth is not the only planet in the solar system. Seven (or eight if you include Pluto) other planets whiz around the sun just like ours. Of those planets, none of them are closer or more engaging to the imagination than Mars.
- The Red Planet, as Mars is often called, is the fourth planet from the sun (Earth is the third). In a lot of ways, Mars looks a lot like our home, though instead of blue oceans and green land, Mars is home to an ever present red tint. This is due to a mineral called iron oxide that is very common on the planet’s surface. However, when you look past the surface differences, these two planets are similar in a lot of ways. Here are just a few:
- Polar Ice Caps – Mars has both North and South polar ice caps, much like Earth. Also like Earth, both ice caps are made mostly of frozen water. With so much water frozen in the ice caps of Mars, some scientists think that life could have once existed there.
- Length of a Year – Mars is not much farther from the Sun than Earth. As a result, a typical year on Mars is 1 year and 687 days.
- Length of a Day – While a year on Mars might be almost twice as long as a year on Earth, the length of a day there is almost identical. A Martian day is 24 hours and 39 minutes long, less than an hour longer than a day on Earth.
- Seasons – Mars has seasons like Earth too. These seasons are much longer than Earth seasons because Mars is so much farther from the sun. And don’t get your swim suits out just yet – the average high during a Martian summer day is 23 degrees F (-5 degrees C) – not exactly beach weather.
- Mars and Earth are similar in so many ways that it’s almost hard to believe we haven’t found anything alive there. But, don’t forget that there are many differences too. Without these differences, Mars wouldn’t be such an interesting planet to study.
- A lot of planets are bigger than Earth. For example, 318 Earths could fit inside of Jupiter. Mars is not quite so big. In fact, Mars is one of only two planets in the solar system to be significantly smaller than Earth. If you looked at the two planets side by side, Earth would be a basketball while Mars is a softball.
But, just because Mars is smaller doesn’t mean it is without landmarks. The surface of Mars is filled with exciting locations.
Here are a few fun facts about Mars:
Olympus Mons on Mars is the largest mountain in the solar system at more than 25 kilometers high (that’s three times higher than Mount Everest). It is so big that astronomers could see it through telescopes in the 19th century, almost 200 years ago!
Valles Marineris is the largest canyon in the solar system, stretching 4,000 kilometers across the planet’s surface. If you look at a picture of Mars taken from a telescope, you will see the giant gash that is Valles Marineris.
The Borealis Basin makes up 40% of the planet’s surface, taking up almost the entire northern hemisphere.
- Mars is covered by craters from objects like asteroids and meteorites hitting the planet. Today, 43,000 such craters have been found and that only includes the large ones!
- Mars doesn’t have a protective layer of atmosphere like Earth, so it cannot store heat from the sun. As a result, the temperature on Mars regularly drops to -125 degrees F (-82 degrees C) in the winter and only rises to 23 degrees F (-5 degrees C) in the summer.
The dust storms on Mars are larger than on any other planet in the solar system. Some dust storms on Mars can blanket almost the entire planet in just a few days
- Mars is an incredible planet. With mountains, craters and caverns like Earth and a rich history, we will be learning more about the Red Planet for centuries to come.
- The Planet Mars
- The Planet Mars
- The Planet Mars