Each time you look up to the sky and see a star you are looking at a sun in another galaxy. If you were on another planet looking back at our solar system, you would see our sun as a star.

It’s believed that every sun has planets orbiting it. Our Milky Way galaxy has more planets than it has stars.

In our solar system we have eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the inner rocky planets.

Jupiter and Saturn are the outer gas giants. Uranus and Neptune are the outer ice giants.

In recent years, astronomers have designed a new class called the “dwarf planets.” These are smaller worlds, not quite big enough to be considered a standard planet, and include Pluto. Mars is the fourth planet from the sun.

Mars Statistics:

  • View on Maps:
  • Distance from Sun: 141.6 million mi
  • Radius: 2,106 mi
  • Polar Diameter: 6,752 km
  • Orbital Period: 6.42 x 10^23 kg (10.7% Earth)
  • Mass: 6.39 × 10^23 kg 0.107 M⊕
  • Surface pressure: -153 to 20 °C
  • Moons: (2) Phobos, Deimos
  • First Recorded: 2nd Millennium BCE by Egyptian astronomers

How did Mars get its name:

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is one of the terrestrial planets. It has a distinctive red color and was therefore associated with battles and war and named after the Roman god of war.

The surface of Mars is a reddish-brown color due to the rusting process of the surface minerals. Another name for Mars is “The Red Planet.” Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and Mars is the second smallest planet.

Other civilizations throughout history have also named the planet due to its color. The Ancient Egyptians called Mars “Her Desher,” which translates to “the red one.”

Today we often call Mars the “Red Planet” due to the iron minerals on the surface. It’s the iron in the Martian dirt that has oxidized or rusted that causes it to look red.


Around 4.5 billion years ago our solar system settled into the configuration that we see today.

Mars was formed when the swirling gas and dust coalesced due to gravitational pull and created the fourth plant from the sun.

As we explore other solar systems we see that many of their larger gas giants are those closer to the inner orbits of the sun and our solar system differs as we have terrestrial planets that are closer.

Mars is a terrestrial planet with a central core, rocky mantle, and a solid crust.

Structure and Surface:

The core at Mars’ center is very dense and is between 930 and 1,300 mi/1,500 to 2,100 km in radius.

The core is made up of iron, nickel and sulfur. Surrounding the core is the planet’s rocky mantle which is between 770-1,170 mi/1,240-1,880 km thick.

Above the rocky mantle is the crust made up of iron, magnesium, aluminum, calcium, and potassium. The crust is between 6-30 mi/10-50 km deep.

The Mars surface is divided by the hemisphere of the planet and is in two distinct types of features.

Thanks to the Mars Rovers we have been able to see the smooth look of the northern hemisphere and can see that it doesn’t have very many craters.

However, the southern hemisphere is the exact opposite, with a lot more craters as well as highlands. The craters on Mars range in sizes but it also has the biggest known crater in the solar system, called Valles Marineris.

You could stretch the crater from the U.S. West Coast all the way to the East Coast. Mars is also home to the largest known volcano in the solar system called Olympus Mons.

One of the most distinctive features on Mars is its “channels.” These channels look like they could have been made by running water.

Mars actually has many more colors than just the “red” that most people use to describe it. At the surface we see colors such as gold, tan, and brown.

The red color is due to oxidization or rusting of the iron rocks and as it rusts it creates the Martian “soil” which is called regolith.

This soil is dusty and when it is kicked into the atmosphere during storms the planet turns a reddish color.


Mars is only half of Earth’s diameter and its surface has many appearances as the dry land on Earth.

Mars has volcanoes, crust movement, impact craters, and atmospheric conditions such as dust storms that, over the years, has changed the landscape.

Valles Marineris is a large canyon system on Mars whose length is long enough to stretch from New York to California on Earth; with a distance of over 3,000 mi/4,800 km.

At its widest point, the canyon is 200 mi/320 km and 4.3 mi/7 km at its deepest. To compare this to Earth, it is nearing ten times the size of the Grand Canyon.

Mars also has the solar system’s largest volcano, Olympus Mons. The volcano is three times taller than Mt. Everest on Earth and has a base that is the size of the state of New Mexico.

Thanks to the incredible Mars rovers, we believe that Mars had water on its surface in the past.

There is evidence of ancient river valley networks, lakebeds, and deltas as well as minerals and rocks on the surface that are only formed when there is liquid water.

Some of the features on the surface of Mars suggest that around 3.5 billion years ago, the planet experienced huge floods.

Today, any water that is found on Mars is in the form of water-ice just below the surface in the polar regions, as well as salty or briny water which flows down some of the crater walls and hillsides at various times of the year.

The atmosphere on Mars is too thin for liquid water to remain on the surface.

Atmosphere. Magnetosphere, and Moon Status:

The atmosphere of Mars is made up of 95% carbon dioxide, which is very similar to the atmosphere of Venus, which is 97% carbon dioxide. However, the difference between Mars and Venus is the temperature.

The runaway greenhouse effect that Venus experiences makes temperatures incredibly hot, reaching over 480 degrees C.

The temperature on Mars never goes any higher than 20 degrees C. The temperature differences are due to the density of the two atmospheres.

The atmosphere on Mars is very thin while there is a thick atmosphere on Venus.

Scientists have done a lot of research on Mars and they also think that the atmosphere may have caused the loss of any liquid water that was once on the planet.

Orbiting spacecraft has shown that Mars does have frozen water in its polar caps and there is some evidence that indicates that there might be liquid water under Mars’ surface.

Scientists think that at one time in its history, Mars might have had a good enough atmosphere to have water on the surface.

Mars with sandstorm
The Mars temperature can reach as high as 70 degrees F/20 degrees C and as low as -225 degrees F/-153 degrees C.

The atmosphere is so thin that any heat from the sun quickly escapes the planet.

If you were standing on Mars it would appear as a hazy red color. The Mars winds can create incredibly strong dust storms that cover a lot of the planet.

They can be so strong that it can take months before all of the dust settles.Today, Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field.

However, there are areas of the Martian crust in the southern hemisphere that are very highly magnetized.

This indicates that there are traces of what once was a magnetic field around 4 billion years ago.

Mars does have two small moons: Phobos and Deimos. It’s believed that these may have actually been asteroids that were captured.

The moons are shaped like potatoes and have such a small mass that their own gravity can’t make them spherical like our Earth’s moon.

The moons were named for the horses that pulled that chariots for Ares, the Greek god of war. In Ancient Greek, the word “Phobos” translates to “flight,” and “Deimos” translates to “fear.”

Phobos is the largest moon and the one closest to Mars. It’s heavily cratered with many deep surface grooves.

It is moving slowly toward Mars and it’s believed that in about 50 million years it will either break apart or crash into Mars.

Deimos is around half the size of Phobos and its orbit is 2 ½ times farther away. Deimos is strangely shaped and is covered in loose dirt that sometimes fills in the craters on its surface.

It’s due to this odd situation that it often looks smoother than Phobos.Mars doesn’t have any rings, however, it’s thought that in 50 million years, when Phobos either breaks apart or crashes into Mars, it might create a dusty ring around Mars.

Could Life Exist on Mars?

Scientists don’t think that they will ever find living things on Mars as the conditions aren’t good enough for life to thrive. However, they are seeking signs that life might have existed on the planet a long time ago when Mars was warmer and had liquid water covering its surface.

Interesting Information:

During the 19th century it was popular to think that Mars had life and civilizations populating it. The reason for this belief was mainly caused by an error and some really imaginative people.

Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli looked through a telescope in 1877 and saw lines on the surface of Mars that he called “canalis” and that he thought were created by living creatures.

Other people called the lines “canals” and that became the source of stories and science fiction ideas about life on Mars.

These ideas continued until new telescopes were developed that were more powerful and let astronomers see that the lines were really just a natural part of the surface and caused those in the past to have optical illusions.

The atmosphere on Mars is so thin that the heat from the sun quickly escapes. If you were to stand on the surface of Mars on the equator at noon, it would feel like spring at your feet (75 degrees F/24 degrees C and winter at your head 32 degrees F/0 degrees C.

Space Missions to Mars:

Of all of the planets and bodies in our solar system, Mars is the most explored and the only planet that we have sent rovers to travel the landscape and collect samples and data.

NASA, India, and ESA (European Space Agency) have spacecraft orbiting above Mars.

The robotic explorers have found a lot of evidence that at one time, billions of years ago, Mars was warmer and wetter, with a thicker atmosphere.

Recorded observations reach back as far as 4,000 years when the Ancient Egyptians charted Mars’ movements across the sky.

We have had an international fleet of spacecraft that have orbited and some that have landed on Mars, including the robotic rovers.

Strangely, there have been many attempts at sending robotic spacecraft that have failed, but we are pleased to say that many also succeeded including:

Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Opportunity rover, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity rover, Mars Orbiter Mission, MAVEN and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

NASA’s InSight arrived on November 26, 2018, with communications support from the twin MarCO cubesats, the first CubeSats sent into Deep Space.

Important Events:

  • 1659: Christiaan Huygens draws the Syrtis Major on Mars as dark markings.
  • 1877: Giovanni Schiaparelli creates a map of Mars that includes his idea of “canalis”
  • 1877: Asaph Hall discovers Mars’ two moons: Phobos and Deimos.
  • 1965: NASA’s Mariner 4 sends the first up close images of Mars in 22 photos.
  • 1971: Mariner 9 is first spacecraft to orbit Mars and completes the mapping of almost all of the Mars surface.
  • 1976: Viking 1 and 2 land on the Mars surface.
  • 1997: Mars Pathfinder lands and sends out Sojourner, the first wheeled rover to explore the surface of Mars.
  • 2002: Mars Odyssey mission makes Mars observations to locate water ice that may be buried on Mars.
  • 2004: Twin Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit and Opportunity are dispatched to do scientific experiments, finding evidence that long ago Mars had liquid water on its surface.
  • 2006: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends back images of Mars that are high-resolution and studies the Mars seasonal changes and water history of Mars.
  • 2008: Phoenix mission presence of liquid water and good soil chemistry as part of its mission for potential future habitation.
  • 2012: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity finds conditions in Gale Crater that indicate they may have once been suitable for microbial life in the past.

Facts about Mars for Kids:

  • There have been 40 missions to Mars, but only 18 of the missions were successful.
  • The dust storms on Mars are so large that they are considered to be the biggest in the solar system.
  • Meteorites that have been ejected from Mars have been found all over the Earth.
  • Of all of the planets in the solar system, only Earth has confirmed life and Mars is believed to possibly be hospital for life.
  • Earth and Mars are the only to planets in the solar system with polar ice caps.
  • Mars does have seasons but they are twice as long as the seasons on Earth due to Mars’ axis tilt.
  • If you were standing on Mars and looked at the sun it would appear half the size as compared to looking at the sun from Earth.

Pop Culture:

It can be easily said that Mars has captured the collective imagination of humans more than any other planet.

In the 1800s, when people first thought that there were canal-like features on the surface of Mars, they thought that these were the proof that intelligent alien species lived on the planet.

These ideas led to more stories, books, movies, and television shows than any other planet. The most notable of the situations was the 1938 radio drama of the H.G. Wells book, “The War of the Worlds.”

The broadcast was so realistic that many listeners though that there really was an invasion of Earth by Martians, and went into a panic.

Television has also picked up on the idea of intelligent creatures on Mars with the 1966 series “My Favorite Martian.”

Another Mars tale on television and in books was “The Expanse.” Other stories that have taken place on Mars were transitioned to movies such as the 1990 “Total Recall” and the remake in 2012.

In this version, the ultimate tale involved terraforming Mars and a colony struggling due to lack of air.

The 2014 novel that became the movie adaptation in 2015 of “The Martian” involved a botanist that was left stranded on Mars and his struggle to survive while he awaits rescue.