Facts About Mars

Here are amazing facts about Mars that you may not know yet. Use the information here to illustrate to your friends how clever you are or as a conversation starter at your next party. The details presented here will enhance your knowledge about the magnificent planet called Mars!

Mars has Violent Dust Storms Regularly

Huge dust storms on Mars regularly change its surface; the storms are violent and long lasting. The storms are created when particles of dust on the planet’s surface absorb sunshine, which raises the temperature of the atmosphere there. When the particles travel to cold areas, and the wind picks up, that creates the big, ferocious dust storms.
When Mariner 9 landed on Mars, it took a month for it to capture clear photos because there was of the violent wind storm. The dust storms are a major reason it is unlikely people will colonize Mars.

Mars Got its Name from the Romans

The name “Mars” is a tribute to the Roman god of war named Mars. The planet got its name from the Romans thousands of years ago. It is also called the Red Planet because the dust that covers its surface is red in color. For the Egyptians, Mars was “Her Descher,” which translates to the red one.

Mars has Two Faces

The Red Planet is said to have “two faces” because it has very different temperatures between its hemispheres. There is a northern and a southern hemisphere. While the northern face is smooth, the southern one is bumpy. In addition, the southern side has a denser crust than does the upper hemisphere. It is like having two planets within one.
This duality may originate from an incident in which an asteroid hit Mars. Many scientists believe that event caused the large crater that exists in the northern hemisphere and altered the planet’s characteristics.

Mars Has a Surface of Channels, Canyons, and Plains

The surface of Mars holds many interesting features. It is a dry wasteland that has channels, old volcanos, canyons, and plains. The surface can be hidden for long lengths of time by its sand storms. The deep valleys may result from rupturing volcanos that erupted for millions of years. As well, the planet’s surface hast impact craters across it like polka dots. The craters have not deteriorated because there is not the rain or plate tectonics on Mars to do so (unlike on Earth).

Mars has the Largest Volcano Anywhere

The biggest volcano is on the Red Planet. It is called Olympus Mons, and its size is impressive at 25 km high with a base diameter of 600 km. If you want a comparison on Earth, Olympus Mons would likely cover the entire distance from the East Coast of the US to the West Coast of the country. Another way to describe this huge volcano is as three times the tallness of Mount Everest. Olympus Mons is so big that it was spotted with a telescope in the 1800s.

Six Planets are Larger than Mars

While it has the biggest volcano, Mars is not the largest planet in our Solar System. It is the 7th largest planet. The planets that are bigger than Mars are Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Venus. Mars is only one of two planets that measure smaller than Earth.

There Used to be Water on Mars

While Mars has a dry surface now, scientists believe that there was once water on it. That would have been billions of years ago. Data collected by rovers and orbiters shows erosion designs and minerals that indicate there likely were once minor oceans and lengthy rivers across the majority of its surface. The scientific theory is that water is now frozen underneath the planetary surface; scientists hope to one day delve into those deeper levels of water to explore and gain more information about Mars.

Earth and Mars Share Many Characteristics

Yes, both Earth and Mars have similarities, including the same amount of land surface area. As well, both planets have a tilt in their rotational axes that are about the same; this tilt creates a bulge at the equator for both planets. Another similarity is that several scientists believe they both have had major changes to its climate occur over time. Persistent polar caps are also present on both Mars and Earth.

Facts about the Differences between Mars and Earth

Even though the two planets have the same sum of land surface area, Earth is substantially larger than Mars. Earth has a radius of 6,371 km while Mars has a radius of 3,390 km. As well, the Earth is closer to the Sun than Mars; the Red Planet is around 227,900,000 km from the Sun while Earth is about 149,500,000 km away from it. Also, Mars has only about 15% of Earth’s volume, and it has much lower gravity than Earth, as explained in the next section.

Gravity is Weak on Mars

The surface gravity on Mars is only 3.711m/s², which is significantly lower than the Earth’s gravity of 9.807m/s². That means that Mars has less than half the gravity of Earth! For a person who is 100kg in weight on Earth, their weight translates into just 38kg on Mars. The gravity on Mars does not do well with holding onto the atmosphere.

Facts about How Scientists Calculate Mars’s Gravity

To calculate gravity on Mars, scientists use Newton’s theory of gravity. When applied to Mars, the theory holds that the surface gravity is in inverse proportion to the square of its radius. The formula is g=m/r², here “g” is gravity, “m” is mass, and “r” stands for radius.

The Atmosphere at Mars Used to be Thicker

An interesting fact about Mars is that its atmosphere was thicker in the past. A popular theory to explain the change is that sunshine hit the atmosphere in such a way that it stripped the lighter forms of hydrogen from the top. The result was less atmosphere at Mars. Scientists continue to investigate the reasons for the thin atmosphere on the Red Planet.

Mars has the Biggest Sand Dunes in the Solar System

Watch out for sand dunes! They are huge on Mars, likely because of a combination of its low gravity, a large amount of sand, and low air pressure. The dunes are easily 300 feet in height. That is considerably higher than sand ripples on Earth. Getting close-up details of the dunes is difficult given the violent winds of the sand storms. There are smaller dunes, as well on this fourth planet.

Mars is Planet #4 from the Sun

Mars follows Mercury, Venus, and Earth, in order, as the fourth planet from the Sun. It is 227,900,000 km from the Sun. The planet is close enough to the Sun to receive benefits from its heat and light, yet far enough away not to get damaging effects of its heat. Mars is the last of the terrestrial planets. It is fairly close to the Earth, divided by an asteroid belt.

The Geological History of Mars has 3 Phases

The 3 geological time periods are Noachian, Hesperian, and Amazonian. The phases are also called Epochs; they are determined by how many meteorite impact craters are on its top surface. The exact timing is not known for when the craters hit the Red Planet.

The first Epoch was the Noachian, which began when Mars first originated and ended about 3.8-3.5 billion years ago. Then was Hesperian, which lasted until somewhere between 3.55-1.8 billion years ago. Lastly was the Amazonian phase, which extends into the present day.

The Sun Looks Half the Size on Mars Than on Earth

If you looked at the sun from Mars, it would be substantially smaller than the size of the orb appears on Earth. In fact, it would look like it is half the size. This is because Mars is farther away from the Sun than Earth.

Mars is Popularized by Science Fiction Books

If you read science fiction books, you will notice that Mars is a favorite planet discussed in the plotlines. Many of these books describe Martians who live on Mars. The popularity of the planet in fictional literature has led it to be one that many people are curious about today. As well, the planet has been written about extensively in comic books, been the subject of countless films, and also been the star of TV and radio shows.

No, Mars Does Not Have Rings

You may have heard that the Red Planet has rings. That is not true. Mars is not one of the planets in our solar system with rings. The planets with rings are Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Neptune. The most recognizable rings are those of Saturn.

Mars Facts: The Planet has 2 Moons

Mars has two small moons, which are called Deimos and Phobos. They have uneven shapes and resemble asteroids. Phobos has a relatively short lifetime expectancy, in terms of moons, at 30-50 million years. Many scientists believe that Phobos was crash on Mars one day. Interestingly, the moons of Mars were written about in Jonathan Swift’s book “Gulliver’s Travels” even before they were discovered!

There is No Magnetic Field on Mars

Contrary to what scientists used to believe, it is now known that Mars does not have a magnetic field. This fact about Mars is surprising as it rotates nearly as quickly as Earth, which does have a magnetic field. A solar day on Mars lasts about 2.7% longer than on Earth. Planetary scientists explain that Mars used to have a strong magnetic field than it does now, but there is no consensus as to why there is no longer magnetism there.

A Day on Mars is Slightly Longer than An Earth Day

At 24 hours and 37 minutes long, a Martian day is only slightly longer than a day on Earth. However, Mars has a much longer year than Earth. While we have 365 days per year, on Mars it is 687 Earth days. That is almost double the length!

Facts about Mars: The Planet is Very Cold

So you think it can get cold on Earth? The average temperature on the Red Planet is only -63°C. In terms of its highs and lowest, the record high temperature is 20°C while the lowest record is -140°C. Brrr! The average temperature here on Earth is 16°C, to put those numbers into perspective.

Atmospheric Pressure on Mars is only about 1% of Earth’s Sea Level
Yikes, that is low!

The Martian surface has only 0.6% of the average sea level pressure on the Earth. Atmospheric pressure on Mars is only about 600 pascals or 0.087 psi. Compare that to Earth’s sea level’s 14.69 ps. The atmosphere on Mars is mainly made up of carbon dioxide, which is quite different than the Earth’s mix of primarily oxygen and nitrogen in its atmosphere. Mars has very little oxygen (estimates are at about 0.13%) and only about 0.03% water vapor. It is surprising that even with the low atmospheric pressure, Mars still gets big dust storms.

Borealis Basin Comprises 40% of the Red Planet

Also known as the North Polar Basin, the Borealis basin covers 40% of Mars. It is located in the Northern Hemisphere, and its main features are its low, flat surface. Many planetary scientists believe that Borealis basin may be the result of a single big impact. Following this reasoning, the impact was powerful enough to blast off a huge portion of the planet’s crust while not melting it completely. A hypothesis of this giant impact continues to be explored.

You Can See Mars With the Naked Eye

You do not even need to use a telescope to see Mars. It appears with the naked eye as a yellow, orange or red in color; the color and brightness varies according to where exactly it is within its orbit. At the point in the orbit when Mars is farthest away from Earth, it can be more difficult to see because of the Sun’s strong glare.

The Core of Mars Contains 3 Layers

Underneath its surface are 3 layers: the core, crust, and mantle. The core of Mars has a radius of about 1,700-1,850 km. The core is very dense while the layers closer to the surface are less dense. The core is mainly made of nickel, iron, and sulfur.

Surrounding the Martian core, which does not move, is a silicate mantle. The mantle is also dormant. The crust contains magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, silicone, and oxygen. The crust features can change during dust storms and has been significantly altered by past volcanic activity.

Polar Ice Caps are at North and South Poles on Mars

Yes, there are 2 polar ice caps on the Red Planet. The north polar cap is mainly made of water ice, and when it is winter in the northern hemisphere that cap gets a layer of carbon monoxide around it. The south polar cap also gets layered with carbon monoxide when it is south hemisphere winter. The water that scientists believe is locked within Mars is often thought to lay underneath these polar caps. The ice may look reddish because of dust on the caps.

Pieces of Mars Have Landed on Earth

When asteroids, in the past, hit Mars, it created debris that floated throughout the Solar System. Some of these meteorites have landed on the Earth. The pieces are specifically part of the SNC group, which stands for Shergottites, Nakhlites, and Chassignites. These 3 words are all types of geologic composition. To date, over 132 of the meteorites on Earth have been labeled as Martian. One example is NWA 7034, also called Black Beauty, which was found in the Sahara desert in 2011.

Valles Marineris is the Biggest System of Canyons

The largest system of canyons in the Solar System is on Mars, and it is called Valles Marineris. It is named after the Mariner 9 Mars orbiter, which discovered it on its mission in 1971-1972. It runs along the equator, and it is about 4,000 km, with incredible depths of 7 km.

If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, it is 1.6 km deep; that comparison shows you the extreme depth of Valles Marineris on Mars. It is sometimes nicknamed as “the Grand Canyon of the US.” The huge valley can be seen from Earth using a telescope; it appears as a huge, dark scar on the planet’s surface.

The Source of Life Began on Mars

This statement may be difficult at first to believe, but there is scientific evidence to back it up. For life to have begun on Earth, roughly 3.5 billion years ago, it would have needed to have boron and oxidized molybdenum. However, those two elements did not exist at that time. One theory, by Steve Benner of Florida’s Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology, suggests these elements were likely to have come from Mars. Thus, the Red Planet may have been the source of life.

Mars was Once Thought to be a Moon

Mars was not always considered a planet. As its surface has many craters, which is similar to the moon’s surface, it was thought back in history that Mars was a moon. However, scientists realized this was wrong when Mariner 9 arrived at Mars in 1971 to find a massive dust storm and dormant volcanos peeking out from the dust. We now know that it is indeed a planet.

Tharsis is a Huge Volcanic Plateau on Mars

Near the Martian equator, in its western hemisphere, is a huge volcanic plateau region called Tharsis. This area has some of the biggest volcanos in our Solar System. There are 3 volcanoes within it, which are: the Arsia Mons, Ascraeus Mons, and Pavonis Mons. At its center, Tharsis is approximately 8,000 km wide and 8 km high. The volcanic area was created by the lifting and buildup of lava flows. This time of lava flow is thought to have happened 1-3 billion years ago, according to modern planetary scientists.

Mars has no Active Plate Tectonics

The plate tectonics are currently dormant on Mars, which is the same as Mercury and the Moon. It is unlike the Earth in this respect. The combination of unmoving plates and low surface gravity may explain the Tharsis bulge and the huge volcanoes on the Red Planet.

NASA is the Only Space Agency to Land on It

NASA is the only successful agency to land on Mars so far. In 1964, the first space shuttle arrived at the Red Planet; it was Mariner 4. NASA’s Viking landed in 1976. In 1997 was the first lander-rover combination with the Pathfinder and Sojourner. Next up was the 2012 Curiosity rover, and then the 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Galileo First Viewed Mars

The Red Planet was first viewed through a telescope by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). He saw what likely looked like a bright disk. The year was 1609; he documented his findings over the course of that year. It was also the first time that the telescope was used for astronomical findings.

Later, in 1659, Christiaan Huygens drew Mars using his more advanced style of telescope; he noted craters on the Martian surface. Huygens was also the first person to notice a white spot in the South Pole; that spot is thought to be the southern polar cap.

There you have it, so many amazing facts about Mars! The facts cover its history, what its surface looks like and offers amazing measurements about the features of the Red Planet. Scientists continue to investigate the fourth planet from the Sun, and there continue to be questions, such as why is northern hemisphere so different than the southern hemisphere? As more spacecraft explore Mars in the future, it will be interesting to see what additional data is collected. A debate that is likely to continue for some time is whether future life can be supported on the Red Planet and, if it can, when the will is that likely to happen?