Archive for January, 2009
1. Mars has the biggest mountain in the solar system.
It’s called “Olympus Mons” and it’s actually a dormant volcano. Olympus Mons is 15.5 miles high and 372 miles across. To give you an idea, Mt. Everest is between 5 and 6 miles tall. Mars also has the biggest canyon system in the known universe, the “Valles Marineris,” which is 2,500 miles long and 4 miles deep.
2. People have always wondered about life on mars because of the “canals” first seen by early astronomers.
This is why we have always imagined alien invaders coming from there, and not Jupiter or Venus. Actually, Mars is one of the least habitable planets, with freezing temperatures, solar winds, and almost no atmosphere. It is far more likely for there to be life on Venus. The canals seen by early observers are long, straight lines on the planet’s surface that scientists believe are evidence of water.
3. Mars is named after the Roman god of war because its red color reminded early observers of blood.
The reason for the red color is that the soil is composed of iron oxide, or what we commonly call rust.
4. Compared to the other planets in the solar system, Mars is quite small.
It is half the size of earth. Mars has about a third of the earth’s gravity, which means that you can jump three times as high.
5. In the 1970′s, the Viking orbiter took pictures of what appear to be giant faces and pyramids carved into the planet’s surface in the Cydonia region.
The biggest looks like the Sphinx of Egypt and is 2,000 feet high and miles across. While this discovery has gotten UFOlogists excited, scientists say they are just eroded mesas. Many still believe that the faces are too symmetrical to be natural, and that they are evidence of ancient alien civilizations.
6. Mars has some of the wildest weather in the solar system.
It has tremendous wind storms, dust storms and small tornadoes (dust devils). In 2001, a huge dust storm covered the entire planet for several earth days. Scientists are puzzled that a planet with so little atmosphere could have raging storms such as these. They don’t know what causes them, but there are more storms when Mars is close to the sun. When it’s on the farther end of its orbit, there are icy clouds made of carbon dioxide and dust. This is also strange because Mars has no surface water.
7. There has been a search for life on mars, and also a search for water.
After years of studying every crack on the planet’s surface for evidence of water, scientists have finally found it. The Phoenix mission found that there are huge deposits of ice underneath the planet’s surface.
8. Mars has two moons, and one of it is going to crash into it.
The moon Phobos orbits dangerously close to Mars’ atmosphere. Someday, the gravitational pull with smash the moon to bits. The debris will stay in Mars’ orbit, making a ring like the rings of Saturn. Eventually, it will rain down on Mars. Scientists don’t know when this will happen, but predict it will be in the next 50 years.
9. Only 1/3 of all the missions to Mars have been successful.
So many missions have disappeared that it has led scientists to wonder if something strange is happening. They refer to Mars as the “Bermuda Triangle” of the solar system.