The red planet Mars has triggered imaginations of many. Some of these imaginations took the form of movies. Outside the theatre, possibilities of reaching the red planet were also studied and eventually realized only to find that the planet is not only a dead one but is also hostile to humans (unless of course, humans come up with some brilliant technology that will help them colonize the red planet). So, if you have ever wondered about the amazingly red celestial body in Earth’s sky, here are 45 interesting Mars facts that you will love:
Interesting Mars Facts: 1-5 (Naming)
1. From Sun, Mar is the 4th planet and has a typical red color that has been the source of different names that have been used for the planet.
2. Most widely accepted name ‘Mars’ is the name of Roman god of war.
3. While we have accepted the Roman name, the truth is that Romans were in fact inspired by the Greeks who too named this red planet after their god of war. Greeks named the planet, Ares.
4. Romans and Greeks weren’t the only ones to name the planet. Egyptians too named it and the name was inspired by its red color. The Egyptian name of Mars is ‘Her Desher’ which translates to ‘the red one’ in English.
5. That’s not the end though. The Chinese astronomers weren’t far and used a name which meant ‘the fire star’. Sorry, we don’t know the exact Chinese version.
Interesting Mars Facts: 6-10 (Geological Features)
6. The question is, ‘what gives the planet its red color?’ The answer can be found it is regolith. The regolith is the blanket of loose rocks and dust that covers a celestial body. The regolith of Mars is found to have minerals rich in iron, which gives it its typical red color.
7. Mars is a cold planet and its atmosphere is very thin. Because of this, the planet cannot sustain liquid water.
8. Despite the fact that the red planet is little over half the diameter of Earth, it has the same amount of dry land as present on our home orb.
9. The largest volcanoes in our entire solar system exist on Mars. One of these volcanoes is the Olympus Mons. 600 kilometers or 370 miles in diameter, this volcano is capable of covering the whole of New Mexico. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano similar to the Hawaiian volcanoes.
10. Other types of volcanic landforms also exist on the red planet. There are wide plains that are coated with hardened lava and there are steep cone-shaped land forms too!
Interesting Mars Facts: 11-15 (Geological Features Continued…)
11. This red orb is also the home for highest mountains in entire solar system. The Olympus Mons for instance is 3 times taller than our very own Mount Everest.
12. The credit for housing the deepest and longest valleys in entire solar system also goes to Mars. The Valles Marineris valley system is 6 miles or 10 kilometers deep. In terms of length, from east to west it runs 4,000 kilometers or 2,500 miles. That’s incredibly long because it covers nearly 1/5th the total distance across Mars. Compared to Earth, it covers the entire width of Australia!
13. Mars probably had liquid water at some point back in time. There are gullies, valleys and channels spread all over the red planet suggesting the presence of water at some point.
14. The Valles Marineris, according to scientists, was formed because of rifting as a result of stretching crust. The Valles Marineris system has individual canyons that are 100 kilometers or 60 miles wide.
15. All those individual canyons meet at the central part of Valles Marineris where the valley system is 600 kilometers or 370 miles wide.
Interesting Mars Facts: 16-20 (Geological Features Continued…)
16. Some of the canyons have large channels emerging from their ends. Layered sediments can be found in those channels. This suggests that liquid water once existed on the planet.
17. Some of these channels can be 1,200 miles or 2,000 kilometers long.
18. Scientists believe that liquid water may still be present on Mars but is trapped deep in the pores and cracks of underground rocks.
19. Low-lying flat plains can be found on Martian surface. The lowest of these plains in the northern plains are by far the smoothest and flattest places in entire solar system. Scientists believe that these plains were once formed by liquid water.
20. The elevation in the southern hemisphere is higher than that in northern hemisphere. This led the scientists to believe that the Martian crust is thicker in southern hemisphere. Scientists say that this unusual structure was probably caused by some kind of cosmic collision shortly after Mars for formed.
Interesting Mars Facts: 21-25 (Geological Features Continued…)
21. The Martian surface is full of craters. The concentration of craters can vary significantly in different parts of the red planet’s surface.
22. The northern hemisphere of the planet is has fewer craters and is relatively younger.
23. The southern hemisphere on the other hand is extremely old and has many craters. The 1,400 mile or 2,300 kilometer-wide Hellas Planitia crater is located in the southern hemisphere.
24. Some craters on Mars have debris deposits around them that resemble solidified mudflows. This suggests that the impactors managed to hit underground ice or water deposits. In fact, Mars Odyssey spacecraft has detected water deposits under the ground in form of ice. The Phoenix mission aims towards unEarthing the underground ice and analyzing it with onboard tools to see if any kind of ancient life can be found or not.
25. Certain volcanoes have fewer craters. This suggests that these volcanoes erupted only recently and the resulting lava flow covered old craters.
Interesting Mars Facts: 26-30 (Climate and Polar Caps)
26. On average, Mars is way colder than Earth. The main cause of this cold temperature is its distance from Sun. Average Martian temperature is -60°C or -80°F. During winter months, this temperature can dip down to -125°C or -195°F near the poles. However, near the equator, temperature can be 20°C or 70°F at midday.
27. Martian air becomes thin during the winter months because the carbon dioxide content of the air get frozen out.
28. The atmosphere of Mars is very rich in carbon dioxide but still, it is not as dense as that of Earth. Earth’s atmosphere is 100 times denser than that of Mars.
29. The red planet experiences severe sand storms that are capable of blanketing the entire planet and can last for months.
30. At about 80 degrees in both northern and southern hemisphere, vast deposits extending from the poles to the latitudes can be seen. These deposits appear to stacked layers of dust and water ice. During winter, frost caps also appear. These frost caps may be nothing other than dry ice or solid carbon dioxide. During extreme winters, these frost caps can run from pole to latitude all the way down at 45 degrees, which is half way from poles to equator.
Interesting Mars Facts: 31-35 (All Measurements)
31. The atmospheric composition of Mars includes: 95.32% carbon dioxide, 0.13% oxygen, 1.6% argon, 0.08% carbon monoxide and trace amounts of xenon, krypton, hydrogen-deuterium-oxygen, neon, nitrogen oxide and water.
32. Most likely, Mars has a solid core made of sulfur, nickel and iron. Mantle is probably made of peridotite which is nothing but a mixture of primarily magnesium, iron, oxygen and silicon. The crust is probably mostly made of basalt (which is a volcanic rock). Scientists believe that the crust of northern hemisphere is made of a type of andesite, which too is a volcanic rock but with higher concentration of silica compared to basalt.
33. Scientists say that the global magnetic field is absent on Mars but localized magnetic fields at several regions on crust may be present and those magnetic fields are 10 times stronger than what can be found on Earth.
34. Scientists believe that the Martian crust is only 50 kilometers of 30 miles thick while the mantle covers 900 to 1,200 miles or 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers thick.
35. The core of Mars, according to scientists, is probably 1,800 miles and 2,400 miles or 2,900 kilometers and 3,900 kilometers in diameter.
Interesting Mars Facts: 36-40 (All Measurements Continued…)
36. The total mass of Mars is 641,693,000,000,000 billion kilograms. The equatorial diameter of Mars is 6,805 kilometers and its polar diameter is 6,755 kilometers.
37. The average distance of Mars from Sun is 227,936,640 kilometers or 141,633,260 miles, which is 1.524 times greater than the distance of Earth from Sun.
38. The farthest (Aphelion) the red orb goes from Sun is 249,200,000 kilometers or 154,900,000 miles. The closest (Perihelion) the planet gets to the Sun is 206,600,000 kilometers or 128,400,000 miles.
39. One year on Mars is equal to 687 Earth Days and one day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes.
40. Mars is speeding around Sun at a speed of 14.5 miles per second. The gravitational pull of Mars is 0.375 of Earth which means that a 10 ft. dunk on Earth will result in 26.3 ft. dunk on Mars.
Interesting Mars Facts: 41-45 (Moons and Other Facts)
41. Mars has two moons – the Phobos and the Deimos. These moons were discovered in 1877 by astronomer Asaph Hall.
42. Both the moons are composed of a mixture of ice and carbon-rich rock. The surface of these moons are in turn covered with loose rock and dust.
43. Phobos is bigger than Deimos but compared to Earth’s moon, they are tiny. Phobos has a maximum width of 27 kilometers of 17 miles while Deimos has a maximum width of 15 kilometers of 9 miles.
44. Phobos is spiraling down towards the red planet at a speed of 6 feet every 100 years. At this rate, the moon will eventually slam on Mars. Some scientists say that this will not happen anytime sooner than 10 million years and no later than 50 million years.
45. Earlier impacts of asteroids on Martian surface ejected some mass from Mars. They were shot out of the gravitational pull of the planet and travelled through the solar system for millions of years and eventually fell on other planets. Some came to Earth. Scientists have found some of those fragments of Mars. On their way out of the planet, those fragments managed to capture trace amounts of atmosphere of Mars. Scientists used those pieces to study the atmosphere of Mars even before any spacecraft was sent to Mars.