Home to the deepest canyon and the largest Volcano in the entire Solar System, Mars is the fourth planet and the second smallest planet in our solar system.
Widely known as “the Red Planet”, given its distinct brownish-red colour, the ancient Romans named it after their God of war. The Egyptians dubbed it “Her Desher” meaning ‘the red one’ and the Chinese astronomers named it “the fire star”.
Few physical characteristics of Mars are believed to be slightly similar to that of Earth- including its weather system and its atmosphere, which is composed of mostly nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon gases. Both these planets are comprised of sustained polar caps too.
Thus, Mars is the only other planet, beyond our own planet, speculated to have the potential to sustain and harbour life, making it is the most visited planet (besides Earth) by spacecraft in our Solar System. Here are some more fascinating facts about Mars.
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Facts About Mars
1. Evidence of Water
The evidence of water in Mars means that the planet has the possibility of sustaining, not only, chemical reactions but even life too. The presence of a thin atmosphere in Mars doesn’t allow water to exist in a liquid state but water is present in the form of ice in its poles.
The size of the ice cap of both the northern and southern varies upon seasonal change. The southern ice cap is a mixture of frozen water and carbon dioxide while the northern ice cap is mostly frozen water and is larger in size when it’s not affected by any season. New data indicates that the northern iced region may contain as much water as Greenland’s ice sheet.
2. Largest Volcano in the Solar System
Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the entire solar system. The Olympus towers 23 km above the Martian surface and extends 624 km in diameter. For contrast, the tallest volcano on earth, Mauna Loa, stands 6.3 miles above seawater, making Olympus three times taller than Mount Everest- the tallest mountain on Earth.
3. Extreme Highs and Lows
Mars has not only the highest highs but the lowest canyons system too. The surface gravity of Mars is around 38% of the surface gravity of Earth, making it possible for such tall mountains to exist without collapsing.
In the Southeast of Olympus Mons, exists the deepest canyon system, Valles Marineris. According to national geographic, it spans about 2500 miles and is 4.3 miles deep, making it 5 times longer and 4 times deep than Grand Canyon.
Mars has two moons named after the horses that pulled the chariot of God of war- Phobos and Deimos. These moons are extremely small in size and they could be easily mistaken for asteroids, some scientists believe they were actually asteroids trapped there by Mars’s gigantic force of gravity.
5. Mars Will Have Rings in the Future
It is believed that Phobos has only about 30 to 50 million years left since Mars’s gravity will be too strong to resist. Every century it gets around 6 feet closer to Mars, increasing the possibility of it entering the atmosphere and impacting the red planet’s surface. As a result, this could possibly create a ring system in the future.
6. Huge Dust Storm
Mars is infamous for its extreme and fierce dust storms which can last for not only days but weeks. It’s normal for these regular dust storms to grow and turn into storms that circle the planet, every 3 Mars years. The elliptical shape of the orbit path makes the pathway more elongated than other planets, resulting in these intense dust storms.
7. Northern and Southern Hemisphere
Mars’s northern and southern hemispheres are completely different from each other. While the northern hemisphere is studded with crust up to 19 miles thick and low-lying plains, the southern hemisphere consists of volcanoes and crust that’s around 62 miles thick. The only thing common in both the hemisphere is the reddish or brownish dust that surrounds their atmosphere.
8. Orbit and Rotation
The distance from the Sun to Mars is approximately 225 million km so it takes longer for Mars to orbit around the Sun than Earth. It takes 24.6 Earth hours for Mars to rotate in its own axis and 1.88 Earth years to complete orbital revolution. Also, its axis is tilted at an angle of 25.2 degrees relative to the orbital plane around the Sun, stretching the length of the seasons.
9. Pieces of Mars Have Landed on Earth
When large asteroids hit Mars and get shattered into chunks, some bits of the asteroid fall back to the planet itself while others eject into space and orbit the solar system for millions of years. During which, some of these can enter the Earth’s atmosphere. As of today, around 60,000 meteorites have been found in Earth. Out of which, 126 have been confirmed to be from Mars.
The average temperature of Mars is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). During the winter season, the temperature on the northern and southern poles can fall down to -195 degrees Fahrenheit (-125 degrees Celsius).
11. Physical Characteristics
The diameter of Mars is 6.779 km, a little more than half the size of the Earth. It has a volume of 1.6318×10^11 km^3 and a density of 3.93 g/cm^3. The distance between Mars and the sun is 227.9 million km and it takes 13 minutes for Sunlight to reach there.