Mars is a planet found in the Solar System. It is the 2nd smallest planet and the fourth in order of distance from the sun. Mars is cold, dusty, and possesses a thin atmosphere. Explorations of the planet are ongoing to find out whether it can support human life as the Earth does. Below are some interesting facts about Mars;
1. Mars Possesses Varied Names As Accorded To It By Different Cultures
The names given to Mars revolved around its physical appearance. It was named “the Red Planet” by the Romans. On the other hand, the Greeks called the planet “Ares.” Both the Greeks and the Romans associated the planet with war since its color resembles that of blood. Other ancient cultures like the Chinese astronomers called Mars “the fire star” while the Egyptian priests called it “Her Desher” which meant “the red one.” Scientifically, the red color is derived from the large amounts of iron oxide, a mineral found in the soils and rocks on the surface of Mars.
2. Mars is 227.9 Million Kilometers from the Sun
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. It has a diameter of 6,794 kilometers and lies about 227,940,000 kilometers away from the sun. Usually, Mars looks relatively smaller in size compared to Earth. However, the landmass of Mars and Earth are nearly equal. This difference in size is attributed to the fact that a large part of the Earth's surface is occupied by water.
3. Temperatures Get Very Low on Mars
At the equator, the temperatures may get up to a maximum of 20°C and drop down to around -73 °C. On the other hand, temperatures at the poles during winter can get as low as -153°C. The reason for these low temperatures is that Mars is very far from the sun. Additionally, since Mars has a very thin atmosphere, it cannot preserve the little heat which it receives from the sun.
4. Olympus Mons, the Highest Peak in the Entire Solar System, is in Mars
The highest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, stands 21 kilometers high. It is a 600 kilometers wide shield volcano. The height of Olympus is approximately three times the height of Mount Everest, the highest mountain found on planet Earth. Olympus Mons is believed to have been formed billions of years ago. Recently, scientists have gathered evidence to suggest that Olympus Mons is still an active volcano.
5. Mars Boasts of Having Double Moons
Mars has two small moons called Phobos and Deimos that are irregularly shaped. According to the Greeks, these are the two sons of Ares, the Greek god of war. Phobos and Deimos are Greek words that mean “fear” and “flight” respectively. Information about these two moons was written in an ancient book known as Gulliver’s Travels’. The author of the book was Jonathan Swift. Swift wrote about these moons 151 years before they were discovered. His predictions were coincidentally so close to the discoveries made about Phobos and Deimos.
6. A Day in Mars is Slightly Longer than a Day on Earth
One day on planet Mars is equivalent to 24 hours and 37 minutes. This makes it 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth. On the other hand, a year on Mars is almost twice as long as the same period on earth as it is 687 days. Mars is further away from the sun than the Earth. Therefore, it takes a longer time for it to orbit the sun.
7. Besides Earth, Mars is the Other Planet that Has Polar Ice Caps
The north polar cap on Mars is called the Planum Boreum while the south polar cap is known as the Planum Australe. These polar caps are formed by water ice and solid carbon dioxide which is sometimes called “dry ice.” The 25 degrees tilt on the axis of Mars enables the planet to experience seasons that vary in length depending on how further away or closer to the sun it is. The four seasons are spring (lasts for 7 months), summer (lasts for 6 months), autumn (lasts for 5.4 months) and winter (lasts for slightly over 4 months) all totaling up to one year on Mars.
8. The Surface of Mars Comprises a Rugged Terrain
It is believed that Planet Mars has no liquid water on its surface. Instead, the planet is made up of only dusty red soil and rocks. The surface also contains deep gorges, extensive volcanoes, craters, and dry lake beds all over it. Just like the Earth, Mars also experiences clouds and winds. The red dust that covers most of the surface of Mars is sometimes blown up by the wind so that it forms a red precipitate of dust storms that are the largest in the solar system and almost cover the entire planet. This dust can travel up to 66 miles per hour and last for months in the atmosphere.
9. Mars Has a Thin Atmosphere Compared to Earth
The planet Mars has a very thin atmosphere comprising of 95.9% of carbon dioxide and 2.7% of nitrogen. On the contrary, the atmosphere on Earth contains only 0.03% of carbon dioxide and 78% of nitrogen. This thin atmosphere implies that gravitational force on Mars is weaker than that on Earth. Besides, the atmosphere in Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth, contains no hydrogen, and has a high percentage of carbon dioxide. The high amounts of carbon dioxide do not support human life.
10. The First Successful Spacecraft Mission to Mars Was the Viking I and II
Apart from Earth, Mars is the only planet that shows suitable conditions to support human life. To this effect, there have been several space missions and experiments by scientists to ascertain whether this belief can turn into reality. The first mission to have landed on Mars was the Viking Landers in 1976. There have been close to 13 active robots on Mars and a total of 39 different attempted missions that have been launched to Mars. Out of these, 16 were successful include Mission Rovers, Landers, and The Orbiters.