The fourth planet from the Sun is Mars. One of the four terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), this red planet is named after the Roman god of war. It’s reddish appearance is caused by the iron oxide, which as a fine grain covers the Martian surface. Below are some interesting facts about Mars, earth’s red neighbor.
Mars is about 143 million miles (230 million km) away from the Sun. A full orbit of the Sun (a year) is about a year and 320 days on Earth (685 days).
1. Mars is about half the size of Earth
The diameter of Mars is about 4,211 miles (6,779 km). In comparison Earth has a diameter of 7,920 miles (12,742 km).
2. Mars hosts the largest volcano in the solar system (Olympus Mons)
Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system. It has a 375 mile (600 km) diameter and a height of 16.77 miles (27 km). It’s thought that continuously flowing lava created this giant over 3 billion years ago.
Olympus Mons is about 3 times bigger than Mount Everest!
3. Bits of Mars has visited Earth!
Scientists have found traces of Martian atmosphere within meteorites that have been unearthed on our home world. The Tissint meteorite found in the Natural History Museum in London is an example of one of these visitors.
This has helped scientists study the composition of Mars prior to space craft visiting the planet.
4. 18 missions to Mars have been successful
Out of the 40 missions that have been attempted to Mars, only 18 have been successful. This includes orbiters, landers, and rovers. NASA’s InSight lander is the newest to join these ranks, arriving at Elysium Planitia on Mars in 2018.
Currently eight functional spacecraft are present on Mars (6 in orbit and 2 on the surface)
5. Due to its size, the gravity on Mars is 38% of Earth’s
If you weighed 200 pounds (90.72 kb) on Earth, you would weigh 76 pounds (34.47 kb) on Mars.
Screw diets, I’m moving!
6. Mars has two moons very small moons
Phobos and Deimos are the two moons that orbit the red planet. Phobos is only about 14 miles (22 km) in diameter, while the smaller Deimos is 7.5 miles (12 km) in diameter. Due to their small size, scientists believe that the two moons are probably asteroids that got caught by the Martian gravity.
7. Mars has two permanent polar ice cars
Caused by the low Martian temperatures, large sheets of ice have formed over the Martian north and south poles. This permanent ice cover is about 26.25 ft (8 meters) thick and is estimated to be about 384 thousand cubic miles (1.6 million cubic km) of ice. In comparison, the Greenlandic Ice sheet contains about 684 thousand cubic miles (2.85 million cubic km) of ice.
8. The average surface temperature on Mars is -81 ° F (-63 °C)
The temperature on Mars can vary from 68 ° F ( 20 ° C) on the equator at noon to -243 ° F (-153 ° C) at the north and south poles.
9. We have known about Mars for a long time
Mars has been seen through out human history, starting with the ancient Sumerians ( around 3500 B.C ) who are the oldest known civilization to have seen the red planet. Fast forward a few thousand years, and Galileo Galilei became the first person to see Mars through a telescope in 1610.
10. Mars may have a ring one day
Like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Nepture, Mars may one day have a ring. A recent theory from Purdue University suggests that the Martian moon, Phobos, will break apart and become a set of rings.
Don’t hold your breath though, as this is expected to happen in roughly 70 million years.