21 Marvellous Facts About Mars
Love space? These in-crater-bly interesting red planet facts are out of this world!
Mars has interested humankind for thousands of years. And despite being our closest neighbour in the solar system, for most of human history we've really not known much about it at all. But with some amazing scientific work and exciting inter-planetary missions, the red planet is finally starting to tell us some of it's secrets. But what's it really like? What are the chances of life? Will we ever get to visit?
Read on to discover the answers to these stellar space questions! And if Mars isn't your bag, we've got lots more facts for you to read about. You can try these space facts, these moon landing facts, or for something a little closer to home - try these Earth facts!
1. It's pretty small
Mars is actually smaller than you might think! In fact it's the 2nd smallest planet in the solar system, after Mercury. Mars is about half the size of the Earth! If you imagine the sun being the size of your front door, then the Earth is about the size of a 20p, and Mars is the size of an aspirin tablet! Make sense? Hopefully!
2. It's really red
Well, we knew this! That's why its called the red planet! But the reason it's red is because of all the iron oxide on the surface - which is the same stuff rust is made of! So it should be the rusty planet, really!
3. It's very cold
Not all red things are hot. Mars is further away from the Sun than we are, we means it's colder. Around the equator Mars can reach a comfy 20 degrees in summer, but a Martian winter in at the poles would be as low as minus 140 degrees! Wowee that's cold!
4. Move over, Everest!
Mars is home to the highest mountain on any planet in our solar system –– a volcano called Olympus Mons. Meausuring a whopping 24 kilometres high, it’s about three times the height of Mount Everest! What's more is that Olympus Mons is pretty young for a volcano, so could still be active!
5. Martian gravity
Because Mars is smaller than Earth, it has a weaker gravitational force. The bigger something is, the more you're attracted to it (this law works for ice creams as well!) - so if you were to jump on Mars you would travel 3 times as high up in the air as you would on Earth. Another way of putting it, is if a hamster weighed 100g on Earth, it would only weigh 38g on Mars.
6. A year is a long time
Because Mars has to travel further round the Sun, a Martian year is much longer than an Earth year. In fact, it's 687 days instead of 365! Imagine having to wait that long for Christmas every year! Not to mention birthdays!
7. But a day is about the same!
So a year is one full trip around the sun, but a day is a full spin on a planet's axis. On Earth this takes 24 hours, and on Mars it's almost the same at 24 hours and 37 minutes! Oh, and to try and keep things simple, scientists call a Martian day a "sol", not a day. Even though they're pretty similar!
8. It's what on the inside that counts
Mars might be quite similar to Earth on the inside. Earth has a molten core surrounded by lava, with a relatively thin crust all the way round. Scientists think that Mars could have the same kind of thing going on under the surface. But we still don't know for sure - so watch this space!
9. Mars is rough and rocky
You won't find many nice sandy beaches and lush rainforests on Mars. Nope, Mars had a rougher time over the last few billion years! It's rocky surface has been blown apart by volcanoes, smashed into by asteroids, swept about by storms... and not had any of the protections from at atmosphere like Earth had. But more on that next!
10. There's no atmosphere
That's why parties on Mars are so rubbish! Lol. Unlike Earth, Mars has a VERY thin atmosphere, almost totally made up of carbon dioxide. There's a tiny tiny bit of oxygen and water vapour, but if you were to visit you would definitely need a space suit! This also is the main reason Mars is so dry and dusty.
11. There is a bit of water though
For a long time, we thought Mars was totally dry. Or at least only had ice at the poles and at the bottom of craters. Water is a big deal, because as far as we know, you need it for life. More recently though, we found evidence for an underground lake under the planet's south pole!
12. There might be life
Well... we've not seen any evidence for it yet - but liquid water under the south pole definitely makes this more likely! There are some tiny microorganisms on Earth that live in dark, very cold water - so it's not ridiculous to think they might be alive on Mars too!
13. There almost certainly isn't intelligent life
When people talk about life on Mars they're usually talking about tiny microscopic life. Very few people think there might be Hollywood style aliens on Mars. Because if there are, they're VERY good at hiding! And very good at surviving on a cold, dry rock as well!
14. There are robots on Mars
There may not be aliens but we know 100% that there are robots. Because we put them there! NASA has sent 5 robots in total to Mars. These robotic vehicles were called Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance, and they were all sent to collect scientific data about the red planet. And they've all taught us some very interesting things!
15. Mars has 2 moons
Mars' two moons are called Phobos and Deimos, two names taken from ancient Roman mythology (more on the Roman thing later!). They are both irregular shapes, unlike our nice round moon. They might be asteroids that got stuck in Martian orbit by the plant's gravity!
16. There are deep canyons
The surface of Mars is covered in channels, plains, and canyons which could have been caused by water wearing away the surface. This could be evidence that seas and rivers once existed on the surface billions of years ago. So where did the water go?
17. Mars' missing oceans
One answer to this questions is that some of the water just evaporated off into space, seeing as there's no atmosphere to keep it in. But a lot of water probably also soaked down into the rocks, which could mean there are other lakes and seas underground. Which could be very exciting for science!
18. Mars is named after a Roman God
Mars the planet was names after the Roman god of War - Mars! This is because of it's blood red colour. Fun fact, the month of March is also named after Mars, because March was the start of war season for the Romans. Well... you don't want to be going to war in the winter, do you? Especially not if you were dressed up like a Roman!
19. Mars' moons are also Roman
Phobos and Deimos are also characters in Roman myths. They were Mars' sons, who followed him into war and generally got up to no good. Phobos is the God of fear and panic, whilst Deimos is the God of terror and dread. Phobos is also were we get the word "phobia" from. They sound like a fun bunch!
20. Some people want to send humans to Mars
And there are even some quite serious plans to do it! Sending people to Mars would be a big deal though, and much much harder than going to the moon. It's just so much further away! It's most likely that any humans we send wouldn't be able to come back again... so any potential Martian tourists would have to be happy to stay there forever!
21. But let's concentrate on Earth first!
Life on Mars would be tough! And whilst there might be some bacteria or something similar in underground lakes, there actually not very much on Mars. But there is a LOT of cool stuff on Earth, and a lot of it is under threat from climate change. So lets focus on saving Earth before we start thinking about any other planets!