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Illustrated Guide to Astronomy

Mars


Mars, named after the Roman god of war, is the fourth closest planet from the Sun and the second smallest planet in the solar system. It is also known as the red planet due to its color. It is currently home to the Curiosity rover, which is exploring the Martian surface and taking data.

Mars
Mars

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Mars is known as the Red Planet due to the color of its surface, which is caused by the iron in the Martian soil. Mars was named after the Roman god of war because people thought the planet was the color of blood.

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the last of the rocky planets. It is the second smallest after mercury. Mars is home to the largest volcano known in the solar system, Olympus Mons. It is roughly 2.5 times the size of Mount Everest. Mars has two moons called Deimos and Phobos.

After six US and Soviet attempts, the first successful flyby of Mars was in 1961, when the Mariner 4 spacecraft managed to send back some black and white images to Earth. These images were the first images of a another planet taken from space. More recently NASA managed to successfully land the Curiosity rover which is further probing the Martian surface looking at the composition of its rocks and atmosphere. Scientists are interested about the possibility of liquid water on Mars and the implications this could have for Martian life. Mars is about half the size of Earth and like our planet, it experiences seasons due to a tilt in its axis.

The Martian atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide (96%) with some argon and nitrogen. Temperatures on the surface vary from lows of -143°C (-225°F) at the polar caps and 35°C (95°F) at the equator during the summer.

Mars Facts

  • Orbital Period: 687 Earth days
  • Length of a Day: 24.7 hours
  • Diameter: 6,792 km
  • Distance from the Sun: 227,900,000 km
  • Strength of Gravity: 3.7N/kg
  • Number of Moons: 2
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