We’ve come to the final inner planet, the last of the rocky ones before we reach the asteroid belt. Mars, named for the Roman god of war, is one of the few planets we can see unassisted from Earth. Here are some interesting facts about Mars that you need to know.
10 Interesting Facts About Mars
Mars really stands out, and not just because of its red color. Here are some planet Mars facts to pique your curiosity.
1. Mars Has the Tallest Mountain in the Solar System
Olympus Mons is 16 miles (25.75 km) tall, making it more than three times the height of Mt. Everest, which holds the title of the tallest mountain on Earth.
2. Mars Is Seriously Dusty
The Martian surface is home to some of the largest dust storms in the solar system. One, in 2018, covered half the planet and took the Opportunity rover permanently offline.
3. Mars Is the Only Planet Totally Inhabited by Robots
At least, as far as we know. Right now, there are no human astronauts on the red planet, just rovers like Curiosity, and orbiters that monitor the Martian surface.
4. Mars Might Still Be Volcanically Active
It might look dormant at first glance, but lava flows on the volcano’s slopes are so recent that astrogeologists believe it might still be active.
5. There May Be Liquid Water on Mars
For a long time, we thought Earth was the only inner planet to have liquid water. Yet there are indications water also flows on the surface of Mars from time to time. However, it would have to be very salty or contain other minerals to keep it from freezing.
6. Mars Has Two Moons — but Not for Long
Right now, Mars has two moons — Phobos and Deimos. However, sometime in the next 20-50 million years, the planet’s gravitational forces will likely pull Phobos apart. It will become a glorious ring that might rival Saturn for its beauty.
7. You’d Weigh Less on Mars
Gravity on Mars is 38% of what it is on Earth. If you weigh 100 pounds (45.36 kg) on Earth, you’d only weigh 38 pounds (17.24 kg) on Mars. What a weight-loss plan!
8. The Sun Looks a Lot Smaller from Mars
Mars is only 0.38 astronomical unit farther away from the sun than we are. The distance between Earth and the Sun is 1 AU. From the surface of the red planet, the sun looks half the size it does from Earth.
9. Radiation Is an Issue on Mars
Unlike here on Earth, Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field. This means there is nothing to protect astronauts on the Martian surface from interstellar radiation.
10. Mars Might Be a Second Earth in the Future
While it might sound like science fiction, aerospace engineers are toying with the idea of terraforming Mars once we get astronauts on the planet’s surface. This would involve changing the atmosphere to be more like Earth, allowing human life to survive without the need for spacesuits or domes. It’s not currently possible with present-day tech, according to NASA.
Mars Properties and Information
Want to learn more about the fourth planet in our solar system? Check out these quick planet Mars facts that you can store away for trivia night:
- Location in solar system: Inner planet, fourth from the sun
- Distance from sun: 1.38 AU or 227,943,824 km (141,637,725.682 miles).
- Composition: Crust of volcanic basalt rock, a mantle of primarily silicon, magnesium, iron and oxygen, and solid iron/nickel core.
- Size: 6,792 km or 4,220 miles (6,791.43 km) at the equator.
- Surface: Covered in a fine dust that gets whipped into superstorms. Soil contains elements like sodium, magnesium, chloride and potassium.
- Structure: Assumed to be similar to Earth but the exact makeup is unknown.
- Color: Reds and browns, due to iron-rich dust on the surface.
- Atmosphere: Primarily carbon dioxide with small amounts of water vapor.
- Moons: 2, Phobos and Deimos
- Temperature: -87 to -5 C (-124.6 to 23 F)
- Orbital period: 687 days or 1.9 Earth years
- Rotation period: 24 hours, 47 minutes
Who Discovered Mars?
Like Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, Mars is another planet visible to the naked eye from the Earth’s surface. This makes it difficult to determine who may have been the first to discover it. What we do know is who first recorded observations of Mars. That honor belongs to priests in Ancient Egypt, who dubbed Mars “Her Desher,” which means “the red one” sometime around the second millennium B.C.
As with many other visible planets, discovery is often credited to Galileo Galilei because he was the first one to observe Mars with a telescope.
What Is Mars Known For?
Mars is known for being our nearest celestial neighbor, and for its iconic red color. Its surface color led to it being named after the Roman god of war. Mars is also known for being one of the four planets that are visible to the naked eye.
Right now, Mars is on everyone’s mind because once we establish a permanent presence on the moon — a goal NASA is hoping to accomplish by 2028 — it’s our next destination. It may take us the better part of another decade to reach the red planet, but we will make it there eventually.
What Makes Mars Unique?
The thing that makes Mars unique among all the other planets in our solar system is its similarity to Earth. Millions of years ago, it may have even been lush and green like our own planet is today. Life on Mars would have looked very different than life on Earth, especially with the planet’s lower gravity. We’ll learn more once we reach the Martian surface ourselves and can really start to explore.
Heading Toward the Outer Planets
Did you learn anything new about Mars? What was your favorite fact? Let us know in the comments below. Once we make our way through the asteroid belt, we’ll leave the inner planets behind and really begin to explore the solar system. Our next stop will be Jupiter, the biggest of the gas giants, named for the king of the Roman gods.