Exploring The Red Planet: Facts and Findings

Feb 2, 2022
6 min read

The Romans named the Red Planet after their god of war, which reflected the planet's red hue. In reality, the Romans copied the ancient Greeks, who called the planet Ares after their god of war.

Different cultures also have given the planet names based on its color, such as the Egyptians, who named it "Her Desher," which means "the red one," and ancient Chinese astronomers, who called it "the fire star."

The rust color is due to the presence of iron-rich minerals in its regolith, which is the loose dust and rock that covers its surface. Earth's soil is also a type of regolith, but one with high organic content. The iron minerals oxidize, or rust, causing the soil to appear red, according to NASA.

Mar’s is so freezing and has a very thin atmosphere, it seems unlikely for liquid water to exist on the Martian surface for an extended period of time. Recurring slope lineae may contain saline water bursts on the surface, although this evidence is debatable; some scientists suggest that the hydrogen seen from orbit in this region may instead represent briny salts. This means that, despite the fact that this desert planet is only half the size of Earth, it almost has the same amount of dry land.

What is Mars’ Atmosphere Made of?

Mars' atmosphere is approximately 100 times thinner than Earth's, and it is composed of 95 percent carbon dioxide. According to a NASA fact sheet, its makeup is as follows:

95.32 percent carbon dioxide
Nitrogen content is 2.7 percent.
1.6 percent argon
0.13 percent oxygen
0.08 percent carbon monoxide
Water, nitrogen oxide, neon, hydrogen-deuterium-oxygen, krypton, and xenon are also present in trace concentrations.

What is the Climate Like on Mars?

In a nutshell, it is cold. Mars is substantially colder than Earth, owing to its greater distance from the sun. The average temperature is roughly minus 80 ° Fahrenheit (minus 60 ° Celsius), but it can range from minus 195 ° Fahrenheit (minus 125 ° Celsius) near the poles during the winter to as high as 70° Fahrenheit (20 ° Celsius) at midday near the equator.

Mars has carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere which is likewise around 100 times less dense than Earth's on average, yet it is thick enough to support weather, clouds, and winds. The density of the atmosphere varies periodically, since winter causes carbon dioxide to freeze out of the Martian air. The atmosphere was most likely substantially thicker and capable of supporting water flowing on the surface in the distant past. Because Mars lacks a global magnetic field, lighter molecules in the Martian atmosphere escaped under pressure from the solar wind over time, affecting the atmosphere. NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft is now investigating this mechanism.

How does Mars Compare to Earth?

You would be shocked at how similar Earth and Mars are. Earth and Mars are solar system neighbors who share some characteristics, such as a rocky composition, but differ in others, like size and temperature. Although Earth and Mars are made of the same components, their proportions differ. The two planets are also assumed to have originated around the same time, albeit in very different ways. While many forms of life exist on Earth, it is unknown whether any exist on Mars.

Similarities Between the Planets Mars and Earth

According to the European Space Agency, both Earth and Mars are thought to have formed roughly 4.6 billion years ago from a vast cloud of hot gases surrounding the sun. Since then, both planets have gradually cooled and solidified into the spherical shapes we observe today. Both planets have thick cores and hard crusts on the outside. Furthermore, water had a role in both of their histories.

Planetary Dimensions
According to the Center for Mars Exploration, Mars is approximately twice the size of the Moon and slightly larger than half the size of Earth. The diameter of Mars is approximately 6,786 kilometers (4,217 miles), while Earth has a diameter of around 12,756 kilometers (7,926 miles). Furthermore, Earth has a mass that is ten times bigger. Mars cooled faster than Earth after its original formation due to its much lower size and mass. Its decreased gravity also resulted in a faster loss of volatile components like water and gases.

Water and the Atmosphere
Mars has a very thin atmosphere that is primarily composed of carbon dioxide. The average atmospheric pressure is 7 millibars, compared to Earth's 1,013 millibars. Temperatures on Mars are substantially colder since there is not much atmosphere to buffer it from heat loss. The average temperature in the mid-latitudes is minus 50° Celsius, according to NASA Quest (minus 58° Fahrenheit). It can get down to minus 60 ° Celsius (minus 76 ° Fahrenheit) at night, while it can get up to 0 ° Celsius during the day (32 ° Fahrenheit).

Although water may have once existed on Mars's surface, it vanished long ago for unexplained reasons. In comparison, the Earth's surface is made up of two-thirds water.

Mars is stable, but Earth is dynamic
The Earth’s outer crust is constantly moving. It is made up of plates that move laterally. Mars, on the other hand, appears to be stable, however, there appears to be some underground magma flow. As a result, its geologic state differs greatly from that of Earth. Greater stability on Mars preserves far ancient features, some of which date back four billion years.

Was Mars once habitable?

According to new findings from a long-lived Red Planet rover, Mars may have been capable of hosting microbial life for hundreds of millions of years in the past.

NASA's Opportunity rover discovered evidence that harmless, nearly neutral-pH water flowed on Mars 4 billion years ago.

These findings, published in the journal Science, add to the recent work of NASA's larger, newer Curiosity rover, which uncovered a possibly livable lake and groundwater system in a separate Martian location 3.7 billion years ago.

"These [beneficial] water conditions existed for a long time," said Ray Arvidson, the new study's primary author and Opportunity deputy principal investigator.

Arvidson, head of the Earth and Planetary Remote Sensing Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, said that primitive organisms may have been able to thrive on Mars for long periods during a period when life was gaining a foothold on Earth.

"It would not come as a surprise," "Perhaps not globally; yet, livable situations may have occurred here and there regionally. And it might not have been for the entire time. We have no idea."

As a result, researchers are beginning to gain a clearer understanding of the Martian surface's habitability window, according to Arvidson. It appears that window was open for hundreds of millions of years in the distant past – on and off, perhaps, and here and there.

Liquid water is not capable of surviving for lengthy periods of time on the surface of modern-day Mars, whose atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth's. If lakes and river systems were stable for long periods of time, the atmosphere was likely thicker long ago, according to Arvidson.

Some Interesting Facts About Mars

  • The Red planet is the 4th planet from the Sun and the last of the terrestrial planets, located around 227,940,000 kilometers from the Sun.
  • Mars, the Roman god of war, inspired the planet's name. The ancient Greeks referred to it as Ares, their god of war.
  • Mars and Earth have fairly comparable landmasses. Mars has only 15% of the volume and 10% of the mass of Earth, But still Mars has a similar landmass because water covers roughly 70% of Earth's surface. The surface gravity of Mars is approximately 37% that of Earth. This means that on Mars, you could theoretically jump three times higher than you could on Earth.
  • 16 out of the total 39 Mars missions have been completed successfully.
  • Mars fragments have been discovered on Earth. It is thought that trace amounts of the Martian atmosphere were found in meteorites ejected by the planet. These meteorites then orbited the solar system for millions of years alongside other particles and solar debris before smashing to the ground.
  • Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system is on Mars. Olympus Mons is a 21-kilometer-high, 600-kilometer-diameter shield volcano that arose billions of years ago.
  • Mars orbits the Sun every 687 Earth days, with an orbit radius of 227,840,000 km.
  • Seasons on Mars are similar to those on Earth, except they endure twice as long. This is due to the axial tilt of Mars of approximately 25.19 degrees, which is similar to the axial tilt of the Earth (22.5 degrees).

The Red Planet is riddled with mysteries. One cannot be certain whether or not life existed on Mars. Some studies claim it did, while others claim it did not. But we do know that Mars is the most habitable planet after Earth. A number of space missions are planned for the next decade to advance our understanding of Mars, including if it has the potential for extraterrestrial life and whether it is a suitable planet for colonization. Maybe then we will know for sure if there is life on Mars. Until then, keep yourself immersed in the mysteries of Mars.