Mars, it's where aliens come from, a Hollywood Sci-Fi mainstay, the mysterious
red planet. But, what is Mars really? Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, orbiting
227,940,000 km away. It's diameter of 6,794 km and mass of 6.4219e23 kg, makes
it the seventh largest planet in our solar system.
Mars, which is the Greek name for the god of War, probably got this name due to
it's red color, and is often referred to as the red planet. What makes Mars look red?
Mars' atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, which oxidizes iron on the planet's surface
to create rust. Because there is very little water vapor on Mars, dry winds pick up and
blow the dust around the planet, coloring it red.
What would you see if you went for a nature walk on Mars? Among the surface
features are giant volcanoes and vast canyons. The largest volcano in the entire solar
system is on Mars, Olympus Mons. It is classified as a shield volcano, similar to the
volcanoes in Hawaii. Olympus Mons, three times higher than Mount Everest, is twenty-
five kilometers high, surrounded by a 550 kilometer moat filled with lava. The Valles
Marineris canyon is 4500 kilometers long and reaches seven kilometers deep and 600
kilometers across. There are also many meteorite impact craters.
Why couldn't you take a nature walk on Mars? The atmosphere is not only very
thin, it's made almost completely of CO2 and known for its raging dust storms. You
would get very thirsty, the only water on the surface of Mars is locked into small ice
caps at each pole. You would be very chilly, the average surface temperature on Mars
is a cool -55C, -67F, but range from -133C, -207 F at the winter pole to a warmer 27C,
80F on the day side during summer.
Scientists believe, from the information gathered by the Viking spacecraft, long
ago, when the volcanoes were active Mars had a thicker atmosphere, which allowed
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