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10 Amazing Facts About Mars

10 Amazing Facts About Mars

Mars is one of Earth’s closest neighbors. It’s also the focus of mankind’s likely next journey into space. But, don’t be deceived, even being right next door, we know very little about this mysterious little red planet. Humans have studied Mars for centuries, and it is one of the few naked eye planets. So, enjoy these 10 amazing facts about Mars!

1. Mars used to have water

Mars Water Marks

NASA, HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona)

Astronomers have searched for the presence of water on Mars for centuries. Water plays a key role in determining whether life could have existed on Mars in the past. More recent studies and remote explorations show canals carved in Mars’ terrain that could have only been created by water flow. Determining the presence of water is important to scientists simply because it’s a “must have” in the search for life beyond Earth.

2. Winner: Tallest mountain in our solar system (on a planet)

Mars Olympus Mons Aerial View

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

One of the red planet’s most infamous features is former volcano, Olympus Mons. It also takes the medal for tallest mountain in our solar system, towering at 13.7 miles high! We have heard of 14ers, or seen pictures of the legendary, Mount Everest. Olympus Mons dwarf these structures, reaching over 70,000 feet into the Martian skies. In other words, you could stack Mount Everest 2.5 times, and still not reach as high as Olympus Mons. Or, you could stack the largest U.S. mountain, Denali, three times and still have 12,000 feet to spare! Even though Olympus Mons is billions of years old, its laval flow evidence indicates it may still be active.

3. Pieces of Mars can be found on Earth

Mars Surface Rocks

NASA/JPL

Mars, like several inner planets (including earth), was pummeled by asteroids in its past. However, Mars has a very low gravity (38% of Earth). As asteroids hit Mars, debris from its surface escape gravity and go shooting out into space. As this rogue debris floats around the solar system, some of it is trapped by Earth’s gravity and lands on our planet. NASA has shown that Mars rocks found on Earth are practically identical in composition to surface samples obtained by their Viking Landers in previous decades.

4. Same Seasons, Twice as Long

Mars Axis Tilt Diagram

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Since Mars is tilted on its axis, it goes through seasons, similar to Earth. However, Martian seasons last twice as long and feel much more extreme than ours. Though the overall temperature is more frigid than Earth (average of -85º F), it can jump quickly. Mars has little-to-no atmosphere, so heat and cold are not easily trapped, allowing the temperature to rapidly change.

5. Polar Ice Caps

Mars Polar Ice Caps

Mars is the only planet besides Earth to show ice caps on its poles. The planet was first observed through a telescope by Galileo Galilei in 1610. By the end of the century, Mars’ polar ice caps were discovered. This ice has been a major factor in the search for past, present or potential future life on the Red Planet.

6. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars

Roman God of War Mars Ares Statue

The name comes from the planet’s reddish hue, which is caused by large amounts of iron-oxide (rust) )on Mars’ surface. This is also what gives it the more informal name, the Red Planet.

7. Mars will have a ring in the future

Mars Moons Phobos and Deimos

NASA/JPL

Mars has two small known moons, Phobos and Deimos. The moons are slowly orbiting closer and closer to the Martian surface. Eventually (millions of years from now), one of them will collide with Mars and most of its debris will fly out into orbit around the planet. The result will be a very small, thin ring.

8. More than 100,000 people have applied to live on Mars

Mars One Application

Mars One

Whether it’s caused by Matt Damon, or something else, thousands of people want a one-way ticket to Mars in 2022. The Mars One project hopes to colonize the Red Planet, beginning in 2022. Application fees range from $15 to $40, depending on which country you reside in. However, very little of the mission seems to be successfully orchestrated as of now. Perhaps it will not happen, and the Mars One organization will pocket millions of dollars?

9. Mars is entirely populated by robots

Mars Curiosity Rover

There IS life on Mars. But, it’s exclusively robotic life currently. Presently, there are seven remotely-operated vehicles at the Red Planet, performing a myriad of different experiments and observations. There are four orbiting space vehicles, mostly observing atmospheric and surface conditions. And, there are three surface vehicles, mainly investigating the planet’s surface composition and terrain.

10. A robot sang happy birthday to itself on Mars

Curiosity Mars Rover Happy Birthday

We end our 10 amazing facts about Mars with a bitter sweet fact! On its one year anniversary of landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity Rover “sang” happy birthday to itself. The equipment that analyses samples vibrates at various frequencies to move surface dust. The frequencies usually sound like typical robotic frequencies. But, NASA temporarily tweaked them to perform a happy-birthday-like melody. What a lonely birthday singing to itself, over 200 million miles from home.