Ever since we learnt to look to the stars, our eyes have always fallen on Mars. The red planet, named after the Roman god of war, has been the subject of keen interest from astronomers for hundreds of years. Despite this, however, there’s still a mountain of questions that we want answered from the red landscape; how long would it take us to colonise it; does it harbour intelligent life? Did it laugh when all the people on Earth became panicked after thinking the War of the Worlds radio play was real?
Basically, there’s a lot more to learn from the red planet, but surely since the days of the Sumerians, when they worshipped Mars as a holy star to their god Nergal, we’ve learned some things about Mars? Well, of course we have!
So, since it’s just been announced NASA have given the go ahead on building a rocket bound for Mars, we thought it might be a good idea to celebrate by discussing the things we do know about Mars.
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun
Starting with an easy one here, but the most fundamental fact about the planet next to the fact we can see it. Yes, Mars orbits the sun at an average distance of 141 million miles, which means a year on Mars consists of 686.93 days. Look on the bright side, it would mean more bank holidays.
Mars is the seventh largest planet
At about half the diameter of the earth, with one tenth its mass, and about one third of the gravity we enjoy, Mars is the seventh largest planet in our solar system. Its core is most likely similar to Earth’s; mostly iron, but with a pinch of nickel too – both of which are in smaller amounts than on our blue planet. So, just remember if we’re ever invaded by giant tripods who want to harvest this planet and turn it into the new Mars, they’re most likely suffering from planet envy.
Mars has a rocking body
Sorry, we meant rocky body. Yes, like all the other ‘terrestrial’ planets – Venus, Mercury, and Earth – its surface has been changed immensely by the shifts in its crust, volcanism, impacts from other bodies, as well as weather and atmospheric effects such as dust storms.
Mars surface is the closest to Earth of any other planet.
In our solar system of course; there’s still hope that we might find an Earth 2 in some circles. So, if you were looking for an interplanetary holiday, you couldn’t do any better than heading over to our neighbouring red planet. We still wouldn’t recommend it though, as the weather can be a bit harsh. With temperatures plummeting as low as -225 degrees, and as hot as +60 degrees, you might want to try Spain instead.
Mars has some truly fascinating geological features
Mars is home to the largest volcanic structure in the solar system, aptly named Olympus Mons, which stands at a whopping 27 km high and spans 600 km across. The structures in the northern region are so huge that they actually deform the planet, not allowing it to be lovely and circular as most people’s image of a planet would dictate. These volcanic structures also caused a gigantic equatorial rift called the Valles Marineris. This canyon system stretches further than some of our biggest canyons, with most of them being able to fit inside it like a very satisfying move in Tetris.
Mars is our best chance of finding life away from Earth
You most likely heard the news this year that flowing water exists on Mars (we did a blog on it!), shown through the remnants of its effect on the landscape. That’s not the only thing though; Mars has a very thin atmosphere made up mostly of a tiny amount of Carbon Dioxide (95.3%) plus argon (1.6%), nitrogen (2.7%), with traces of oxygen (0.15%) also being present. All of this suggest that its possible some form of life could exist on the planet – whether they’re the little grey men variety, or something more incomprehensible, only time will tell.
Hopefully, someday soon we will actually be able to walk the planet’s surface, so that we can study a bit more up close and personal.
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