Planet Mars Facts
Mars, aptly nicknamed the Red Planet.
- Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, its diameter is only around 4,200 miles (6800 km) which is half the size of Earth.
- It travels around the sun every 687 days and rotates on its own axis every 24 hours 40 minutes.
- The average distance from Mars to the sun is around 142 million miles (228 million km), one and half times further away from the sun than our planet.
- The distance between Mars and Earth varies, from as little as 34 million miles (55 million km) to as much as 249 million miles (401 million km).
- There are vast amounts of water ice under the Martian surface.
- Evidence shows that water used to flow on the surface of Mars.
- Mars has seasons just like Earth.
- Gravity on Mars is around two fifths of that on Earth.
- Clouds made from frozen carbon dioxide form in the Martian sky, haze and fog are also common.
- Dust storms on Mars can last for months and can cover the entire planet.
Image of the Martian surface captured by NASA's Pathfinder Lander.
Mars SurfaceMars has similar surface features that exist on Earth such as flat plains and sloping hills giving it a rather familiar look. Unlike Earth craters are present all over the planet showing a lack of any major geological activity for possibly billions of years. Evidence of past water are etched out on the planet's surface in the form of huge canyons and river valleys giving us a glimpse of how different the planet may have looked in the distant past. Mars also has huge extinct volcanoes, the largest of which is three times higher than Mount Everest. The planet gets its reddish color from the presence of iron-oxide, otherwise known as rust. Mars has polar caps primarily composed of water ice but covered in a layer of frozen carbon dioxide. In the warmer periods of its year the carbon dioxide evaporates in the northern pole revealing the frozen water below.
Mars TemperatureSurface temperatures on Mars vary from as low as -125C (-195F) near the poles to around 20C (68F) at midday near the equator. The highest recorded air temperature on Mars is 35C (95F).
Mars AtmosphereThe thin atmosphere of Mars is only around 1% the density of our own atmosphere, consisting of 95% carbon dioxide. With atmosphere comes weather, strong winds can produce massive dust storms, dust devils are created by warm daylight air rising from the surface, faint clouds form in the Martian sky and even snow falls in the form of frozen carbon dioxide.
MoonsMars has two very small moons, Phobos which has a diameter of 17 km (28 km) and Deimos which has a diameter of 9 miles (15 km). It is probable that they were once asteroids that were caught by the gravity of the planet.
Life on MarsMars may once have harbored life and may still do today. Most likely life could exist in warm pockets beneath the ground, methane has been detected in the Martian atmosphere which could have been produced biologically. In the summer months the amount of methane increases dramatically giving further credence to this theory.
Origin of NameMars is named after the Roman God of War.
A future Mars colony using inter connecting domes
Spectacular image of a Martian sunset taken by NASA's rover Spirit.
Planet Mars StatisticsDiameter: 4,212 miles (6,779 km)
Average Distance from Sun: 142 million miles (228 million km)
Orbital Period: 687 days
Rotation Period: 24.62 hours
Maximum Surface Temperatures: 20C (68F)
Minimum Surface Temperatures: -125C (-195F)
Gravity: 3.693 m/s2 (38% Earth's Gravity)
Density: 3.94 g/cm3 (71.4% Earth's Density)
Mass: 6.4185 x 1023 kg (10.7% Earth's Mass)
Volume: 1.6314 x 1011 km3 (15% Earth's Volume)
Atmosphere: 95.32% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, 0.13% oxygen, 0.08% carbon monoxide.