Mars holds a special place in many astronomers’ minds. On Earth, it can be best compared to the Egyptian pyramids, we all know something special happened there. It’s a wondrous place.
Even with its title as the second smallest planet in our solar system, Mars is the only other planet that has been known to have ever had liquid water on its surface. At present, scientists are trying to determine what went wrong leading to the disappearance of the precious life-giving commodity.
Having said that, there’s a high chance that the planet never had a Miami Beach vibe to it. Still, it’s quite apparent that when water existed, the planet felt a little bit more like home sweet home.
Given this history and the proximity of Mars from Earth, it’s easy to see why we’re all so obsessed with the red planet.
In today’s discussion, we’ll be looking to share more on Mars’s surface features, its temperature, size, and some other cool facts about Mars. Get ready for blast off!
Well, it all really depends on who you ask. However, the historical books show that the ancient Egyptian astronomers first spotted Mars in the night sky in the 2nd millennium BCE.
While many other ancient societies have been recorded to have observed Mars from afar, it was only until 1610 when Galileo Galilei made the first telescopic observation of the planet.
In 1659, Christiaan Huygens, the famed Dutch astronomer, was able to draw mars using a tweaked, advanced telescope. He made recordings of dark spots on Mars which are probably Syrtis Major. Having noted that the dark spot returned to the same position at the same time the following day, he documented that Mars has a 24-hour day.
In modern times, we’ve ascertained that the exact time of day on Mars is actually 24 hours 37 minutes.
Mars orbits the Sun once every 686.93 Earth days. During its orbit, it travels at a mean speed of about 53,979 miles/hour (86,871 kilometers/hour).
While it seemingly appears to be a perfect sphere, Mars is actually an oblate spheroid. There’s a slight bulge at the equator which makes it have a diameter of 4,222 miles. At the poles though, the diameter measures 4,196 miles.
Around the equator, the circumference of Mars is 13,300 miles (21,343 km). When measuring the circumference from pole-to-pole, you’ll discover that the planet measures 13,200 miles (21,244 kilometers)
As the last of the terrestrial planets, Mars is situated some 141,635,349.559 miles (227,940,000 km) from the Sun.
If you were to travel to Mars from Earth, you would need to cover a distance of 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers). Importantly, this is a theoretical figure. For this to happen, special conditions need to be in place. For one, Mars needs to lie at its nearest point to the sun (perihelion), and the Earth has to be at its furthest point (aphelion).
Having revealed this, it’s worth noting that in recorded history, the closest the two planets have ever got is 34.8 million miles (56 million kilometers) in August 2003.
The reason behind the naming is said to be because of its blood-red color. Among other societies, the reddish hue is quite appreciated. Ancient Chinese astronomers referred to Mars as the “fire star” while Egyptian priests described it as “Her Desher” which translates to “the red one”.
The red color on Mars originates from the fact that Mars surface features i.e. rock and dust, are primarily rich in iron. According to information shared by NASA, when the iron minerals oxidize, or rust, the regolith starts to appear red.
One of the most interesting things about Mars surface features has to do with its landmass. Despite Mars having 15% of Earth’s volume and 10% of Earth’s Mars, the planet seemingly has a similar landmass to our home. The reason behind this lies in the fact that 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water.
Funnily, despite having no liquid water, Mars experiences the largest dust storms in our solar system. This is brought about by the elliptical shape of the planet’s orbit when it goes around the Sun.
While it’s true that it’s not the only planet that has an elliptical orbit, its path is much more elongated than all others. Fierce dust storms easily arise from this oval-shaped orbit. At times, Mars’s surface features nothing but dust storms which can last for a couple of months.
Even with its diminutive size, Mars has the tallest mountain in our solar system. The impressive Olympus Mons rises to 13.7 miles (22 km) high and measures 372.823 miles (600 km) in diameter. Having been formed billions of years ago, the mountain is thought to still be active after scientists uncovered evidence of volcanic lava.
Excitingly, Mars also happens to have polar caps. These finely layered stacks of ice, water, and dust emanating from the poles to the latitudes at an angle of about 80 degrees on both the North and South hemispheres. Scientists believe that the polar caps came to be thanks to the atmosphere after lengthy periods of time.
Mars atmosphere is carbon-dioxide-rich. So much so that when compared to Earth’s registered mean values, the figures show that it is 100 times less dense. Regardless of this, Mars atmosphere is thick enough to facilitate the occurrence of weather conditions like wind and the formation of clouds.
These weather patterns were first spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which discovered some carbon-dioxide snow clouds during its mission exploration.
Importantly, the Mars atmosphere varies according to the season of the year. During winter time, most of the Martian air gets frozen out. This trait makes Mars unique because it experiences unusual winter weather. The conditions on the planet are conducive enough to allow water-ice snow to fall from the clouds.
From the looks of it, there’s a high chance we’ll soon be able to explain just how Mars’s atmosphere was affected by the escaping pressure from the solar wind.
As alluded earlier, Mars’s atmosphere is much thinner compared to Earth. The absence of a thermal blanket means that Mars is not capable of retaining heat energy.
The mean temperature recorded on Mars is about –80 degrees Fahrenheit (-60 degrees Celsius). During winter time, temperatures at the poles can drop to about -195 degrees Fahrenheit (-125 degrees Celsius).
When it’s summer, the temperatures at the equator may rise up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). However, this soon plummets to about -100 degrees Fahrenheit (-73 degrees Celsius) at night.
When talking about the cosmos, Mars is a guaranteed conversation starter. The second smallest planet in our solar system is perhaps second only to Earth in terms of having the right conditions for life to thrive. It has been heavily speculated that through the terraforming process, it’s very possible for us to alter Mars surface features to make the planet hospitable to humans.
While all this sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood flick, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. At AstroReality, we can help you dream big about the future using revolutionary augmented reality technology. Make sure you quench your curiosity about the red planet with our Mars Bundle, where you can open the MARS AR Notebook to awaken Ares, greet the Martian rovers, and interact with the terrains of Mars. Our MARS Classic model is also ready for you to explore Mars with courage and curiosity.
We are also excited to announce the launch of one of our most important products this year this week. Stay tuned.