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Mars

Fourth planet from the Sun and the second smallest planet in the Solar System, after Mercury.

Etymology

Named after the Roman god of war.

It is often described as the "Red Planet" because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish tint.

Orbital period

 687 (Earth) days.

The solar day (or sol) on Mars is only slightly longer than an Earth day: 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.

Atmosphere

Thin atmosphere. The atmosphere of Mars consists of about 96% carbon dioxide, 1.93% argon and 1.89% nitrogen along with traces of oxygen and water.

Colour

The red-orange appearance of the Martian surface is caused by iron(III) oxide, more commonly known as hematite, or rust.

Satellites

Mars has two moons:

  1. Phobos
    1. Inner moon.
    2.  14 miles in diameter.
    3. Phobos rises in the west, sets in the east.
    4. Due to tidal interactions, Phobos is drawing closer to Mars by one meter every century, and it is predicted that in 50 million years it will collide with the planet or break up into a planetary ring.
  2. Deimos
    1. Outer moon.
    2. 8 miles in diameter.
    3.  Deimos rises in the east, sets in the west.

Spacecraft

Mars is host to seven functioning spacecraft:

Five in orbit:

  1. Mars Odyssey
  2. Mars Express
  3. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  4. MAVEN and
  5. Mars Orbiter Mission( Mangalyaan: first successful Asian interplanetary mission)

Two on the surface:

  1. Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and
  2. Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

Major Features

Olympus Mons(an extinct shield volcano): the second highest known mountain within the Solar System (the tallest on a planet).

Valles Marineris:  one of the largest canyons.

  • Mars has surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.
  • The rotational period and seasonal cycles of Mars are likewise similar to those of Earth, as is the tilt that produces the seasons.
  • Mars also has the largest dust storms in the Solar System.

Water searches on mars:

  1. Geological evidence gathered by unmanned missions suggested that Mars once had large-scale water coverage on its surface at some earlier stage of its life.
  2. The Mars rover Spirit sampled chemical compounds containing water molecules in March 2007.
  3. The Phoenix lander directly sampled water ice in shallow Martian soil on July 31, 2008.
  4. Observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.
  5. In 2013, NASA's Curiosity rover discovered that Mars' soil contains between 1.5% and 3% water by mass (about two pints of water per cubic foot or 33 liters per cubic meter, albeit attached to other compounds and thus not freely accessible).

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