Mysterious Mars: 10 Cool Facts You Didn’t Know
Mars has been in the news recently thanks to Elon Musk. While it's not our nearest neighbor or the brightest planet, it is perhaps the one that most inspires our imagination. Check out these 10 fascinating facts about the fourth planet from the Sun.
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in our Solar System. While it’s not our nearest neighbor (Venus takes that honor), or the brightest planet in the night sky (also Venus), it is perhaps the planet that most inspires our imagination. Whether as home to “little green men” or as a future outpost for life from Earth, the planet figures heavily into science fiction books and movies.
You know the fiction, now here are some cool facts about the mysterious “Red Planet”:
- Mars is a terrestrial planet, meaning it has a rocky surface. It is one of four terrestrial planets in our solar system, along with Venus, Earth, and Mercury.
- Mars is about 4,220 miles in diameter, approximately half that of Earth, and has about 11% of the Earth’s mass. Its surface gravitational pull is only about 38% that of the Earth.
- It takes Mars 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun, and just a little over one Earth day — 24 hours and 39 minutes — to rotate once on its axis.
- The surface of Mars bears similarities to both Earth and our Moon. It is pocked with many craters, like the Moon, but also features live volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps, like Earth.
- Mars has two small and irregularly shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos.
- Mars is named after the Roman god of war, known as Ares to the Greeks. The planet’s two moons Phobos and Deimos are named after Ares’ children and attendants. Their names mean “fear” and “dread.”
- The surface temperature on Mars drops as low as about -225° F at the poles during winters. Its highest temperatures rise to about 90 ºF during summer.
- Because of the low surface gravity on Mars, it has only a very thin atmosphere. The planet’s atmosphere is made up of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, and 1.6% argon, with traces of oxygen, water, and methane.
- The thin atmosphere on Mars does not allow it to retain liquid water on its surface. Water, in the form of ice, can be found at the planet’s polar ice caps, and elsewhere. Recent exploration of Mars shows evidence of riverbeds and other signs that the planet may have once featured bodies of water that have since evaporated into space.
- Traditionally called “the Red Planet,” Mars often appears yellow, orange, or reddish to the naked eye. This red color is created by dust in the planet’s atmosphere. As Mars orbits the Sun, its brilliance varies more than any other planet in the night sky. It occasionally surpasses Jupiter as the third-brightest object in the night sky, after the Moon and Venus.
When can you see Mars this year? Check out our Visible Planets Guide.
Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars
NASA landed the Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars on February 22, 2021. Watch it touch down!
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.
Very interesting!!! Love the articles on the different planets. I’ve wondered many times what the different bright “ stars” that appear in the night skies/early morning are called but Farmers Almanac has solved the mystery for me. I really appreciate getting to know. Thanks
Hi Nancy, We’re happy to hear from you! If you love seeing planets and stars, be sure to take a look at our Night Sky Guides posted each month: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/monthly-stargazing-night-sky-guide
I think no living on Mars ,like it here on earth but it’s sooo fascinating all the planets ,when we have meteor showers I’d be outside at my old apt at wierd early morning hours looking up for meteors,till my neck got soo stiff ,hadda quit. Did have a big one with a long tail ,right above my head.I was sooo thrilled
my brother why don’t we make earth a better place to live and then concentrate on mars becoz it would take lesser effort than to build a new earth on mars and also would yield more …
It’s awful that there’s all that land out there on Mars, Venus, etc, and some other moons that are orbiting the gas giant planets, but they have useless atmospheres that you cant breathe, plus they’re all either too hot or too cold. Seems like a waste.
u could but I believe that’s only for a short while if this planets made mostly of high Rocky mountains and crater that mean the planet is desecrated unlike the early this could mean over a period of light years before we even reach there I feel it would just crumble in with all our weight on top of it also there’s only limited water we will all die of dehydration