Mars, the planet, is the fourth planet from the Sun, and is the second smallest planet in our Solar System. It’s dubbed the “Red Planet” because of its reddish appearance. Moreover, like Earth, Mars is a terrestrial planet that features a thin atmosphere that is mainly made up of carbon dioxide. Keep on reading to learn 101 out-of-this-world facts about the planet Mars!
Fact 1: Mars is the second-smallest planet in our Solar System after the planet Mercury.
Fact 2: Mars is actually named after the God of War.
- Ares is the God of War. He, allegedly, didn’t just represent war, but he actually represented the brutality of war too.
Fact 3: Mars is actually more burnt orange in color. It got its name the red planet because it took on a Red hue when viewed through telescopes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Fact 4: The planet is reddish in color because the soil on the surface of Mars has iron oxide in it. Iron oxide is the rust you find on exposed Iron and steel metal. You can read more about iron here.
Fact 5: Mars, like Venus and the Earth, is a terrestrial planet. It has a thin atmosphere, and it has surface features that are similar to things you would see on Earth, like, the impact of craters, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps.
Fact 6: Mars has two moons: Phobos and Deimos.
Fact 7: Phobos and Deimos were both discovered in 1877 by Asaph Hall, at the Naval Observatory in Washington DC.
Fact 8: Phobos is the larger of Mars’ moons, and it orbits closer to the surface of Mars than Deimos.
Fact 9: Mars’ Moon Phobos is only about 22 km in diameter. That’s about the same size as the UK’s Isle of White in Diameter
Fact 10: Deimos, Mars’ smallest moon is about half the size of Phobos. Deimos is only 12 km in diameter.
Fact 11: In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei discovered Mars with a telescope.
Fact 12: Within a century of Mars’ discovery, astronomers discovered distinct albedo features on the planet, including the dark patch ‘Syrtis Major Planum’ and polar ice caps.
- They were able to determine the planet’s rotation period and axial tilt at this time too.
Fact 13: ‘The Martian’, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Matt Damon is a film that is based on the planet Mars.
- Before the film hit the big screen it was a book written by the author Andy Weir.
- The film is about an astronaut who is left behind on the planet Mars. Throughout the film we see Damon coming to terms with being stuck on Mars, and how he goes about securing his survival.
Fact 14: Mars’ atmosphere consists of various elements. According to NASA, the atmosphere of Mars is 95.32 % carbon dioxide, 2.7 % nitrogen, 1.6 % argon, 0.13 % oxygen, 0.08 % carbon monoxide.
Fact 15: There are also small amounts of water, nitrogen oxide, neon, hydrogen-deuterium-oxygen, krypton, and xenon in the atmosphere too.
Fact 16: Interestingly, Mars is 6,779km diameter is slightly more than half the size of Earth.
Fact 17: Millions of years ago, ancient Mars may have had large amounts of water on it.
Fact 18: Astronomer Percival Lowell once saw big canals of water on Mars. However, it turned out Lowell’s observations were hampered by poor telescope optics, and the water canals that he saw were optical illusions.
Fact 19: However, since this time several spacecrafts have reported that they have spotted signs of ancient water supplies on Mars. This includes, channels formed in the terrain, and rocks that could only have formed in the presence of water. You can decide for yourself if Mars has lots or limited amounts of water!
Fact 20: Mars has many examples of topographic features and terrain that could only have been created in the presence of water. For example, there are river deltas that stretch out into ancient seas and pebbles eroded round by raging rivers.
Fact 21: Mars’ Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain in the Solar System. It’s a colossal 21 km tall which is more than 2 and half times the high of Mount Everest.
Fact 22: Olympus Mons, is not actually a mountain. It’s a volcano. A shield volcano with very shallow sloping sides.
Fact 23: Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars, Is nearly 600Km across. That’s about the same size as Spain!
Fact 24: In 1964, the United States’ Mariner 4 was the first robotic spacecraft to visit and observe the Red Planet.
Fact 25: Mariners 6 and 7 followed in 1969 and observed the planet Mars.
Fact 26: The Mariner missions revealed Mars to be a barren world, with no signs of life or civilization.
Fact 27: There have been 56 Mars missions so far.
Fact 28: Only 26 missions to Mars have been successful.
Fact 29: Over the years, NASA has sent 4 robotic vehicles, called ‘rovers’, to Mars, and NASA plans to send another soon.
Fact 30: The 4 ‘rovers’ that have already gone to Mars are: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, and Curiosity.
Fact 31: ‘Mars 2020’ is the next rover that’s heading to Mars. It’s set to touchdown on Mars by February 2021.
Fact 32: Mars experiences the largest dust storms out of all the planets in the Solar System.
Fact 33: Dust storms on the Red Planet can last for many months
Fact 34: Dust Storms on mars often cover the entire planet’s surface for weeks on end.
Fact 35: Though not observed directly, there is evidence to suggest that during the warmer seasons on mars, extremely salty water flows down gullies on the Martian surface.
Fact 36: Mars has two polar ice caps mainly made from frozen water and carbon dioxide.
Fact 37: Researchers suggest that an ancient ocean on Mars might have been the size of Earth’s Arctic Ocean.
Fact 38: Researchers suspect that much of Mars’ low northern plains of the planet were covered with an ocean hundreds of meters deep, though this remains controversial.
Fact 39: Mars is scarred by a total of 43,000 craters over 5 km wide.
Fact 40: A dust ring is thought to exist between Deimos and Phobos. This would mean Mars has an extremely faint but detectable ring system, just like Saturn. Except Mars’ Ring would be on a vastly smaller scale.
Fact 41: Scientists believe there are a number of smaller moons orbiting Mars that we haven’t detected yet. They would likely be 50 to 100 meters in diameter.
Fact 42: The largest crater is the Hellas impact basin, which is a light albedo feature clearly visible from Earth.
Fact 43: Mars makes a complete revolution around the Sun in 687 Earth days.
Fact 44: One solar day, or “sol”, on Mars is just a little over a day on Earth: 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.
Fact 45: A Martian year is equal to 1.8809 Earth years, or 1 year, 320 days, and 18.2 hours.
Fact 46: The ideas about ‘Martians’ go way back.
- H.G. Wells popularized the notion of extraterrestrial life on Mars in his fictional book “War of the Worlds” which sees a Martian invasion on Earth.
- Furthermore, astronomer Percival Lowell wrote a lot about the water canals he saw on Mars, and he thought they would be completely necessary for the survival of the Martian people.
Fact 47: One of its moons Phobos is doomed to eventually, in 50 Million years’ time, spiral down towards Mars and impact its surface.
Fact 48: Some researchers contradict the theory that one day Phobos will impact Mars’ surface. Instead, they predict that in the next 20-40 million years, Mars’ largest moon Phobos will be torn apart by gravitational forces leading to the creation of a ring system that could live for up to 100 million years.
Fact 49: Mars has an extensive canyon system at its Equator.
Facts 50: The Valles Marineris, a giant gash on the surface of Mars, stretches up to 4,200 kilometers long
Fact 51: At it’s deepest Valles Marineris cuts 7km deep into the crust of Mars.
Fact 52: The Valles Marineris system is so long it would span the entire American continent.
Fact 53: Considered by many to be a giant impact feature, the smooth Borealis basin in Mars’ northern hemisphere covers over 40% of the planet’s surface.
Fact 54: When Mars is at its furthest point away from the Sun during its orbit, Aphelion, it’s 249,200,000 km from the Sun.
Fact 55: Conversely, when Mars is at its closest point to the Sun during its orbit, Perihelion, it’s 206,700,000 km from the Sun.
Fact 56: Mars has a relatively eccentric orbit. That means its orbit is quite far from being a circle and is more like a squashed circle, an oblate.
Fact 57: In fact, Mars’ Orbit is so eccentric there is around a 10% in distance between Mar’s closest point the Sun and it’s the farthest point from the Sun. The difference in distance is a massive 42.5 Million km. Just under half the distance Earth and Sun!
Fact 58: Mars’ average distance from the sun is 227939200 km.
Fact 59: Mars’ average orbital speed, the speed at which it travels around the Sun, is 24.007 km/s. At that massive speed, you’d be able to travel from London to New York, a distance of 5,567 km, in just 232 seconds, or 3 minutes 52 seconds.
Fact 60: Mars is almost a perfect Sphere. The difference between its equatorial radius and its polar radius is only 20 km.
Fact 61: Mars has a surface area of 144,798,500 km2 . That about the same as 1/4th of the Earth’s total Surface.
Fact 62: Mars’ total Surface area of 144,798,500 km2 is close to the same surface area of all of Earth’s landmass which is 148,326,000 km2.
Fact 63: Mars has a total volume of 1.6318×1011 km3. that number written out in full is 163,180,000,000 km3 .
Fact 64: You could fit over 6 Mars planets inside Earth.
Fact 65: The total of all the mass Mars posses is a huge 6.4171×1023 kg . Written out in full, that number is 641,710,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. Now that’s a big number!
Fact 66: Mars has an average density of 3.9335 g/cm3 . To give you some perspective, water has a density of about 0.997 g/cm3.
Fact 67: Mars’ average density is far lower than Earth’s. though both planets are rocky, Earth’s mean density is 5.51 g/cm³, whereas Mars’ mean density is only 3.9335 g/cm3. That means Earth density is 40% greater.
Fact 68: Mars’ Escape velocity is 5.027 km/s. In comparison, Earth escape velocity is 11.186 km/s. So Earth’s Escape velocity is 123% higher!
Fact 69: Mars has an equatorial rotational velocity of 241.17 m/s. That’s just less than the cruising speed of Boing 747 which slides through the skies at 245.8 m/s.
Fact 70: Mars has an axial tilt of roughly 25.19° relative to its orbital plane.
Fact 71: Mars and Earth have very similar axial tilts. Earth’s tilt is 23.5°. Mars’ tilt, at 25.19°, is 1.69° more. This is why Mars experiences similar seasons to Earth.
Fact 72: The Lowest recorded surface temperature on Mars is a rather frosty −143 °C.
Fact 73: Conversely, the highest temperature recorded on Mars was 35 °C. A nice Florida summer temperature!
Fact 74: The surface pressure on Mars is 0.00628 atm.
Fact 75: Mars’ atmospheric pressure is less than 1% of Earth’s
Fact 76: It is thought that Both os Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, are captured asteroids.
Fact 77: On the 20th of July, 1976, the NASA probe Viking 1 performed the first successful landing on Mars.
Fact 78: The Soviet lander ‘Mars 3’ actually landed on Mars 5 years before Viking 1 in December 1971. However, contact was immediately lost after touch down.
Fact 79: On July 5, 1997, the Sojourner robotic rover was released on to Mars after the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft conducted a successful landing the day before.
Fact 80: The Mars rover Spirit roved around the Mars Surface for Earth 2695 days. Its original mission was only supposed to last 92 Earth days!
Fact 81: Just like it’s sister rover, Spirit, Opportunity was also a long-lived rover on the Mars’ surface. Opportunity’s mission lasted a staggering 5498 Earth days. And just like Spirit, it was only meant to last 92 Earth days.
Fact 82: The volume of water ice locked in the Mars south polar, if melted, would cover the planet’s surface with an ocean 11 meters deep!
Fact 83: There is a volume of water equivalent to Lake Superior hidden under Utopia Planitia, a section of.
Fact 84: With an apparent magnitude reaches −2.94, Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye. you can even see it’s reddish coloring.
Fact 85: Mars is the 3 brightest object in the night sky after the moon and Venus. However, on rare occasions, Jupiter can be brighter than Mars.
Fact 86: At its center mars has a dense metallic core made up of a mixture of iron and nickel. With a 17% pinch of sulfur thrown in for good measure.
Fact 87: Mars’ core is thought to be roughly 3,600 km in diameter.
Fact 88: The average thickness of Mar’s crust is about 50 km on average. That about 10km more, an average than Earth’s crust.
Fact 89: In 2019, over 450 ‘marsquakes’ were detected on Mars’ surface. This indicates that Mars is still seismically active.
Fact 90: Mars is home to the same 3 rock types that you find on Earth: igneous rock, metamorphic rock, and sedimentary rock.
Fact 91: In the northern hemisphere of Mars, there’s evidence of an enormous impact basin that spans a massive 10,600 by 8,500 km.
Fact 92: Mars first firmed 4.6 billion years ago when the Solar system first formed.
Fact 93: Martian soil is alkaline and contains the elements as magnesium, chlorine, potassium, and sodium.
Fact 94: There is no known biological material in Martian soil so it would be impossible to grow plants in it.
Fact 95: Minerals such as hematite and goethite are evidence that liquid water existed on Mars in the past as these minerals can only be created in the presence of water.
Fact 96: The 81.4 kilometer wide Korolev Crater contains roughly 2,200 km3 of water ice.
Fact 97: Mars’ north polar ice cap has a diameter of about 1,000 km in the summer months.
Fact 98: Conversely Mars’ south polar ice cap is much smaller and is only 350 km across.
Fact 99: Mars’ North and South Polar ice caps together contain about 3.2 million km3 of water ice. For comparison, Earth’s north polar ice cap, the Greenland ice cap contains about 2.85 million km3 of water ice.
Fact 100: Both polar caps on Mars contain spiral topographic features that are sculpted out by winds spun up by the Coriolis Effect.
Fact 101: The NASA Authorization Act of 2017 directed NASA to put humans on the surface of Mars by the early 2030s.