10 Interesting Facts about Mars You Need to Know
1. Mars is named after the Roman god of war
The ancient Greeks were fascinated by Mars. Its blood red color led them to attribute the planet to Ares, their god of war. The Romans then did likewise, associating the Mars’s blood-red colour with their own god of war.
Olympus Mons, which means Mount Olympus, takes its name from the home of the ancient Greek gods. It is the largest volcano on Mars and likely the entire solar system. With a diameter of more than 500 km and a summit that towers 25 km over the surrounding plains, its volume is over 100 times that of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Its base would cover the combined states of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.
3. Mars has the largest and most violent dust storms in our entire solar system
Martian dust storms can last for months with winds blowing up to 60-100 mph. The energy of the dust storms come from the sun. Dust storms begin after Mars is closest to the sun. Solar heating warms the Martian atmosphere and causes the air to move, lifting dust off the ground.
4. Mars has all four seasons like that of Earth
Mars experiences all four seasons that the Earth does. But since Mars has one of the highest orbital eccentricities of any planet in our solar system, combined with an axial tilt slightly greater than Earth’s, Mars’s seasons last about twice as long as those on Earth. However, the length of each season is not exactly the same. Spring in the northern hemisphere (autumn in the southern) is the longest season at 194 Sols (Martian days). Autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in the southern) is the shortest at 142 days. Northern winter/southern summer is 154 Sols, and northern summer/southern winter is 178 Sols.
Located along the equator of Mars, the Valles Marineris is the largest canyon in the Solar System. Valles Marineris is a large tectonic “crack” in the Martian crust, forming as the planet cooled. The canyon is more than 2,500 miles long, 120 mi wide, 23,000 ft deep. It is as long as the United States and it spans about 20 percent (1/5) of the entire distance around Mars. For comparison, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is about 500 mi long and 1 mile deep.
6. The Sun appears to be 5/8 the size on Mars as it does from Earth
The Sun as seen from Mars appears to be 5/8 the size as seen from Earth (0.35°), and sends 40% of the light.
7. Mars and Earth have approximately the same landmass
The surface area of Mars is about as large as the surface of all the Earth’s continents combined. The diameter of Mars is about 53% of Earth’s and the surface area is close to 38% of Earth’s. When you put the numbers into a percentage, the surface area really seems small, but it is equal to all of the dry land on Earth.
8. Mars has two moons
Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos. Both moons are irregular chunks of rock, roughly ellipsoidal in shape. Phobos, the larger of the two, revolves around Mars once every 7 hours 39 minutes. Phobos is gradually making its way closer to its host planet, spiralling inwards towards its dangerous gravity. Eventually, in 20 or 40 million years’ time, Phobos will get so close to Mars, it will either be pulled apart by the planet’s gravitational pull or crash right into it. Deimos is smaller than Phobos and suffers the opposite fate. It moves in a more distant orbit, and tidal forces are causing it to move away from the planet. The moons are most likely captured asteroids, stolen from the main asteroid belt.
9. Mars may one day get a ring of its own
In about 20-40 million years when Phobos is destroyed by Mars, the rocky debris may form a ring around Mars. The rings may last for 100 million years.
A number of meteorites identified to have been formed in Mars were found in different places on Earth. Scientists believe that these meteorites were blasted off from Mars, possibly due to an asteroid’s or comet’s strong impact, and eventually landed here on Earth. Martian material is exceedingly hard to come by on Earth. Of the 60,000 or so meteorites that have been discovered on Earth, only 124 (220 pounds in total) have been identified as originating from the planet Mars.