Mars has always had a special place in every kid’s heart. The Red Planet’s proximity and likeness in terms of size and the presence of water make the imagination run wild with so many ideas and possibilities that it makes even adults a little giddy.
If your kid is craving more Mars bits, here are some fun facts about Mars that all kids (and kids at heart) should know.
Photo by WikiImages
Mars’ red color is due to rust
The planet’s surface is full of rocks and dust particles containing iron. Because of prolonged exposure to the winds, these iron particles oxidize, forming the familiar rusty-colored iron oxide.
Some of the particles are also suspended in the atmosphere, which makes Mars look like it’s all red, but in reality, its surface has other colors like brown, tan, or sometimes even greenish, depending on the minerals present.
Mars was named after the Roman God of War
Primarily because of its color, people who first saw the Red Planet were reminded of the color of blood. They associated the planet’s bloody color with the Roman God of War, so they called it Mars. It worked.
The association with the Roman God was so strong that even the planet’s moons were named after the horses that pulled the War God’s chariot – Deimos and Phobos.
Mars may be our neighbor, but it is not that close
If you were to go to Mars from Earth, reaching it would take around 300 days. Even with the fastest spacecraft available, we would still have to wait eight months to journey from here to the surface of Mars.
A Martian day is almost as long as an Earth day
Mars rotates on its axis at almost the same speed as Earth. Using Earth hours as a reference, Mars would take 24 hours and 37 minutes to complete one full rotation or go through 1 Martian day. This is comparable to Earth day, which takes exactly 24 hours.
A Martian year is almost twice an Earth year
Being farther from the sun than Earth, Mars has a slightly longer orbit than Earth. Because of this, Mars takes roughly 687 days to go around the sun completely. This means 1 Martian year (687 days) is almost twice as long as 1 Earth year (365 days).
Photo by Simon Lee
Mars currently has a thin atmosphere
The Red Planet’s atmosphere is so thin that it can’t even trap enough heat from the sun, making its surface extremely cold – with temperatures ranging from 20 to -100 degrees Celsius.
Despite its atmosphere being made up mostly of Carbon dioxide (95.9%) and Nitrogen (2.7%), it’s still not enough to keep greenhouse gasses and prevent the sun’s heat from escaping back to space.
Scientists believe that if we can somehow change Mars’ atmospheric composition, it will resemble Earth much more than it does now. Perhaps someday it will.
Mars’ gravity is weaker than Earth’s
Gravity on Mars is speculated to be around 37% less compared to Earth. This means you will weigh a third of your weight on Earth and jump three times higher on Mars. Scientists speculate that if organisms lived on Mars, they might also end up 3x bigger and taller too.
Photo by Planet Volumes
Mars is covered with enormous landforms
Probably because of billions of years of erosion by dust storms and strong winds, the surface of the Red Planet has produced massive mountains and canyons. It’s also important to know that:
- The dormant volcano on Mars, Olympus Mons, is currently considered the largest volcano and the highest mountain in the solar system. It is three times taller than Earth’s Mount Everest.
- The largest canyon on Mars and the solar system, the Valles Marineris, stretches thousands of miles along the Martian surface and goes down as far as 4 miles deep.
- A crater on the surface of Mars, Borealis Basin, covers 40% of the planet’s surface. From end to end, the crater measures 5300 miles. That’s big enough to fit the whole of North America.
There is water on Mars
Space missions to Mars have confirmed that water does exist on the Red Planet. Unfortunately, they are all in the solid form now. The fact that the atmosphere is so thin and the surface temperature gets too low prevents ice from melting and turning liquid.
However, grooves on the surface of Mars, along with various channels and canyons, suggest that liquid water once flowed on its surface and eroded massive amounts of landforms.
If scientists can find a way to make water remain liquid on Mars, it might be possible to live there someday. Who knows? Maybe your kid might just be lucky enough to see the day when Mars becomes inhabitable.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mars
Can humans survive on Mars?
Not yet. With the current conditions on Mars (the thin atmosphere, the absence of liquid water, and the shallow temperature), people would find it very difficult to survive without the help of specialized equipment.
However, if scientists can somehow change the Martian surface and atmospheric composition, it will be possible, someday.
Can you breathe on Mars?
No, not without the help of any Oxygen tanks or breathing equipment. Because even though Mars has its atmosphere, it’s less than 1% in volume compared to Earth’s. Aside from this, the Martian atmosphere also has a different composition from the Earth’s atmosphere.
It’s mostly Carbon dioxide (96%) with only trace amounts of Oxygen, while our atmosphere is predominantly Nitrogen (78.1%) and Oxygen (20.9%). If people lived on Mars now, they could only breathe there using the oxygen they produced or brought.
Why did Mars dry out?
Around 4 billion years ago, Mars’ core became inactive. As a result, the planet lost its magnetic field. With the massively weakened gravity, its atmosphere was stripped over time and eventually became too thin for liquid water to exist.
The thin atmosphere also meant that whatever solar heat reached Mars bounced off its surface and almost instantly escaped into space since there’s insufficient greenhouse gas to trap the heat on the planet’s surface.