Related topics: nasa · red planet · spacecraft · earth · liquid water

Perseverance Rover will peer beneath Mars' surface

After touching down on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021, NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will scour Jezero Crater to help us understand its geologic history and search for signs of past microbial life. But the six-wheeled ...

The colorful walls of an exposed impact crater on Mars

Impact craters have been called the "poor geologists' drill," since they allow scientists to look beneath to the subsurface of a planet without actually digging down. It's estimated that Mars has over 600,000 craters, so ...

AI is helping scientists discover fresh craters on Mars

Sometime between March 2010 and May 2012, a meteor streaked across the Martian sky and broke into pieces, slamming into the planet's surface. The resulting craters were relatively small—just 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter. ...

New Mars rover is ready for space lasers

When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they brought devices with them called retroreflectors, which are essentially small arrays of mirrors. The plan was for scientists on Earth to aim lasers at them and calculate ...

Could life exist deep underground on Mars?

Recent science missions and results are bringing the search for life closer to home, and scientists at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) and the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) may have figured ...

Solar eclipse measured on Mars, affects interior

NASA's InSight mission provides data from the surface of Mars. Its seismometer, equipped with electronics built at ETH Zurich, not only records marsquakes, but unexpectedly reacts to solar eclipses as well. When the Martian ...

Follow NASA's Perseverance rover in real time on its way to Mars

The last time we saw NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission was on July 30, 2020, as it disappeared into the black of deep space on a trajectory for Mars. But with NASA's Eyes on the Solar System, you can follow in real ...

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Mars

2.7% Nitrogen 1.6% Argon 0.2% Oxygen 0.07% Carbon monoxide 0.03% Water vapor 0.01% Nitric oxide 2.5 ppm Neon 300 ppb Krypton 130 ppb Formaldehyde 80 ppb Xenon 30 ppb Ozone

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. It is also referred to as the "Red Planet" because of its reddish appearance, due to iron oxide prevalent on its surface.

Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth. It is the site of Olympus Mons, the highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon. Furthermore, in June 2008 three articles published in Nature presented evidence of an enormous impact crater in Mars' northern hemisphere, 10,600 km long by 8,500 km wide, or roughly four times larger than the largest impact crater yet discovered, the South Pole-Aitken basin. In addition to its geographical features, Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are likewise similar to those of Earth.

Until the first flyby of Mars by Mariner 4 in 1965, many speculated that there might be liquid water on the planet's surface. This was based on observations of periodic variations in light and dark patches, particularly in the polar latitudes, which looked like seas and continents, while long, dark striations were interpreted by some observers as irrigation channels for liquid water. These straight line features were later proven not to exist and were instead explained as optical illusions. Still, of all the planets in the Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbor liquid water, and perhaps life. Radar data from Mars Express and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice both at the poles (July 2005) and at mid-latitudes (November 2008). The Phoenix Mars Lander directly sampled water ice in shallow martian soil on July 31, 2008.

Mars is currently host to three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. With the exception of Earth, this is more than any planet in the Solar System. The surface is also home to the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and several inert landers and rovers, both successful and unsuccessful. The Phoenix lander recently completed its mission on the surface. Geological evidence gathered by these and preceding missions suggests that Mars previously had large-scale water coverage, while observations also indicate that small geyser-like water flows have occurred during the past decade. Observations by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap have been receding.

Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Martian Trojan asteroid. Mars can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. Its apparent magnitude reaches −2.9, a brightness surpassed only by Venus, the Moon, and the Sun, although most of the time Jupiter will appear brighter to the naked eye than Mars. Mars has an average opposition distance of 78 million km but can come as close as 55.7 million km during a close approach, such as occured in 2003.

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