Mars: The Red Planet
Isn't that amazing?Some of the meteorites found on Earth are actually pieces of the planet Mars. Scientists study these meteorites for evidence of tiny ancient bacteria and other signs that life may have once existed on Mars.
|The orbit of Mars around the Sun is extremely elliptical. Because the distance between the Sun and Mars varies, temperatures range from -125 degrees Celsius in the Martian winter to 22 degrees Celsius in the Martian summer. The Martian atmosphere is composed of over 95% carbon dioxide. Solar winds carry the thin, weak atmosphere away because Mars has a weak gravitational and magnetic field. At the Martian poles are polar ice caps which shrink in size during the Martian spring and summer. From data gathered by the Viking 1 and 2 probes, we know that the Martian surface is covered by various rocks and a soil which is rich in an iron-laden clay. The presence of iron explains the planet's reddish-orange appearance. Mars contains highlands which occur in the southern hemisphere and are composed of the oldest, most heavily cratered crustal material. Mars also contains lowlands which are found in the northern hemisphere. The extremely weak magnetic field of Mars suggests that its iron core is no longer fluid and circulating.
|The surface of Mars has not only been affected by meteorite impacts, but also by volcanic and tectonic activity. In fact, Mars has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system; Olympus Mons is over 600 kilometers wide and 26 kilometers high! Tectonic activity is in evidence at the tremendous Valles Marineris canyon system, which is over 8 kilometers deep and 4500 kilometers long. Mars has two small natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos. They are highly irregular in shape and are believed to be asteroids captured by Mars' weak gravitational field.
A QuestionWhat element in the Martian soil might explain the reddish appearance of Mars?
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