Mars, the red planet – Astronomy

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Mars, the way the planet looks from space

Mars, the way the planet looks from space

The closest planet to Earth is Mars, and Mars is also the planet that seems most likely to have life on it besides our own Earth. It’s the next planet further away from the Sun after Earth. When you look at Mars from Earth, it looks reddish, and even close up Mars is also red. That’s because there’s a lot of iron on the surface, and it has turned red in an oxidation reaction – that is, Mars is very rusty.

The planet Mars formed about 4.5 billion years ago (4,500,000,000 years ago), about the same time as our Sun and the Earth and the other planets that go around the Sun.

Mars is a lot like Earth in some ways. Mars is not too far from the Sun to be solid (as Jupiter is), and it’s not so close to the Sun that it is very hot (like Mercury). Like Earth, Mars rotates so that it has regular short days and nights, seasons, and a year more or less the same length as our year. But Mars is only about half as big as Earth – about 1000 miles (1500 kilometers) across, so Mars has less gravity than Earth does.

the planet Mars

Seeing the planet Mars

The atmosphere – the air – on Mars is thinner than on Earth, because there is less gravity. The air is mostly carbon dioxide and hardly any oxygen. This probably means that there are no plants on Mars that can photosynthesize using sunlight.

Probably there is no liquid water on Mars now, because the temperature is usually below freezing there, and the air is too thin. The air pressure is so low that water would just evaporate. There is ice made out of water though.

Learn by doing – Mars

Bibliography and further reading about planets:

Planets
Stars
Space
Physics
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By | 2017-08-18T18:11:29+00:00 August 18th, 2017|Physics|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Mars, the red planet – Astronomy. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 18, 2017. Web. November 23, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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