What Is Mars?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,371
    Science expert Emerald Robinson discusses the planet most like Earth, the red and rocky Mars.

    Emerald Robinson: Hi I'm Emerald Robinson; in this What Is video we're going to explore the Red Planet, Mars.

    Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and is named after the Roman god of war, befitting its bloody color. Other than Earth we know more about Mars than any other planet because of 18 successful missions and probes. Current missions include the rovers Opportunity in operation since 2004, and Curiosity which landed on Mars on August 5th 2012.

    Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, it is 36 million miles from Earth and it's the second smallest major planet in the solar system next to Mercury. Mars is roughly half the size of Earth, but is less dense leaving it with only 37% of Earth's gravity. A 100-pound person would weigh just under 38 pounds on Mars.

    Like the other inner planets of our solar system, Mars is dense and rocky. Much of its surface is covered by finely grained iron oxide dust, more commonly known as rust. This is what gives the planet its reddish appearance. Mars has impact craters similar to our moon and surface features not unlike the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth.

    Dust storms can last for weeks on Mars and its windblown surface is constantly changing color. The air on Mars is 95% Carbon Dioxide making breathing impossible for humans. Due to low atmospheric pressure water on Mars exists almost exclusively as ice mainly in the form of permafrost and polar ice caps.

    Mars has an elliptical orbit and is an average distance of 141 million miles from the sun. It takes Mars 687 earth days to orbit around the sun, and the Martian day is about half an hour longer than a day on Earth. The Viking orbiter measured temperatures on Mars ranging from 81 degrees Fahrenheit to a frigid -225 degrees.

    Mars has some interesting features including the tallest Volcano in the Solar System. The lowest location on Mars is four times deeper and 10 times longer than Earth's Grand Canyon.

    While we haven't found any Martians, the red planet continues to spark the imagination of earthlings everywhere.