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Planet Mars   Mars, named after the Roman god of war because of its red colour which represents a drop of blood in the sky. It has inspired mankind in many ways and has been the subject for the search for life elsewhere in the universe, countless sci fi novels and many conspiracy theories.
               
            Inside of Mars  
Mars as imaged by the Mars Global Surveyor space probe.
The interior of Mars.
Image copyright CJ. Hamilton Image copyright CJ. Hamilton
 

Mars is a popular and special planet and is home to the highest volcano, Olympus Mons and the biggest canyon, Valles Marineris.

The thin atmosphere and dry dusty ground is unable to support any life although there might have been life on Mars five million years ago when water might have flowed along the surface.

The atmosphere contains carbon dioxide and temperatures are usually near freezing point. The coldest temperature is minus 200F.

The reason for Mars being red is because millions of years ago, iron reacted with the oxygen in the soil creating a rust effect. The surface is composed mainly of rocky basalt.

Mars has many similarities to Earth such as polar ice caps at both the north and south, massive dust storms and the length of day is almost exactly identical.

The surface has many volcanoes, flat plains, valleys, canyons, craters and basins.

   

Name: Mars

Distance from Sun: 141,633,260 miles

Diameter: 4222 miles

Length of Day: 24 hours 39 minutes

Length of Year: 1.88 years

Number of moons: 2

     
           
        Ice on Mars
                   
  Olympus Mons      
An ice cap on the surface of Mars.
Image copyright NASA/JPL
   

The surface of Mars is covered in approximately 43 000 craters. The largest is the Hellas impact basin.

Olympus Mons, a volcano on Mars, is the highest in the Solar System and is three times higher than Mount Everest. The diameter of the base is a huge 370 miles. Also it is extinct and is located in the Tharsis region.

The extinct volcano Olympus Mons.
Image copyright NASA/JPL
 

Valles Marineris, the largest valley is so massive that it is as long as Europe! The length is 2485 miles and is approximately the distance between New York and Los Angeles.

Mars has two moons called Phobos and Deimos. They are probably asteroids that were captured by Mars from the nearby asteroid belt. They are both larger than regular asteroids and were discovered in 1877 by Asaph Hall. The names come from Greek mythology, Phobos is the god of fear and Deimos is the god of terror.

Phobos
Phobos, the largest moon of Mars is dominated by the giant crater, Stickney.
     
Image copyright NASA/JPL/University of Arizona