Mars

Red Planet

In they sky, Mars looks reddish or orange. It reminded some ancient people of blood, so they named the planet after their war gods. Mars was the Roman god of war. The red color turned out to be caused by lots of iron oxide in the soil. In other words, Mars is rusty! A layer of fine, rusty dust covers everything. Wind storms can create dust clouds that cover the whole planet for months. The dust in the air gives the sky a tan color.

A Sad Story

Long ago, the magnetic field disappeared as the core of Mars cooled, and it was left unprotected from the solar wind streaming off the sun. The planet's gravity wasn't enough to hold onto the atmosphere when the solar wind particles started plowing into it, and they slowly blew it away. With almost no air to hold it down, all the water evaporated away too. The remaining atmosphere is only one percent as thick as Earth's. The only water that is left is frozen....Or is it? Some pictures from spacecraft seem to show places where liquid water has burst out of the ground and flowed down a slope. Scientists are not sure, but there may be pockets of liquid water underground, which would make possible habitats for micro-organisms.

Life on Mars?

The soil is very acidic, and most of the water disappeared, so it is unlikely that we will find life on Mars. However, there is some evidence that it might exist. A meteorite was found in Antarctica that used to be a chunk of Mars. Scientists discovered that the meterite has microscopic tubes in it that look like fossilized bacteria, and just maybe, that's what they actually are. Also, there is methane being leaked into the atmosphere of Mars every year. That methane could come from undiscovered volcanic vents, or, possibly from life forms. The "Curiosity" rover, which should reach the planet in the summer of 2012, has science experiments on board that may let us figure this out for sure.




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Solar System
Dust and Clouds
Dust and Clouds
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Credit: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University
Map
Map
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Credit: NASA/JPL/National Geographic Society
Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons
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Credit: NASA<br>Image Processing: Jody Swann/Tammy Becker/Alfred McEwen
Frosted Plains
Frosted Plains
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North Pole
North Pole
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Valles Marineris
Valles Marineris
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Hebes Chasma
Hebes Chasma
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Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Sunset
Sunset
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Avalanche
Avalanche
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Victoria Crater
Victoria Crater
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Columbia Hills
Columbia Hills
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Phobos
Phobos
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Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Face
Face
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Through a Telescope
Through a Telescope
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