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5 amazing facts about Mars
10. The basics
Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is commonly known as the 'red planet' because of its reddish appearance. Like many other celestial bodies in the universe, Mars is named after a Roman god of war and agricultural guardian. The features of the terrestrial planet are very similar to the Moon and Earth. Mars also has impact craters reminiscent of the Moon as well as deserts, volcanoes, valleys, and polar caps comparable to Earth and was first recorded by Egyptian astronomer in 2nd millennium BC.
9. Aurora and mysterious dust clouds
In 1994, astronomers discovered an ultraviolet glow in the southern hemisphere of Mars. A decade later in late 2014, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft noticed a blanket of auroras in the northern hemisphere as well. The particles descended deep into the atmosphere of Mars, and created auroras approximately 100 km above the Martian surface. In 2015, NASA detected mysterious high-altitude dust clouds on Mars. It is speculated that the dust is coming from the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, but it is still unexplained how it got there.
8. Mars has two moons
Talking of moons, Mars has two small natural satellites - Phobos and Deimos. The moons were discovered by Asaph Hall in 1877. Their names are inspired by twins in Greek mythology and their meanings are quite interesting; Phobos means fear and Deimos mean terror. The origin of the moons is uncertain.
7. Highest mountain in the Solar System
Mars is home to Olympus Mons, the second highest known mountain and the largest volcano in the Solar System. It was formed approximately 3.3 billion years ago during the start of the Amazonian period. The shield volcano is now extinct and lies in the higher land of Tharsis. Mars is also home to one of the largest gorges in the Solar System called Valles Marineris.
6. Future of Mars
Scientists have predicted a plethora of interesting events for Mars. From 20 to 70 million years from now, Mars' moon, Phobos, will be ripped apart by powerful tidal forces because of its close proximity to the Martian surface. Mars will then have a cool ring around it! In 7.5 billion years, Earth and Mars will be tidally locked with the expanding Sun. The Sun will reach the 'red giant' stage and will end up destroying Earth, Venus, Mercury and Mars.
5. Dust storms
Remember how a massive dust storm left Matt Damon stranded on Mars in The Martian? Well, you can't grow potatoes on Mars, but they got that part right. Mars is subjected to the largest and extremely strong dust storms in the solar system. They go on for months and months, and envelope the entire planet. Moreover, the seasons are way more intense than other planets in the Solar System because Mars orbits around the Sun in an oval shaped path. Oh, it also has all the four seasons the Earth has.
4. Water on Mars
Water on Mars create a lot of hype every other week. Water does exist on Mars, but as ice and minuscule vapors in the atmosphere. Liquid water can only occur under certain condition because Mars has a very low atmospheric pressure. NASA has discovered evidence of rivers, freshwater lakes and streams that existed once upon a time. If those lakes existed today, Mars would have been habitable.
3. Life on Mars
The origin of Mars is very similar to Earth. People have been looking for evidence of life on Mars for centuries. Major searches only began in the 19th century and continues till today. Many experiments have been conducted for Martian habitability and life. Earth lichens successfully survived in a simulated Martian environment. Curiosity Rover discovered an ancient lake that could have supported life on Mars if it existed today. Currently, a team of scientists are trying to grow potatoes under Martian conditions. Around 68 missions have been launched to Mars since 1960!
2. Pieces of Mars on Earth
Several Martian meteorites have been found on Earth that must have blasted off from the planet due to a comet’s strong impact. These meteorites are invaluable for research.
1. Mars will turn you into bubbles
Water can't exist on Mars because it has a low atmospheric pressure. For the very same reason, if humans went to Mars without a proper space suit and gear, they will immediately die because all the oxygen in their body will explode into tiny bubbles. It won’t be a pretty sight.