Mars facts: Fourth planet from the sun, Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is often referred to as the ‘Red Planet’ because it appears red. A terrestrial planet, Mars has a thin atmosphere composed mainly of carbon dioxide.
Mars has two moons – Phobos and Beimos. While the size of Phobos is 13.8 miles (22.2 km), Deimos measures 7.8 miles (12.6 km)
The size of Mars is 4,220 miles (6,792 km), while our Earth measures 7,926 miles (12,756 km). However, the land area of Earth is similar to that of Mars. Earth’s moon is nearly half the size of that of the Mars and measures 2,159 miles (3475).
If you weighed 100 lbs on Earth, you would weigh only 38 lbs on Mars.
Distance from Earth
The minimum distance from Earth to Mars is about 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers). The average distance from the Sun to the orbit paths of Earth and Mars are 93,000,000 miles (150,000,000 km) and 142,000,000 miles (229,000,0000 km) respectively.
A year on the Red Planet (687 days) is almost twice as long as a year on Earth (365 days).
It would take more than six of Mars to fill the volume of Earth.
Seasons and atmosphere
Mars has seasons just like Earth. But because the year in Mars is almost twice as long, its seasons are longer too.
Earth’s atmosphere is 100 times denser than the atmosphere of Mars. Earth consists of 78 per cent nitrogen, 21 per cent oxygen, while Mars contains 96 per cent carbon dioxide, 2 per cent argon and 2 per cent nitrogen.
Gravity, structure and mass
You’d experience 62.5 per cent less gravity than you are used to on Earth. The core of Mars may be similar to Earth’s but its exact structure is not yet known. Mars has about one tenth of the mass of Earth.
Mars facts at a glance
Average Distance from Sun
93 million miles
142 million miles
Average Speed in Orbiting Sun
18.5 miles per second
14.5 miles per second
Tilt of Axis
Length of Year
687 Earth Days
Length of Day
23 hours 56 minutes
24 hours 37 minutes
2.66 times that of Mars
0.375 that of Earth
Average 57 degrees F
Average -81 degrees F
nitrogen, oxygen, argon, others
Mostly carbon dioxide, some water vapor
Number of Moons
Olympus Mons is a shield volcano which is 21 km high and 600 km in diameter. Although they formed over billions of years, the evidence from volcanic lava flows is so recent that many scientists believe it could still be active.
Largest dust storms
Mars has the largest dust storms that can last for months and cover the entire planet. The seasons are extreme because the elliptical (oval) orbital path around the sun is longer than that of most other planets in the solar system.
Pieces of Mars fell on Earth
Scientists found tiny traces of Martian atmosphere in meteorites that were violently ejected from Mars and then orbiting the solar system amongst galactic debris for millions of years before crashing into Earth. This allowed scientists to start studying Mars before launching space missions.
The ancient Greeks named the planet Ares after their god of war; the Romans did the same and associated the blood red color of the planet with Mars, their own god of war. Interestingly, other ancient cultures also focused on color – it was ‘the fire star’ for Chinese astronomers, while Egyptian priests called it ‘their desher’ or ‘the red’. The red color is due to the fact that the rock and dust covering its surface are rich in iron.
Signs of liquid water on Mars
It has been known for years that Mars has water in the form of ice. The first signs of water drops are strains or dark spots on the crater wall and cliffs seen in satellite imagery. Due to the Martian atmosphere, this water should be salty so as not to freeze or evaporate.
One day, Mars will have a ring
Over the next 20 to 40 million years, the largest moon of the Red Planet, Phobos, will be torn apart by gravitational forces, causing a ring to form that can last up to 100 million years.
Blue sunsets on the Red Planet
The sky is pinkish red during the martian day, which is opposite of the earth’s skies.