There were emails circulating about mars this month and it is interesting to relearn about it. World Book at NASA was a great source at www.nasa.gov.
“Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. The planet is one of Earth's "next-door neighbors" in space. Earth is the third planet from the sun, and Jupiter is the fifth. Like Earth, Jupiter, the sun, and the remainder of the solar system, Mars is about 4.6 billion years old.
Mars is named for the ancient Roman god of war. The Romans copied the Greeks in naming the planet for a war god; the Greeks called the planet Ares (AIR eez). The Romans and Greeks associated the planet with war because its color resembles the color of blood. Viewed from Earth, Mars is a bright reddish-orange. It owes its color to iron-rich minerals in its soil. This color is also similar to the color of rust, which is composed of iron and oxygen.
Scientists have observed Mars through telescopes based on Earth and in space. Space probes have carried telescopes and other instruments to Mars. Early probes were designed to observe the planet as they flew past it. Later, spacecraft orbited Mars and even landed there. But no human being has ever set foot on Mars.
Scientists have found strong evidence that water once flowed on the surface of Mars. The evidence includes channels, valleys, and gullies on the planet's surface. If this interpretation of the evidence is correct, water may still lie in cracks and pores in subsurface rock. A space probe has also discovered vast amounts of ice beneath the surface, most of it near the south pole.”
In addition, a group of researchers has claimed to have found evidence that living things once dwelled on Mars. That evidence consists of certain materials in meteorites found on Earth. But the group's interpretation of the evidence has not convinced most scientists.
The Martian surface has many spectacular features, including a canyon system that is much deeper and much longer than the Grand Canyon in the United States. Mars also has mountains that are much higher than Mount Everest, Earth's highest peak.
Above the surface of Mars lies an atmosphere that is about 100 times less dense than the atmosphere of Earth. But the Martian atmosphere is dense enough to support a weather system that includes clouds and winds. Tremendous dust storms sometimes rage over the entire planet.
Mars is much colder than Earth. Temperatures at the Martian surface vary from as low as about -195 degrees F (-125 degrees C) near the poles during the winter to as much as 70 degrees F (20 degrees C) at midday near the equator. The average temperature on Mars is about -80 degrees F (-60 degrees C).
Mars is so different from Earth mostly because Mars is much farther from the sun and much smaller than Earth. The average distance from Mars to the sun is about 141,620,000 miles (227,920,000 kilometers). This distance is roughly 1 1/2 times the distance from Earth to the sun. The average radius (distance from its center to its surface) of Mars is 2,107 miles (3,390 kilometers), about half the radius of Earth.
“Mars was photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in August 2003 as the planet passed closer to Earth than it had in nearly 60,000 years. The photographs captured many features of the Martian surface, including dark, circular impact craters and the bright ice of the southern polar cap. Image credit: NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI).”