These Unique Facts About Mars May Surprise You

Mars: the red planet, the last of the terrestrial planets, and our greatest hope for sustaining life beyond our own planet (so far anyways). Ever since Egyptian astronomers first discovered Mars in the heavens, humanity has been fascinated by the nearby planet.

By Anthony Von Dari@VOP Today


At a time just over 100 years ago, we even believed intelligent life much like our own lived on the planet’s cratered surface. Though we often hear the planet is quite similar to Earth, it’s also radically different. These differences will provide some serious challenges for landing a human mission there and sustaining life, challenges which we’ve brought up among these facts on Mars.

Whether you’ve always been fascinating by space and the planets or you’re just looking to learn a bit more about our second closest planet, this list is just what you need to get up to speed.

Sources: Space.com, NASA – Images: Wikimedia, NASA


From how the planet got its name to its fearsome dust storms to the question of “Is there really organic life on Mars?”, we’ve dug into the red planet’s history to bring you these 25 Unique Facts About Mars: Earth’s Mysterious Cousin.

Mars: Earth’s cousin

Mars_Earth_Comparison_2

Bearing a similar tilt to Earth – Mars has a 25° tilt while our planet has a 23.5° tilt – Mars also experiences the same four seasons, though they are more extreme.

Martian seasons

mars in different seasons

The red planet’s seasons are much longer than ours. Due to Mars’ elliptical orbit, spring and summer are longer in its northern hemisphere while fall and winter are longer in the southern. They are also more intense with hotter summers and colder winters.

Could we breathe on Mars?

Planet_Mars_night_astronaut

Though the red planet is often cited as a potential second Earth, we would not be able to breathe in its atmosphere made up of 96% carbon dioxide and less than 0.2% oxygen. Earth’s 21% oxygen is right about where we need to be. Scientists are currently testing microbes that can be sent ahead of humans to begin converting and creating oxygen on the planet.

The first assumption of life on Mars

marvin the martian

In the last quarter of the 19th century, astronomers generally believed intelligent life was living on Mars. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli noticed relatively straight lines on the Martian surface which he and other astronomers of the time believed were irrigation canals constructed by intelligent beings. As telescopes developed in the early 20th century, this assumption was proved wrong – though not before giving birth to plenty of sci-fi about the red planet, including Marvin the Martian.

How Mars got its name

The_Combat_Of_Mars_And_Minerva

Mars’ surface is rich in iron, giving it a reddish color. This composition has led to cultures as far back as the Egyptians naming it after the color. The Egyptians named it Her Desher (“the red one”), the Chinese named it “fire star”, and the Romans named it Mars, after their god of war (equivalent to Ares in Greek mythology).

A valley the size of North America

Mars_-_Valles_Marineris

An enormous system of canyons, the Valles Marineris stretches 2,600 miles (4,200 km) across the Martian surface and is up to 4.3 miles (7 km) deep. Placing it on Earth and into context, the Valles Marineris would span from New York to San Francisco and then some.

Mars’ rotation around the sun

the solar system

A Martian year is significantly longer than an Earth year (the time it takes to make one rotation of the sun). On Earth, we have 365 days whereas Mars has 687 days.

Martian day

Hubble_Globes_of_Mars

The Martian day is also longer, but only slightly. One Earth day is 23 hours and 56 minutes while one Martian day is 24 hours and 40 minutes. When we do land on Mars, it will be an easier transition than if we went to Jupiter (10 hour day) or Venus (2,802 hour day).

Martian atmosphere

Mars_atmosphere

The atmosphere on Mars is 100 times less dense than our own, making landing spacecrafts on its surface tricky as the atmosphere does not help as much in slowing down their descent as it does on our blue planet. Despite this lack of density, it is still dense enough to permit weather and winds.

Martian temperatures

Mars_climate_zones

Mars experiences much greater temperature fluctuations than our own planet. Whereas the coldest it has gotten on Earth’s surface is -126° F (-88° C) and the hottest 136° F (58° C), Mars fluctuates between -284° F (-140° C) and 86° F (30° C). The average temperature on each is 57° F (14° C) on Earth and -81° F (-63° C) on Mars. That’s a cold planet!

Intense dust storms

Greeley_Panorama_from_Opportunitys_Fifth_Martian_Winter

Martian dust storms are among the fiercest in the solar system and are even the largest. A dust storm can envelop the entire planet and last for many months.

The Curiosity Rover

Mars_Science_Laboratory_Curiosity_rover

One of the primary goals of NASA’s well-known Curiosity Rover, currently on the Martian surface, has been to plan for a human visit to the planet. Other goals are understanding the climate and geology of the planet and determining if life ever existed on Mars.

Tallest mountain in the solar system

olympus mons

The tallest mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons, is a shield volcano, similar to those in Hawaii and many Pacific islands. It stands at 13.2 miles (21 km) above sea level on the Martian surface. Three times taller than Mount Everest, Olympus Mons’ surface area is the same as the entire U.S. state of Arizona.

First spacecraft exploration of Mars

Soviet_Union-1964-Stamp-0.06._Mars_1

The first spacecraft sent to explore Mars was the Soviet Union’s “Mars 1” in 1962. En route, mission controllers lost contact with the vehicle. The first American spacecraft to reach Mars was Mariner 4 in 1964 which sent back the first pictures of the red planet.

Water on Mars

MarsTransition

Astronomers have known for years that water exists on Mars, locked up in its polar ice caps. However, they’ve recently found dark streaks on the planet which would indicate flowing water. Mars’ temperatures (#16) would mean the water would have to be incredibly salty to keep it in liquid form.

Martian land area

Earth_mars_moon_celestia

Despite being considerably smaller than Earth – about half of Earth’s diameter and a tenth of its mass – Mars has a land area similar to that on Earth due to our planet’s high amount of water. This would only apply to Mars’ current state since the Martian oceans have dried and frozen up.

Phobos, the larger Martian moon

Phobos_colour_2008

Phobos, the larger of the two Martian moons, orbits the planet so quickly it would set twice (in the East) and rise once (in the west) every day.

Deimos, the smaller Martian moon

Deimos-MRO

Deimos, the smaller moon, is so small that an astronaut on Mars would see it as a full moon just about as brightly as we see Venus in our night sky. Scientists are unsure whether both these moons are captured asteroids or true moons.

Martian size

Terrestrial_planets_size_comparison

Volume-wise, Mars is much smaller than Earth. Over six whole Mars’ would be able to pack into our Earth.

Martian gravity

martian altitude

Lower gravity on Mars means you would be able to hop around much easier than on Earth. Its 62.5% less gravity means 100 pounds on Earth are equivalent to about 38 pounds on Mars.

Is there life on Mars?

Mars_Rover_Spirit-Volcanic_Rock_Fragment

The most well-known supporting evidence for life on Mars refers to NASA experiments in 1996 on Martian rocks which landed on Earth. Inside, the scientists found complex organic molecules and fossilized structures which resemble microbes we are familiar with. Though these findings remain controversial, scientists today generally believe life did exist at some point on Mars (and may even still exist today).

The only other ice-capped planet

Mars nortern pole ice cap

Besides our own planet, Mars is the only planet in the solar system to have polar ice caps. The southern ice cap is made of dry ice and is said to resemble freshly-fallen snow.

The Martian Grand Canyon

Noctis_Labyrinthus

Mars’ equivalent of the Grand Canyon, the Noctis Labyrinthus (“labyrinth of the night”) is a highly varied area filled with steep-walled valleys and sloping canyons. Trapped between two highly volatile, techtonically-active areas of the planet, the area has been shaped by the stress of heat and water over millions of years.

Mars’ moon on a destruction path

Phobos_et_Mars_(Celestia)

Human settlements on Mars could be threatened by Mars’ moon Phobos – thankfully not for tens of millions of years though. Each orbit, Phobos is drawn closer to Mars by the planet’s gravity. (It spirals inward at 6 feet (1.8 m) every 100 years.) Many millennia in the future, the moon will likely crash into Mars or break up above the planet’s surface, creating a ring.

First humans on Mars

Lunar_Electric_Rover_at_2009_Presidential_inauguration_parade

In a 2010 speech at Kennedy Space Center, U.S. President Barack Obama called for the Americans to land a manned mission to Mars by the mid-2030’s, making it the most ambitious Mars exploration plan by any country on record.


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The First Forms of Life on Mars – These 5 Micro-Organisms Are Ready to Leave Earth

Mars is a reddish hell and an inconvenient one to visit. The planet is a dry, barren wasteland where surface temperatures average -67 degrees Fahrenheit and can dip as low as -243 degrees. Yes, there’s water on the surface, but only in very specific, remote places.

By Anthony Von Dari@VOP Today – Source: Inverse


Gone are the vast lakes and oceans of the ancient Martian past. And with a thin atmosphere and a decimated magnetic field, theplanet is buffeted by intense amounts of solar radiation.

It ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.

Nevertheless, if everything goes according to plan, your children might actually be raising your grandkids on Mars. In order for that to happen, we’ll need to colonize and terraform, sure, but we’ll also need to bring along a fair amount of non-human life. The organisms that we allow to go free-range on the Red Planet will be the point of the biological spear. They have the potential to make the planet more hospitable — to do the sort of colonizations we cannot.

Here are the micro-astronauts we’re going to send the 140 million miles to establish a biological basecamp.

Cyanobacteria

Plants use photosynthesis to make their own energy. So do cyanobacteria. They are the organisms that are thought to have played a pivotal role in transforming Earth’s atmosphere from one inhospitable life into an oxygen-free environment for aerobes to thrive. In short, they have a history of making things work in pretty harsh environments.

A study published last year by researchers in Germany found that cyanobacteria were able to survive and reproduce in conditions relatively similar to Mars — UV radiation, low pressure, temperatures skewing pretty cold, etc. They didn’t just manage to huddle together and live — they stayed active, and kept up with their regular metabolic functions.

Funguses

When you stick cyanobacteria (or algae) together with funguses, they form lichens — which were also shown by the aforementioned study to survive Martian conditions. So it comes as little surprise that funguses alone might stand a chance to thrive on Mars.

We’re specifically talking about polar funguses that can withstand extremely cold and dry climates. A new study demonstrated the ability of one particular Antarctic fungal species to survive under Mars-like conditions (in the International Space Station to also emulate microgravity settings) while retaining more than 60 percent of its cells after 18 months. There’s no reason to think such a species could evolve fast enough to fully adapt to the Martian weather and pressure in order to bump that rate close to 100 percent.

Methanogens

Methanogens are a type of bacteria that can use hydrogen and carbon dioxide as metabolic constituents for energy, and produce methane as a byproduct. Since they don’t require oxygen or organic nutrients for survival — and don’t conduct photosynthesis — they’re an ideal organism for subsurface environments, especially on Mars.

Last year, some researchers decided to see if methanogens really could live on Mars. They exposed four different species to low pressure conditions similar to what would be expected just below the surface of the planet.

The results? All four methanogen species were able to survive. Two were previously known to be able to survive the Martian freeze-thaw cycles.

The bigger implication here, as well, is that methanogens could perhaps play a strong role in helping to revive Mars’ atmosphere into something that could allow surface water to come back to the planet. This would require finding a way to bring back the planet’s magnetic field, but let’s let other scientists worry about figuring that one out.

Oligotrophs

On Earth, an oligotroph is a catchall term for any organism that can survive on very low levels of nutrients — as in, the bare minimum. They grow slow, use energy at very low rates, and have extremely low populations.

And for those reasons, they may be just what is able to survive what Mars throws at life. One such oligotrophy is the olm — a cave-dwelling aquatic salamander that eats, breathes, and sleeps entirely underwater. If subsurface water exists on Mars, the snake-like olms would be a top candidate to make a home in those very dark and empty habitats.

Deinococcus radiodurans

This is the most radiation-resistant life form found on Earth. D. radiodurans, nicknamed “Conan the Bacterium” for its incredible toughness, can withstand doses of radiation thousands of times higher than what would easily vanquish a human being. The bacterium can also withstand extreme colds, and have a habit of finding homes in the subsurface of our planet.

It’s not unthinkable that D. radiodurans could quite easily hitch a ride as a stowaway on a spacecraft, survive the journey, and end up managing pretty well on the red planet. Unlike the other organisms on this list, the bacterium wouldn’t even need to find a specific habitat in order to live — it could perhaps make due whenever it ended up.

WOW! Massive Structure, Underground Entrance Found on the Moon In Google Earth

Massive Structure, Underground Entrance Found on the Moon In Google Earth. Similar Underground Base Entrances Found on the Moon and Mars with Google Earth.

By Nerti U. Qatja@VOP_Today


You can search this discovery for yourself with the following coordinates on Google Earth (MOON & MARS).

• Moon: #1: 26°21’55.79″N 12° 6’54.14″E

• Moon: #2: 22°42’38.46″N 142°34’44.52″E

• Mars: 45°56’56.49″N 23°32’19.78″E


WARNED OFF? Alien BASES On Dark Side of The Moon Exposed

Latest RED PLANET Photo: NASA Robot Spots DEVIL on Mars

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has snapped some astonishing images and sent them back to ground control.

By Nerti U. Qatja@VOP Today


In one of the snaps, the machine has spotted a ‘devil’ forming in the distance.

No, it’s not Satan himself stopping for a break on Mars before he comes to rule our planet, but rather a dust devil.

dust devil

The image depicts the dust twirling in the wind in the distance behind the rover’s tracks.

getty

NASA has said that the Opportunity rover has found evidence of “ancient Martian environments where intermittently wet and habitable conditions existed”.

Much like here on Earth, dust devils occur when narrow spinning columns of air lift dust off the ground and can sometimes take them as high as the atmosphere.

Furthermore, what has really piqued the interest of NASA scientists is that the area which it was spotted in is believed to have underlying clays.

These could unravel secrets about the history of water on Mars as clay minerals are usually created through chemical processes involving water.

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

Weird findings on Mars

REVEALED: The Most Detailed Pictures Of Mars EVER

SCIENTISTS have released the most detailed pictures of Mars’ surface including an image of the failed Beagle-2.

BY NERTI U. QATJA@VOP_TODAY – Source: SEAN MARTIN

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) lander was sent to the Red Planet in 2003, but it was feared that it crash landed when Earth failed to receive any contact from it upon its arrival.

However, it turned out that the craft landed correctly but it was a glitch afterwards that meant it was unable to contact home.

beagle 2

It’s location remained a mystery for almost 12 years until it was discovered in 2015 by NASA’s Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Now, a team of University College London (UCL) scientists based in London have released the most hi-res images of the Martian surface from orbit, and one of the pictures contains the failed Beagle-2.

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The team used a technique known as Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR) was used to focus on specific objects on Mars and will soon be used to identify more artefacts on the planet.

Co-author Professor Jan-Peter Muller from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, said: “We now have the equivalent of drone-eye vision anywhere on the surface of Mars where there are enough clear repeat pictures.

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“It allows us to see objects in much sharper focus from orbit than ever before and the picture quality is comparable to that obtained from landers.

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“As more pictures are collected, we will see increasing evidence of the kind we have only seen from the three successful rover missions to date.

“This will be a game-changer and the start of a new era in planetary exploration.”

How to Get to Mars. Very Cool!

“How To get to Mars” is a clip from the IMAX documentary “Roving Mars” from 2006. This is an edited short version.

By Nerti U. Qatja@VOP_Today


Spirit, MER-A (Mars Exploration Rover — A), is a robotic rover on Mars, active from 2004 to 2010. It was one of two rovers of NASA’s ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission. It landed successfully on Mars at 04:35 Ground UTC on January 4, 2004, three weeks before its twin, Opportunity (MER-B), landed on the other side of the planet. Its name was chosen through a NASA-sponsored student essay competition. The rover became stuck in late 2009, and its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010.

The rover completed its planned 90-sol mission. Aided by cleaning events that resulted in higher power from its solar panels, Spirit went on to function effectively over twenty times longer than NASA planners expected following mission completion.

Spirit also logged 7.73 km (4.8 mi) of driving instead of the planned 600 m (0.4 mi), allowing more extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features. Initial scientific results from the first phase of the mission (the 90-sol prime mission) were published in a special issue of the journal Science.

On May 1, 2009 (5 years, 3 months, 27 Earth days after landing; 21.6 times the planned mission duration), Spirit became stuck in soft soil.

This was not the first of the mission’s “embedding events” and for the following eight months NASA carefully analyzed the situation, running Earth-based theoretical and practical simulations, and finally programming the rover to make extrication drives in an attempt to free itself.

These efforts continued until January 26, 2010 when NASA officials announced that the rover was likely irrecoverably obstructed by its location in soft soil, though it continued to perform scientific research from its current location.

The rover continued in a stationary science platform role until communication with Spirit stopped on sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). JPL continued to attempt to regain contact until May 24, 2011, when NASA announced that efforts to communicate with the unresponsive rover had ended.

A formal farewell was planned at NASA headquarters after the Memorial Day holiday and was televised on NASA TV.