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OSIRIS Mars true color.jpg

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. In English, Mars carries a name of the Roman god of war, and is often referred to as the "Red Planet" because the reddish iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance that is distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.

The rotational period and seasonal cycles of Mars are likewise similar to those of Earth, as is the tilt that produces the seasons. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano and second-highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons in the Solar System. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Mars trojan.

There are ongoing investigations assessing the past habitability potential of Mars, as well as the possibility of extant life. Future astrobiology missions are planned, including the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rovers. Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to low atmospheric pressure, which is less than 1% of the Earth's, except at the lowest elevations for short periods, the two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of water. The volume of water ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be sufficient to cover the entire planetary surface to a depth of 11 meters (36 ft). In November 2016, NASA reported finding a large amount of underground ice in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. The volume of water detected has been estimated to be equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior.

Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye, as can its reddish coloring, its apparent magnitude reaches −2.91, which is surpassed only by Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun. Optical ground-based telescopes are typically limited to resolving features about 300 kilometers (190 mi) across when Earth and Mars are closest because of Earth's atmosphere.

Selected article

Wide view of the Olympus Mons aureole, escarpment and caldera
Olympus Mons (Latin, "Mount Olympus") is the tallest known volcano and mountain in our solar system. It is located on the planet Mars at approximately 18°N 133°W / 18°N 133°W / 18; -133. Before space probes confirmed its identity as a mountain, Olympus Mons was known to astronomers as the albedo feature, Nix Olympica ("Snows of Olympus"); since the late 19th century, however, it had been suspected that it was mountainous.

Selected biography

A painting of Tycho Brahe.
Tycho Brahe About this sound listen  (14 December 1546 – 24 October 1601), born Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was a Danish nobleman known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations. Coming from Scania, then part of Denmark, now part of modern-day Sweden, Tycho was well known in his lifetime as an astronomer and alchemist.

In his De nova stella (Of new stars) of 1573, he refuted the theory of the celestial spheres by showing the celestial heavens were not in an immutable or unchanging state of perfection as previously assumed by Aristotle and Ptolemy. His precise measurements indicated that "new stars" (now known as novae or supernovae), in particular that of 1572, lacked the parallax expected in sub-lunar phenomenon, and were therefore not "atmospheric" tail-less comets as previously believed, but occurred above the atmosphere and moon. Using similar measurements he showed that comets were also not atmospheric phenomena, as previously thought, and must pass through the supposed "immutable" celestial spheres.


Mars Atmosphere ˑ Exploration (Voyager 2) ˑ History

Major Moons ˑ Phobos ˑ Deimos ˑ

Astronomers: Tycho Brahe ˑ Johannes Kepler ˑ Percival Lowell ˑ Gerard Kuiper ˑ Christiaan Huygens

See Also: Formation and evolution of the Solar System ˑ Terrestrial planet ˑ Nebular hypothesis

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Italicized articles are on dwarf planets or minor moons.


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