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Mercury  Venus  Earth  Mars  Jupiter  Saturn  Uranus  Neptune  Pluto


Using the classification based on size, Mars is one of the small planets, along with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Pluto. The small planets all have diameters less than 13000 kilometers.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are known as the giant planets or the gas giants. They have diameters greater than 48000 kilometers.

Where is It?
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, located between Earth and Jupiter. Mars is much further away from the Sun than Earth, with an average distance of around 228 million kilometers. The orbit, or path, the planet takes around the Sun is an mild ellipse, or stretched circle, with Mars being about 206 million kilometers. from the Sun at its closest and 248 million kilometers. away at its furthest.

How Did It Get Its Name?
Mars is named after the Roman god of war, probably due to its red color.

How long are its years and days?
Since Mars is so much further away from the Sun than Earth, a Martian year is much longer than an Earth year, being 687 Earth days. A Martian day is a little longer than an Earth day, at 24 hours and 37 minutes.

How Big Is It?
Mars, with a diameter of about 6800 kilometers., is a little more than half the size of Earth. If Earth was the size of a cricket ball, Mars would be about the size of a golf ball.

Can It Be Seen From Earth?
Mars can be seen without a telescope. Mars is a small, rust-colored light in the sky.

What Is It Made Of?
Mars has a central core made of iron. In this way, the Red Planet is similar to Earth. On top of the iron core, Mars has a layer of rock, again like Earth, but Mars’ rock layer is much thicker than that of the Earth. Also, Mars has a very thin atmosphere, or layer of air, that covers the planet. The atmosphere of Mars is much thinner than that of Earth, but Mars still has weather, including dust storms and clouds.

What Is It Like on The Surface?
Mars has a rocky, dusty surface, complete with clouds and dust storms that can cover the whole planet at once. The weather on Mars is very cold, with an average temperature of around -12 degrees Celsius. During the Martian winter, the temperature gets even colder, and can drop to -70 degrees Celsius.

During the Martian winter, the planet has ice caps at the north and south poles like Earth does. The difference is that these caps are made of frozen carbon dioxide, or “dry ice”. Mars also has mountains, sandy deserts and many, many inactive volcanoes. Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Moons, which is over 133000 meters tall, much higher than Mount Everest, and is over 965 kilometers. wide at its base. There are also many canyons on Mars, including Valles Marineris, which is over 3200 kilometers. long and deep enough to hold a mountain range.

How Many Moons Does It Have?
Mars has two very tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos. The two Martian moons are among the smallest moons in the solar system. Phobos is only about 30 kilometers. in diameter, while Deimos is even smaller at around 15 kilometers. in diameter. The two Martian moons are actually asteroids, which are small rocky bodies that are scattered throughout the solar system. A very long time ago, these two asteroids came so close to Mars that they were “captured” by Mars’ gravity. They have been circling the planet ever since.

Missions to Mars
The Mars Mission

Resources Used
Astronomy for Kids
Small Worlds David Drew: Nelson, 1989
The Gas Giants David Drew: Nelson, 1989

Solar System Unit  |  Classification  |  Glossary

Images from: Astronomy Picture of the Day

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