July 20, 2011
Calling all Martians from across the galaxy: celebrate Mars Day this Friday at the National Air and Space Museum. The annual event pays homage to the red planet with a variety of fun and educational activities for extraterrestrials and humans alike.
Perhaps no other planet in our solar system is surrounded with as much mystery as Mars, so we have put together a list of facts to help you prepare for the party:
1. Mars features the largest volcano in the solar system. Olympus Mons is located in the Tharsis Montes region, which is the largest volcanic region on Mars, and is approximately 2,485 miles across. Volcanoes in the Tharsis region are up to 100 times larger than those anywhere on Earth.
2. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, and both are shaped like potatoes. Named after the mythological sons of Ares, the Greek counterpart of the Roman god, Mars, the moons are among the smallest in the solar system. Because Phobos is spiraling inward and coming 3 feet 2 inches closer to Mars each century, it will either crash into Mars or break up and form a ring in about 50 million years.
3. Scientists have found proof of water on Mars. NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft found water in the form of ice below the surface of the planet. Due to the planet’s lack of an atmosphere, water simply cannot exist for very long. Channels can be found all over the planet where running water used to be.
4. Mars appears red because its surface is consists of iron-rich minerals that oxidize. That dust is kicked up into the atmosphere and gives the planet its reddish hue. Discovered in ancient times, both the Romans and Egyptians named the planet because of its color. Mars was the name used by the Romans for their god of war because of the planet’s bloodlike color. The Egyptians named the planet “Her Desher,” which means “the red one.”
5. The annual event marks the July 20, 1976 landing of Viking 1, the first spacecraft to operate on Mars. Since the first landing, many missions to Mars have failed for a variety of reasons leaving some to speculate that a “Mars Triangle”—similar to the “Bermuda Triangle”—exists.
Check out the Mars Day celebration on this Friday, July 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the National Air and Space Museum where NASA will announce the landing site for their next Mars rover, and where you can see an actual piece of Mars!
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.
No Comments »
No comments yet.