It's Red Planet Day! What Do We Really Know About Our Next-Planet Neighbor?

Robyn Norgan
Nov 28, 2012

Hopefully you are aware that the "red planet" I am referring to is our next-planet neighbor, good old - and I mean old, we're talking 4.5 billion years old - Mars. Mars is the fourth planet from our sun and it's the prevalence of iron oxide on its surface that gives it a reddish appearance and thus its nickname of "red planet." But how does our neighbor compare to us? Here's a quick run down of some basics:

Comparative graph of vitals for Mars and Earth

Mars is smaller than Earth at a mere 1.4146909 x 10^24 pounds (6.41693 x 10^23 kg) in mass, or about 10 times less than our Earth's mass. It also has less gravity than Earth - so if you want to lose a lot of weight and fast, go to Mars! On Mars a 100 pound (45 kg) person would only weigh 38 pounds (17 kg). Now that is some good results! Mars is also lucky enough to have two moons, known as Phobos and Deimos. We only have one moon of course, but do you know its name? It's called "The Moon!" You were thinking it had a different scientific name and you just didn't know it weren't you?

Now back in August, NASA's Curiosity Rover made history by successfully landing on Mars. The landing was dubbed the "seven minutes of terror," the amount of time it took for the most complicated landing ever attempted. You can learn more about the complicated landing process in our blog post about Curiosity's Historic Mars Landing.

Curiosity's goals are to investigate Mars climate and geology, assess whether or not Gale Crater, an ancient geological feature that is thought to have once been a lake, ever offered an environment favorable to microbial life, and planetary habitability for future human exploration. You can follow Curiosity's journey on NASA's website and on Twitter. Recently, NASA has been saying they found something exciting. They've even referred to it as a "discovery for the history books." The find is from "SAM" or Sample Analysis at Mars, Curiosity's miniature chemistry lab designed to determine composition of rocks, soil, and air as well as identify organic compounds. The findings are set to be released next week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union taking place in San Francisco.

You may not be able to get an actual piece of Mars, even if you do plan to attend the American Geophysical Union fall meeting next week, but you can own one of these great premium domains in honor of Red Planet Day!

Mars photo is a true-color view of Mars seen through NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1999.
It is courtesy of Wikipedia's Mars article.

Author Robyn Norgan as the aliens meme
This post was written by Robyn Norgan, who wants to believe!