Mars is named after the Roman god of war because its red appearance resembles the color of blood. In actual fact, its reddish hue is the result of an abundance of iron oxide, otherwise known as rust, on the planet’s surface, caused by the metallic rocks on Mars literally rusting.
Here are some more interesting facts about the planet Mars:
Mythology: In Greek mythology Mars was called Ares and had two sons, Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Terror), who would accompany their father into battle, driving his chariot and spreading fear in their wake. Likewise, the planet Mars has two moons, each named after Ares’ sons.
Size/Orbit: The size of Mars is around half that of the Earth, but it has a gravity 37.5% of our own planet. The seasons on Mars are also twice as long as those on Earth as Mars takes 687 days to complete an orbit of the Sun, almost twice as long as Earth’s journey.
Features: Mars has many surface features that are common to Earth, such as plains, canyons and volcanoes. The largest volcano in the solar system Olympus Mons (27 kilometers) is found on the planet, as well as the deepest system of valleys known as Valles Marineris (10 kilometers). Unlike Earth, however, Mars has many craters scattered throughout its surface.
Atmosphere: Mars has polar caps like the Earth, although they contain mostly frozen carbon dioxide, also known as ‘dry ice.’ The atmosphere on Mars is 95.3% carbon dioxide, and is so thin that water can only exist as vapor or ice. The rest of Mars’ atmosphere consists of 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, and trace amounts of oxygen, carbon monoxide, water vapor, and other gases.
Missions: In 1965, Mariner 4 became the first spacecraft to visit Mars, and 1976 saw two American Viking probes make the first successful landing on the planet’s surface. After a subsequent gap of 20 years. Mars Pathfinder also landed successfully on Mars.
Viewing: The planet Mars is easily seen with the naked eye, but a small telescope such as a 4″ inch reflector or 80mm refractor, will allow you to see its reddish coloration, as well as many major Martian surface features, such as its white polar caps, which grow during the Martian winter and shrink during the summer. Some bluish-grey surface markings such as the low-relief shield volcano Syrtis Major or the albedo feature Meridiani Sinus can also be observed.