Outer space lets kids' imagination run wild with thoughts of adventure, exploration and the unknown. The planet Mars holds particular fascination because of its proximity and likeness to Earth, and, of course, the idea of Martians. As much as you want kids to use their imaginations, you should also educate them with facts about Mars.
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While many people imagine Mars to resemble Earth, its diameter is only 6,800km, about half of the Earth's diameter. The mass of Mars equals only about 10 per cent of the Earth's mass. In other words, Mars is 10 times less massive than Earth.
Mars experiences dramatic climate changes through out the year. The tilt of the planet on its axis gives it seasons similar to the seasons here on Earth. However, it makes an elliptical orbit around the sun, and its southern hemisphere experiences more extreme changes than the northern hemisphere. According to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Mars' temperatures range from about 21.1 degrees Celsius during the summer at the equator at noon to approximately minus 225 degrees F at its pole. These extremely cold temperatures make the planet uninhabitable for humans.
Significant geological formations make up Mars' surface. The planet claims the solar system's largest volcanic mountain, named Olympus Mons. Other volcanoes deform the plant's round shape because of their gigantic size. The Valles Marineris, a extremely large valley on the planet's equator, "stretches a distance equivalent to the distance from New Tork to Los Angeles; Arizona's Grand Canyon could easily fit into one of the side canyons of this great chasm," according to "National Geographic."
Approximately 3.5 billion years ago, when Mars' surface was thought to resemble Earth's surface, a great flood took place, the largest known flood in the entire solar system. The flood may even have pooled into lakes or shallow oceans. At present, Mars's cold temperature prohibits liquid water from remaining on the surface. The planet's water consists of deep underground springs or frozen water at the poles.
Every so often, great dust storms cover the entire planet. In the 1970s, the Viking Landers recorded wind speeds as fast as 60 miles per hour. These storms drastically alter the landscape, creating huge dunes, wind streaks and wind-carved formations. Sometimes it takes months for all the dust to settle.
Two oddly-shaped moons orbit Mars: Deimos and Phobos. The small moons measure 12.6km and 22.2km, which makes them smaller than most towns on Earth. Since they are so small, they have little gravity. This weak gravity makes them incapable of pulling themselves into a round shape, hence their odd form. The moons may have begun as asteroids.
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