Mars Exploring The Planets Mars

Both the orbit and inclination of Mars create seasons on the red planet much like those on Earth, but much colder. At 1.5 times the distance from the Sun as Earth, Mars has temperatures that rarely climb above freezing during a mid-summer day. During the rest of the year, the dry surface remains frozen, with periodic dust storms blowing across it.
 

189k GIF
- 84k JPEG
Image processed by the
U.S. Geological Survey

Mars' North Pole

At the north pole, seasonal coverings of carbon dioxide ice lie atop a residual cap of water ice. However, not enough water is stored in the ice caps to account for the immense channels seen in spacecraft images.

 


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NASA image #76-HC-881

Layers in the Polar Cap

Layers in the polar caps consist of alternating deposits of dust and ice. Such layers may be the record of seasonal changes or longer-term changes in the orbit of Mars, and may be one of the best places to search for evidence of past life on the planet.

 


212k GIF
- 65k JPEG
Image processed by the
U.S. Geological Survey

Mangala Vallis

Even in Mars' equatorial region, evidence of climate change abounds. In this region, old canyons carved into the plateau (at the bottom of the image) are evidence of a past wetter period. Small channels also appear on top of the younger smooth plains.



Seasons || Volcanoes || Canyons & Plains || Craters || Water? || Wind
The Surface of Mars


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Mars

Exploring The Planet

©2002 National Air and Space Museum