Shop Windows to the Universe

Ready, Set, SCIENCE!, by the National Research Council, focuses on K-8 science classsrooms. Check out the other publications in our online store, as well as classroom materials.

Exploratour - Comparing the Surfaces of Earth and Mars

Soils

The following table below compares soils on Earth and Mars.

Earth


The image at the left shows dry ground in the desert on Earth. Click on image for full size version (828K JPG). Images from: NASA/JPL.
The image at the right shows tundra. Click on image for full size version (128K JPG). Images from: University of California at Berkeley.

There are many different kinds of soils on the surface of the Earth. The desert ground shown here is just one kind of soil. Soils in a desert are depleted of water. Tundra is a soil type that includes frozen water, and is seen at high latitudes on Earth. In addition, many soils on Earth include plentiful organic matter, due to the presence of life.

Mars


The image at left shows soils of Mars from the Viking 2 landing site, Utopia Planitia. Click on image for full size version (140K GIF). Image from: NASA/JPL.
The right image shows patterned ground at the south pole of Mars. Click on image for full size version (1M GIF). Image from: NASA/JPL.

Though the soils of much of Mars seem to be very low in water content and can be compared to a terrestrial desert, studies of the surface have found the presence of water in the soils and atmosphere, in both solid and vapor form. The patterned ground shown at the right is found near the south pole of Mars. The patterns in the soil are thought to be due to the presence of frozen water in the soil. To see the patterns, click to see the full size (very impressive) image.

One of the objectives of the Mars Pathfinder mission was to study the composition and structure of the soil. Everywhere the Rover passed, it disturbed the soil, and the soil underneath turned out to be a darker red-brown soil than its surroundings. The Rover found that much of the ground is made of dust, possibly dropped during the dust storms that sweep the planet. The reddish color of the soil is caused by rust (iron oxide).

Martian soils were studied by Venera, by the Viking lander, and by Mars Pathfinder. Before the Viking Mission to Mars, knowledge of the kinds of rocks present on Mars was based on the Martian meteorites. The first analysis of Mars soil from Viking landers found no evidence of life, instead showing that organic molecules are even more scarce than on the Earth's moon.

Leave the Tour and look at the Annotated map of Mars for the location of Utopia Planitia. (Use the Back button on your browser to get back)

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Even though the sleeping man is no longer on the bed, you can still see where he was lying down. The heat from his body warmed up the bed sheets which are now radiating infrared light toward your eyes....more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

All warm objects (not just people) radiate in the infrared. Warmer objects give off more infrared radiation. Very hot objects radiate other types of light in addition to infrared. Click on the picture...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Your eye is a wonderful detector of visible light. Different frequencies of light produce different sensations in the eye which we interpret as colors. Our eyes detect light by using light sensitive components...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Imagine you found a pair of special glasses that not only gave you telescopic vision but gave you the ability to see all forms of radiant energy. The universe in visible light contains all the familiar...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a volcano on the island of Miyake in Japan. It has erupted, sending hot lava and ash into the air, a total of ten times. The time after one eruption until the next occurred was about twenty years...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a picture of a galaxy in visible light. A galaxy is a large number of stars, some like our sun, some bigger, some smaller and all moving together through space. This galaxy is called Centaurus...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a plant in Gary, Indiana where power is made. We use power to run things like television sets, radios, lights, and microwave ovens. The picture looks very strange because it was taken in infrared....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA