This graph contains information about the surface temperature of Mars.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL

Mars Global Surveyor Measures Martian Surface Temperatures

This image shows how cold the surface of Mars can be. The temperature data is from the Mars Global Surveyor mission. The scale to the left shows that purple regions are the coldest, about -170 degrees F (140K), while the yellow areas are the warmest at about 17 degrees F (270K). The surface of Mars may often become warmer than 17 degrees. Other data returned by Mars Global Surveyor shows the temperatures can be 30 degrees F or more. These temperatures are very cold, however. The surface is either near freezing or well below freezing. No wonder the water may be frozen into the ground! Freezing temperatures may have something to do with the thin atmosphere and lack of a greenhouse effect.

Temperature data from the surface of Mars is being returned everyday now that Mars Global Surveyor has reached Mars. Check the Mars Global Surveyor Image Archives or the Mars Global Surveyor Webpage, below, for sample data. Scientists are interested in learning if temperatures ever come above freezing for long period of time. This would affect theories about Martian water and climate. Recent Martian exploration is directed at these and other questions.

All of Mars does not necessarily have the temperature of the surface. Mars Pathfinder and the Viking mission before that, measured the range of temperatures in the atmosphere. These measurements show that there are regions of the atmosphere which are at the temperature of the surface, regions of the atmosphere which are warm enough for rain, if the atmosphere contained rain clouds, and regions of the atmosphere which are downright hot!


Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more

The Greenhouse Effect

A planet's atmosphere can sometimes serve as a trap of radiant heat and energy. A photon of energy can enter, but cannot easily find its way out again, somewhat like a pinball in a pinball machine. Certain...more

An Overview of the Mars Global Surveyor Mission

The mission of Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) is to map the surface of Mars from space, a mission somewhat akin to the Magellan mission to Venus. The MGS probe is also suppose to explore the topmost portion...more

Theories about Martian water & Climate

1.) Since warm weather is needed for the formation of the river channels & floods, episodes of warm climate caused floods, releasing water into the atmosphere and further contributing to the warmer climate...more

The Exploration of Mars

In the past few decades, the Russian and American space agencies have sent many spacecraft to Mars. Some have been a great success while others didn't even make it into space! In 1998, Japan also joined...more

Questions about Mars to be addressed by the Mars Surveyor Program

After decades of exploration of Mars, many questions still remain. Water on Mars Has all the water that formed the channels and integrated drainage systems escaped to space or is it sequestered in the...more

Mars Atmospheric Temperature Profile, from Mars Pathfinder

This is a graph which shows the temperatures measured in the atmosphere by Mars Pathfinder as it decended through the nighttime air and landed on the surface. The temperature of the atmosphere is listed...more

Martian Water

The presence of water near the surface of Mars, or lack of water, is a big factor in determining the climate of Mars, and the suitability of Mars to support life. Finding out what has happened to the water...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