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This is an image of Mars.
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Image from: NASA

The Earliest History of Mars

The terrestrial planets formed about 4 Billion Years ago. As the process which formed them came to an end, the planets may have been left in either of the following two states:

  • very warm, with a softer & pliable interior. There is probably abundant water on the surface. Heat from inside Mars probably caused volcanoes, as well as continental drift.
  • cold and rocky, needing to be warmed from the inside.
With Mars, the second case is probably more likely.

Nevertheless, during this time, the surface continued to be bombarded by the remainder of planetary material available nearby, which heated the surface (not the interior) of Mars. This heating was accompanied by hydrothermal activity, or circulation of water within the ground. These conditions are very favorable for certain forms of life.

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Martian Orbital Eccentricity

The Martian climate is more influenced by the shape of the Martian orbit than the climate of the Earth is influenced by the shape of the Earth's orbit. The orbit of Mars is more oval-shaped than that...more

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Mars' Thin Atmosphere

This is image of a Martian sunset illustrates just how thin the Martian atmosphere is. The terrestrial "blue sky" comes about because molecules of the atmosphere scatter sunlight. In this image, the Martian...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