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This is an image of the surface of Mars.
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NASA

Planet Structure

The uniquely red global surface of Mars is marked by many interesting features - some like those on the Earth and others strangely different. The reddish color is caused by rust (iron oxide) in the soil.

Some of these features are; volcanoes, canyon systems, river beds, cratered terrain, and dune fields.

Of these features, the most interesting includes the apparently dead volcano Olympus Mons, which rises 23 km (~75,000 ft) above the surrounding plains and is the highest known peak in the Solar System. Valles Marineris is a giant canyon system that runs about 2,500 miles across the surface of the planet and reaches depths of 6 km or 4 miles (for comparison, the Grand Canyon is not more than 1 mile deep).

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Martian Volcanoes

On this map of Mars, the lightly cratered Tharsis Ridge is shown, as well as the heavily cratered Martian highlands (near the bottom of the picture), and Valles Marineris to the right. The volcanoes are...more

Olympus Mons

The largest volcano in the solar system is Olympus Mons, shown in the image to the left. Olympus Mons is a Martian shield volcano. The altitude of Olympus Mons is three times the altitude of the largest...more

Valles Marineris

Next to the Tharsis Ridge is Valles Marineris. Valles Marineris is a large system of canyons that stretches 4000 km (2500 mi) along the equator of Mars. It was first imaged in detail by Mariner 9. As can...more

The Goldilocks Theory

Just as Goldilocks found the porridge that was just right, the Earth seems to be just right for living creatures. The Earth seems to be the perfect distance from the sun for lots of water. Venus is too...more

Mars Global Surveyor Measures Martian Surface Temperatures

This image shows how cold the surface of Mars can be. The temperature was measured by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The scale to the left shows that purple regions are the coldest, about -170 degrees...more

Weathering processes on Mars

Unlike the rocks of Earth, where there are many things which cause erosion, there are only two main weathering agents on Mars: wind and acid fog. Acid fog is very important, but because there is not a...more

Martian Floods

Separate from the Martian outflow channels, or the river valley networks, are large Martian lakes (600 km, or ~1000 miles across) which exhibit evidence of a periodic and catastrophic release of water...more

Martian Fog

This is an image of fog in a Martian canyon. The presence of fog provides evidence of water, and a water cycle on Mars. More fog has been seen in images returned by Mars Global Surveyor of the south polar...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