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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 include the dead volcano named Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris. Olympus Mons rises very high above the surrounding plains and is the highest known mountain in the Solar System. Valles Marineris is a giant canyon that is about the size of the United States!

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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 three times as high as the largest mountain on Earth, Mt. Everest, and is as wide as the entire...more

Valles Marineris

Next to the Tharsis Ridge is Valles Marineris, a very long canyon of Mars. As can be seen in the image, many huge ancient rivers extend toward the top of the image. The three Tharsis volcanoes (dark red...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 of the surface was measured by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The scale to the left shows that purple regions are the coldest,...more

Weathering processes on Mars

Unlike the rocks of Earth, where there are many things which cause erosion, the rocks of Mars erode because of only two things: 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 valleys, are large Martian lakes (600 km, or ~1000 miles across) which once were part of a flood. ...more

Martian Fog

This picture shows fog on Mars. More fog has been seen in images returned by Mars Global Surveyor of the south polar region of Mars. Martian fog may have a little bit of acid mixed in with the water drops....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF