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This graph contains information about the surface temperature of Mars.
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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!

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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