How Many Moons Does Mars Have?
We could give the answer – two – and stop there. But there is so much interesting information about the planet Mars it would be a crime to stop before taking a closer look at what we call the “red planet.”
Let’s get the moons question out of the way first. Mars does indeed have two moons. They are called Phobos and Deimos. Phobos is the larger of the two and its orbit is closer to the planet’s surface. These moons are small in comparison to the Earth’s moon, with Phobos measuring a mere 22.7 kilometers across. This close moon travels around the planet twice in a day.
The second moon, Deimos, is less than 13 kilometers across and is much farther from the surface than Phobos. It travels around the planet in a bit more than 30 hours. It’s fascinating to note that scientists believe Phobos will crash into the planet sometime in the future. But we probably won’t have to worry about this event happening in our lifetime. It could happen anytime up to 50 million years from now.
More About Mars
Mars, with its “red” reputation, is the fourth planet from the sun in what we call our Solar System. The planet gets its name from the Roman god of war. In addition to its red appearance Mars has surface features that are similar to those found on Earth and on Earth’s moon. Observation by astronomers indicates that Mars has valleys and volcanoes and even has ice caps similar to the polar regions of Earth.
That said, the reason the planet appears to be red is that the surface contains a lot of oxides of iron, in particles so small that it is mostly dust. There are traces of other elements as well. Studies lead us to believe that the iron that makes Mars appear red came from volcanoes. The concentration of iron on Mars is much higher than that on Earth. That’s why our home planet doesn’t appear to be red.
Though much of the discussion about Mars focuses on its apparent red color there is much more to the surface features of this planet. Scientists continue to speculate about the possibility that there is water, in liquid form, on Mars. Photos and data sent back by various explorations show lighter spots and darker spots that astronomers think might be similar to oceans and land masses that we have on Earth. Samples of ice formed from water were acquired by a 2008 landing, according to information from science sources.
Because Mars is next in distance from the Sun its rotation and seasons are similar to those we experience on Earth. Astronomers believe that the mountains and canyons on Mars are the highest and deepest, respectively, in the entire solar system. Scientific study shows that the planet is not as active internally as Earth.