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Mars, with its iconic red colour, has baffled scientists for decades – so what gives the planet its stunning look?
On Thursday, February 18, NASA successfully landed its latest rover, The Perseverance, onto the red planet.
It landed in a deep crater known as Jezero, with thousands of people watching live. The rover made it to Mars in “great shape”, according to NASA.
For many watching, it reminded them of an obvious question, with a not-so-obvious answer, why is Mars red?
The answer to this is to do with the planet's atmosphere or lack thereof.
Mars is one of Earth’s closest neighbours at 206 million kilometres away, and at about half of Earth’s size.
It looks completely different to our home, covered in craters, canyons, and volcanoes.
In fact, our solar system’s largest volcano is on Mars, Olympus Mons, named after Greek myth.
The whole planet is named after this too, Mars is the Roman name of the Greek God of War.
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It gets its unique colour from iron oxide, but scientists are not sure why this is.
Mars is about 4.5 billion years old, back when the materials of the planet were formed.
On Earth, iron sank to its core because of the stronger gravity.
Mars’ gravity is weaker, which some scientists believe could be why it is still covered in it today.
But iron alone doesn’t have this red colour, so it must have oxidised over time, or rusted.
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Scientists believe this happened when Mars still had water on its surface and an atmosphere like Earth.
Mars today has a very thin atmosphere, losing most of it long ago.
The older Mars became, the cooler it got internally, switching off its magnetic field.
With no magnetic field, the planet had no protection against the Sun's solar wind, which resulted in Mars losing its atmosphere.
Recently, NASA discovered flowing water on Mars, which scientists hope to study.
This could provide more answers to why Mars is the colour it is today.
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