|Why is Mars a red planet?
|Question Date: 2014-08-14|
Mars has its distinctive red look because of
the excess of iron on the surface of the planet.
Pure iron itself is not red, but when it reacts
with oxygen through a process called oxidation,
iron forms iron oxide, also known as rust here on
Earth. And like rust and the iron in our blood,
Mars has become a distinct hue of red.
Where did all this iron come from? The element
generally originates from the gaseous remains
given off from long-dead stars, and, along with
other elements, gravitationally collapses to form
new stars and planets. While much of Earth’s iron
sank into its core during Earth’s formation,
scientists believe that due to Mars’ smaller size
and gravity, much of the iron remained at or near
the surface, leaving it available to rust into the
red compound we see today.
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Mars is red because the soil contains a lot of
iron oxide. Iron oxide is actually something you
see every day--rust. Very simply put, the soil on
the planet contains a large amount of rust. Even
sometimes from Earth, Mars is visibly red, which
is why is was used to represent the god of war for
civilizations such as Rome.
One of the most common minerals on the surface of
Mars is iron oxide (rust). Rust is red, and
because of that, so is Mars.
Thank you for the great question! Mars is red
for two reasons. The first reason: Mars' surface
is covered with rust particles, known as iron
oxide, which reflect red light due to the
structure and shape of the atoms in it. The strong
winds on Mars blow the rust particles around,
which leaves the surface relatively evenly covered
around the planet. The second reason: these
particles are dispersed in the atmosphere, much
like dust, and bend red light strongly because of
the particle size. This is known as light
scattering. On Earth, this type of scattering
makes the sky blue. Nobody knows exactly how the
rust came to be on Mars. On Earth, most rust comes
from a reaction of iron, oxygen, and water, but it
is known that rust can be generated through other
processes that don't involve water.
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