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According to NASA, the iron minerals oxidize, or rust, causing the soil to look red.Geology The cold, thin atmosphere means liquid water currently cannot exist on the Martian surface for any length of time.Olympus Mons is roughly 17 miles (27 kilometers) high, about three times as tall as Mount Everest, while the Valles Marineris system of valleys — named after the Mariner 9 probe that discovered it in 1971 — can go as deep as 6 miles (10 km) and runs east-west for roughly 2,500 miles (4,000 km), about one-fifth of the distance around Mars and close to the width of Australia or the distance from Philadelphia to San Diego.Mars has the largest volcanoes in the solar system, including Olympus Mons, which is about 370 miles (600 km) in diameter, wide enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico.NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped this shot of Mars on Aug.26, 2003, when the Red Planet was 34.7 million miles from Earth.Other civilizations also typically gave the planet names based on its color — for example, the Egyptians named it "Her Desher," meaning "the red one," while ancient Chinese astronomers dubbed it "the fire star." Regolith The bright rust color Mars is known for is due to iron-rich minerals in its regolith — the loose dust and rock covering its surface.The soil of Earth is a kind of regolith, albeit one loaded with organic content.

The picture was taken just 11 hours before Mars made its closest approach to us in 60,000 years. Befitting the red planet's bloody color, the Romans named it after their god of war.The Romans copied the ancient Greeks, who also named the planet after their god of war, Ares.


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