Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is called the Red Planet because of the red hue of the rocks, soil, and atmosphere. The atmosphere of Mars consists mostly of carbon dioxide with traces of nitrogen, argon,oxygen, water, and neon. There is evidence that a denser atmosphere may have existed in the past, allowing water to flow on the surface. Physical features such as gorges, riverbeds, shorelines, and islands suggest Mars once had great oceans and rivers. The average temperature on Mars is -63 degrees Celsius, with a maximum of 20 degrees Celsius and a minimum of -140 degrees Celsius.
The surface of Mars is dotted with impact craters, with the largest being Schiaparelli Crater at a diameter of 450 kilometers. Other features include the great Valles Marineris canyon system. The system is more than 3,000 kilometers long and as deep as 8 kilometers. Mars also has the largest volcano in the Solar System, which is almost 5 kilometers in diameter. Called Olympus Mons, the volcano is now inactive. The polar caps on Mars are another obvious feature. The South polar cap is mainly frozen carbon dioxide, but the North polar cap is probably water-ice. Dust storms are common on Mars, and can be hundreds of kilometers in size and last for weeks at a time. These dust storms are the main weathering force on the planet.
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