Mars_S2009 - GEOSC 021 Earth and Life Spring 2009 Mars...

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GEOSC 021 Earth and Life Spring 2009 Mars Climate and Atmosphere (25 pts) Individual Assignment Name: Martian Atmosphere Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is commonly referred to as the “Red Planet” because of its reddish hue. The atmosphere of Mars is quite different from that of Earth. It is composed primarily of carbon dioxide with small amounts of other gases (Table 1). Martian air contains only about 1/1000th as much water as our atmosphere, but even this small amount can condense out to form atmospheric clouds or clouds on the slopes of volcanoes. Local patches of early morning fog form in valleys as well. At the Viking Lander 2 site, a thin layer of frost covered the ground each winter. The average temperature of Mars is -55ºC (218 K). Like on Earth, there are large temperature variations between day and night (Figure 1). The surface of Mars is a dismal, barren environment that is often swept by strong winds that can exceed 100 miles per hour. These winds produce vicious dust storms that erode away physical structures on the surface of the planet and kick up extremely large dust clouds, which then combine with carbon dioxide ice in the air to create an thick "haze" in the atmosphere. Table 1. Composition of Mars atmosphere Gas Composition (percentage) Carbon Dioxide (CO 2 ) 95.3% Nitrogen (N 2 ) 2.7% Argon (Ar) 1.6% Oxygen (O 2 ) 0.2% Water Vapor (H 2 O) 0.03% Figure. 1. Mars daily temperatures at Viking Landers 1 and 2 (Source: NASA) Mars atmospheric evolution
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Evidence suggests that the Martian atmosphere was thicker, warmer, and wetter 3.8 billion years ago, and might have been suitable for life. The substantial erosion patterns on and around ancient craters provide strong clues as to what the ancient Martian atmosphere was like. Patterns seem to indicate that significant drainage flow was present.
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This note was uploaded on 09/09/2009 for the course GEOSC 021 taught by Professor Zellpaul during the Spring '08 term at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

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Mars_S2009 - GEOSC 021 Earth and Life Spring 2009 Mars...

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