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How warm is Mars? That’s an interesting question. The planet is father from the Sun than Earth and its atmosphere is too thin to hold a great deal of heat close to the surface, so the planet is generally cold. Surface temperatures can dip to -123 Celsius at the poles during the Martian winter. During the summer months on the planet, the equator can see temperatures as high as 27 Celsius. Good weather for a light jacket. On average, the Martian years is far too cold to venture outside without a heating system in your spacesuit.
Scientific evidence suggests that this has not always been the case. Since the 1970s, planetary scientists have changed their perception of water on Mars several times. Now, a radar instrument on the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft has turned up water ice, a mineral mapping instrument has discovered chemicals formed in a wet environment, and its camera has picked out features on the surface formed by running water. The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) has probed to depths of thousands of meters and has shown that many of the upper layers contain water ice. The OMEGA Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer has detected three minerals that point to liquid water in the past. It detected clay-like minerals that form during long-term exposure to water, sulphates( a mineral that forms when water evaporates), and the third is the ferric oxide that gives the planet its reddish hue. Images from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) show features eroded by flowing water. They also show a huge valley, Kasei Valles, probably carved by a gigantic Martian glacier.
Science continues to look at the possibility of colonizing Mars. One obstacle to overcome is the cold. Heating systems can fail and spacesuits can wear out, so what is a possible solution? Create global warming with greenhouse gases. NASA did a short study on the topic a few years ago. The easiest way seems to be to evaporate the CO2 on the surface and trapped in ice. The carbon dioxide would thicken the atmosphere and create a greenhouse effect to continue to warm the surface. The catch is that, the best way to evaporate CO2 is to warm it. So, you have to warm the planet in order to further warm the planet.
Answering ”how warm is Mars” is easy enough. Things get a little more speculative if you want to know the temperatures throughout the planet’s history. Hopefully, this article has sparked your interest in the Red Planet enough to do more research.
Finally, if you’d like to learn more about Mars in general, we have done several podcast episodes about the Red Planet at Astronomy Cast. Episode 52: Mars, and Episode 91: The Search for Water on Mars.