Mars - The Red Planet
If you look up into the night sky, you may notice one little object that seems to be different. It doesn’t flicker (like the stars do) and it looks like it has a faint red tinge. That object is the planet Mars and it does in fact have a slight reddish hue produced by iron oxide. The iron oxide provides both clues and questions about past conditions on this intriguing planet.
News You Can Use
- Space probes and Mars landing vehicles clearly identify the red material as iron oxide (common rust). Ferric oxide is formed when water in the presence of oxygen interacts with metallic iron.
- NASA launched the Curiosity Rover on November 26, 2011, and it landed on Mars on August 6th, 2012. The journey took over 9 months and covered 350,000,000 miles. The rover's mission is to explore the Gale Crater on Mars to study its climate and geology. It is a step towards future human exploration of Mars.
- This raises a big question about the composition of the Mars atmosphere. Present-day Mars has an atmosphere that is largely (~95%) carbon dioxide. Argon and nitrogen are present in small amounts (slightly less than 2% each), while there are only trace amounts of water vapor, oxygen, carbon monoxide and methane. These conditions do not support the formation of rust from iron, causing scientists to speculate about the source of this compound.
- Iron does not exist to any great extent in the free metallic state, but as iron ore. This ore is mined and then treated to obtain the iron. There are several processes that can be used to obtain iron in a purer form. The product desired depends upon the use to which the iron is put.
- Watch a video that tries to answer the question of where the rust came from on Mars:
Show What You Know
With the links below, learn more about iron and iron oxide. Then answer the following questions.
- List two theories dealing with the sources of iron oxide on Mars.
- What is rust?
- What is produced when iron is mixed with chromium?
- What is pig iron and what is its main property?