Although Mars is a planet many earthlings seem to be familiar with, it still holds a few mysteries.
In local schools, science classes are among the most popular, and mostly because kids like to learn about planets such as Mars. One of the most oft-asked questions is why is Mars called the red planet, among others.
NASA recently addressed this other popular question: Is Mars Red Hot? in an educational video.
The answer? "Mars may look hot, but donʼt let its color fool you. Mars is actually pretty cold," says the NASA video.
In orbit, Mars is about 50 million miles farther away from the Sun than Earth. That means it gets a lot less light and heat to keep it warm, NASA says.
According to Niguel Hills Middle School science teacher, Marguerite L. Gaspar, who teaches her students about all of the planets, Mars is indeed "pretty cool," in more ways than one just like NASA reports.
"However, location isn't everything when it comes to a planet's surface temperature," she said. "In terms of distance from the sun, Mercury has a more stellar location. Yet without an atmosphere, the temperature fluctuations on Mercury are huge. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend a night on Mercury without the benefit of a Tauntaun sleeping bag."
As a part of her classroom's astronomy unit, her eighth grade students learn about the formation, composition and changes of all the bodies in our universe.
"Mars is especially exciting to study because we have landed rovers on its surface, including the most recent, Curiosity, which arrived in August. With mobile laboratories performing experiments on Mars itself, these rovers send back breathtaking images and remarkable data that we are unable to obtain from other planets," she says.
One thing they have also learned is that Mars also has a hard time holding onto the heat it does get. On Earth, much of the sunʼs heat gets trapped in our atmosphere, which acts like a blanket to keep our planet warm, the video says. But Marsʼ atmosphere is about 100 times thinner than Earthʼs--so heat from the sun can easily escape, according to NASA.
How easily? "If you were standing on the Martian equator at noon, it would feel like summer at your feet, but winter near your head. At night, itʼs even worse: when the sun goes down, temperatures can plummet to negative triple digits. And beware of cold winter nights, when it could drop even lower," reports the video.
Gaspar will continue educating her kids about Mars and other NASA-related issues throughout the school year.
"It’'s a thrill for my students and me to be learning about Mars just as NASA is making these discoveries. With technology at our fingertips, we can see what the researchers at NASA see, and are learning in real time."
"Each year, NASA/JPL opens its doors to the public in an open house. It has the Mars rover prototypes and new Moon rovers on display, very cool," she adds.
If you want to check out which of the visible planets you can see this month right over the skies of Laguna Niguel, Gaspar suggests clicking here.