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The heat from the soils and the atmosphere interact, drawing the dust up and creating a swirl. This dust plume is more than half a mile in height and about 30 yards in diameter. When they landed more than 10 years ago, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers were designed to last 90 days, because it was predicted that dust would settle on their solar panels. Opportunity has been kept clean by dust devils for the last 11 years.

Showcasing the Martian landscape in the southwest United States

Spirit got stuck in a sand trap in , and eventually ran out of power. Early in its mission, the Spirit was hit by another aspect of weather featured in The Martian: a gigantic dust storm. These storms feature in the book and movie too, though in this case, the narrative takes some dramatic liberties with the science. This artists concept illustrates a Martian dust storm, which might also crackle with electricity. Photo by NASA.

Another shocking feature is the lightning.

Watney turns the Hab into a greenhouse to grow food and even develops a system to create water.

As these dust storms pass by, we can actually see lightning strikes, Green said. But the color of these flashes might be slightly different from what we see on Earth, since the composition of the Martian atmosphere differs from ours. It not only captures satellite observations, but creates global weather maps of Mars, akin to what you might see on a nightly news program. Is Mars the next best home for humanity? Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to subsist on hostile Mars.

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

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I asked both Weir and Green to weigh in on the colonization question. Suppose humans wanted to colonize outside of Mars — where in the Solar System should we go? Such technology is already being used on the International Space Station. Plus, it has giant lava tunnels near the surface where we could build a base that could house the entire city of Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia is shown inside a theoretical lunar lava tube. Earlier this year, researchers from Purdue University explored whether lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon.

The moon gets very hot during the day and very cold at night.

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But inside the lava tube, it would maintain a very constant temperature. To be fair, a human hive on Venus or these moons would all require one thing: a massive amount of futuristic technology. A Mars colony, on the other hand, is feasible within the next couple of decades , Green said. Consider the resources there. The saltiness of flowing streams announced on Monday might make this water source as toxic as a Superfund site , but Green said water in an underground aquifer might be cleaner. Humans will go expand and live anywhere. People live in the Sahara.

People live out in the ocean. Humans have a natural instinct to expand. Source: Slate. The sudden change in temperature causes avalanches all along the receding cap. This photo was the first extraterrestrial avalanche ever caught on camera. Source: NASA. Though Mars is the third largest of the four terrestrial planets by volume, it houses the largest peak in the solar system by a wide margin.

Olympus Mons has an area nearly as large as Germany, and reaches Olympus Mons is still believed to be active, along with the other nearby Tharsis Montes volcanoes, a trio of shield volcanoes each two to three orders of magnitude larger than any found on Earth. Source: Wikimedia. One of the most prominent features on the whole planet, a series of canyons known as Valles Marineris, stretches an incredible one-fifth of the way around Mars. The valleys extend as deep as seven kilometers into the planet, and are believed to have formed from tectonic and volcanic activity in the nearby Tharsis region.

Source: San Diego State University. Mars is so rich in texture that it even gives the appearance of the existence of complex life.

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The objects seen range from the adorably familiar…. Source: International Business Times. But as cameras get sharper and return higher-definition photos, it becomes clear that sometimes we only see what we want to see. That said, there are still plenty of mysteries left on the Red Planet. The picture below of a face of the Acheron Fossae shows thick, black streaks that are believed to be avalanches of very fine sand. Source: HiRise.


Even stranger is the unofficially named Inca City, located on the south pole. The geometric shapes remain a total mystery to astronomers. Source: The Living Moon.

Water and the martian landscape

Source: The New Republic. The layered sedimentary rocks of the Meridiani Planum are contained within an impact crater. It is believed deposits of dust and sand were blown into the crater and lodged into the crevices, presmably eroded by wind and water, giving the plains the stair-step appearance.

Though there may not be any life on Mars or even any evidence of its past existence, Mars will forever remain a favorite object of night watchers through each passing generation. Source: Gawker.

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By Erin Kelly. The Red Planet has mystified astronomers for millennia. After you read about the Mars landscape, it's pretty easy to see why.