The orbit of Mars around the Sun is extremely elliptical. Because the distance between the Sun and Mars varies, temperatures range from -125 degrees Celsius in the Martian winter to 22 degrees Celsius in the Martian summer. The Martian atmosphere is composed of over 95% carbon dioxide. Solar winds carry the thin, weak atmosphere away because Mars has a weak gravitational and magnetic field. At the Martian poles are polar ice caps which shrink in size during the Martian spring and summer. From data gathered by the Viking 1 and 2 probes, we know that the Martian surface is covered by various rocks and a soil which is rich in an iron-laden clay. The presence of iron explains the planet's reddish-orange appearance. Mars contains highlands which occur in the southern hemisphere and are composed of the oldest, most heavily cratered crustal material. Mars also contains lowlands which are found in the northern hemisphere. The extremely weak magnetic field of Mars suggests that its iron core is no longer fluid and circulating.
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