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Mars is the fourth planet from the sun at about 228 million-km 141 million miles and the last terrestrial planet from the sun The next five planets in order from the sun are gaseous Mars follows closely behind Earth but is comparatively smaller with about half the diameter of Earth and about one-tenth of Earths mass Thus the force of gravity on Mars is about one-third of that on Earth Though it is much smaller Mars does have the same surface land area as Earth Other than Earth Mars posses the most highly varied and interesting known terrain in our solar system The surface of Mars is a very hostile place however it is more like Earths surface than any other planet in our solar system Much of the Martian surface is rough and cratered but expansive flat plains and smooth hills can also be found Unlike any other planet there is a striking difference between the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars one is extremely rough and old while the other is young and relatively smooth The southern hemisphere is strewn with ancient craters of all sizes and is also elevated by a several kilometers creating a visible boundary On the opposite end the northern hemisphere consists of a wider variety of geological features but is obviously smoother and much younger There are large volcanoes a great rift valley and a variety of channels Volcanism is a geological process that occurs on Earth today and has on many planetary bodies throughout the history of the solar system No volcanism is occurring on the surface of Mars today In the past however volcanism was one of the main forces creating and reshaping the surface of the planet All of the rocks that have been observed by the Viking landers and the Mars Pathfinder Rover are generally agreed to be volcanic in origin Tharsis is the largest volcanic region on Mars It is
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