Lesson #183: Mars’ 24-hour Day

In another life, I think I was an astrophysicist. But for my horrid high school physics experience, I could have been an astrophysicist in this life.

I love space. I think it’s about the coolest thing there is. And I don’t care how geeky that makes me seem.

Randomly, and I honestly don’t remember how this came into my consciousness because pretty much all I’ve done today is go for a run, buy limeade (dear America, I love you for your limeade alone) and watch episodes of Firefly, I learned that Mars has 24 hour days.

I find this somewhat surprising given its distance from Earth (at their closest, Mars and Earth are 54.6 million kilometres apart). In reality, Mars’ days are 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds long. To give some perspective, Earth’s days are 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds.

You can look that up in a number of places. Be resourceful; find them yourselves!

Edited to add: I’m a moron sometimes. I know that the daily rotation of the planet has nothing to do with the distance from the sun. What matters is the revolution around the sun and Mars’ revolution around the sun is nearly two earth years. Thanks to a friend who works for the government and some random science dude for reminding me of this!

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2 thoughts on “Lesson #183: Mars’ 24-hour Day

  1. astrowright says:

    Agh! I hate it when I hear of someone turned away from the sciences by a bad teacher… But your passion is inspiring!

    One thing to keep in mind is that the length of a “day” on a planet really is separate from its distance from the Sun – the day only relates to how fast the planet spins about its own axis. So given that Mars is much smaller than Earth, maybe it isn’t so surprising that even being farther out it rounds out to a 24-hour day?

    The length of a year, on the other hand, is definitely related to how far away a planet is from the Sun… A planet farther out has to travel much faster to go all the way around the sun in the same amount of time as a planet closer in. Any surprise, then, that the length of a Martian year is roughly 24 months?

    Two cents. =)

  2. Manda says:

    But the length of a day has only to do with a planet’s rotation around its axis, not the distance from the sun. So a better thing to compare is that Mars and Earth are so very different in size, as opposed to so very distant in space. Think of how fast you must be going, relatively speaking, if you’re on Earth’s equator vs. Mars’s! Actually, let’s do this out.

    Diameter of the Earth at the equator = 7926.41 miles
    Length of Earth day = 23:56:04
    “Speed” of travel at equator (counting only travel around the Earth’s axis) = just over 331 miles/hour

    Diameter of Mars at the equator = 4220 miles
    Length of Martian day = 24:39:35
    “Speed” of travel at equator (counting only travel around Mars’s axis) = just over 171 miles/hour

    We’re going nearly twice as fast! Think about that next time you’re getting nervous waiting in line to get on a roller coaster ;-)

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