Exploratour - Comparing the Surfaces of Earth and Mars


The table below presents a comparison of continents on Earth and Mars.


A mercator projection of the Earth's crust showing the continents as well as undersea topography.
Click on image for full size (630K GIF)
Map courtesy of the National Geographic Data Center/ U.S.G.S.

There are seven land masses on Earth called continents. Continents are landmasses that are raised above the rest of the crust because the material they are composed of is less dense. On Earth, the continents lie an average of 4.6 km above the ocean floor. The Earth's continents (from largest to smallest) are Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.


Two views of the surface of Mars. The upper image is dominated by the Highlands, while the lower image highlights the Tharsis Ridge.
Click on image for full size version (160K GIF)
Image from Mars Global Surveyor, NASA/JPL

There are the two regions on Mars which seem to be elevated above the rest of the crust. The first is a large elevated region in the lower half of the planet known as the Highlands (dominating the upper image). The other raised feature is known as the Tharsis Ridge or Bulge (lower image). It is the size of a small continent on Earth, or perhaps a large, volcanic island. These two features may be thought of as the continents of Mars.

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