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Space & Astronomy

Solar wind stripped Mars of its atmosphere

November 5, 2015 | Comment icon 11 comments

An artist's impression of NASA's Maven spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has revealed what processes turned Mars in to the dry, cold and barren world that we see today.
Following up on its promise of an announcement about Mars this afternoon, the space agency has revealed that the planet's atmosphere, which had once made it a much warmer and wetter place, was stripped away by huge bursts of gas and magnetism from the sun.

Researchers analyzing the data from NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) spacecraft made the discovery by observing ions escaping the planet at a much faster rate during coronal mass ejections - something that would have happened in the distant past as well.

Also revealed during the announcement were new findings pertaining to the aurora on Mars.
Dipping low over the planet's northern hemisphere, this spectacular phenomenon is thought to be caused by magnetism in the crust rather than at the poles like the aurora here on Earth.

There was also the discovery that particles of dust in the atmosphere of Mars, which were thought to have come from its surface, might have actually originated on other planets instead.

"This is a recognition that the Mars environment is a very complex one," said Maven principle investigator Bruce Jakosky. "We think there’s an awful lot still to learn."

Source: Independent | Comments (11)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by xxxdemonxxx 6 years ago
Awesome. I can only wonder what we will know about Mars only 10 years from now. It would probably shock us. They are finding new discoveries about this planet at an accelerating rate. Of course we didn't find a martian, or life. So some people will brush this off as nothing.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Athena1979 6 years ago
Magnetism from the crust?
Comment icon #4 Posted by BeastieRunner 6 years ago
I wonder if that could or has happened to Earth?
Comment icon #5 Posted by OverSword 6 years ago
Hmmmm...They're observing a slow expulsion of ions due to solar winds currently but it sounds like they're saying that the atmosphere has been gradually diminishing in this same fashion the whole time. Of course I know nothing but I bet they're mostly wrong. I believe there was a large catastrophic event that preceded this presently observable gradual phenomena. Again I'm basing this on nothing but intuition.
Comment icon #6 Posted by qxcontinuum 6 years ago
so this was known since two years ago. What else is new?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
so this was known since two years ago. No, this was SUSPECTED 2 years ago, What else is new? Supporting evidence. That is the way science works. Observation Hypothesis based on the observations. Collection of evidence. Acceptance or rejection of hypothesis based on the evidence. Repeat ad infinitum.
Comment icon #8 Posted by highdesert50 6 years ago
Satisfying to have current research begin to validate the science and fiction we have been reading over time. Ray Bradbury and Edgar Rice Burroughs were fanciful but indeed sound in their speculative suppositions of a dying planet.
Comment icon #9 Posted by socrates.junior 6 years ago
Magnetism from the crust? Yep. So there are ferromagnetic (fancy word for iron) minerals in the crust that, once magnetized by some external source (the ancient Martian dynamo), retain that magnetization. As far as the process of science goes, Waspie is right (as per usual). The solar wind stripping away the atmosphere has been invoked as the most likely mechanism for a while now, but this is direct observation of it. And direct observations count.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Calibeliever 6 years ago
I wonder if that could or has happened to Earth? It will eventually when Earth's core cools enough and stops spinning and creating the magnetic field that protects us from CMEs today. That is predicted to take another billion years or more though so it shouldn't be in our top ten of things to fear this week
Comment icon #11 Posted by Shiloh17 6 years ago
Too bad they can't seed spores all over the planet with the hopes life will take hold somewhere.

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