Space & Astronomy
Solar wind stripped Mars of its atmosphere
November 5, 2015 | 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."
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