BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Mars lost its atmosphere because of the sun according to researchers. While on Earth life was just beginning to take shape, the red planet was losing most of its atmosphere and, with it, its only chance to develop life.
NASA scientists explain that, early on, Mars had a warm and wet environment which was preserved and supported by a carbon dioxide-based atmosphere. This atmosphere would have been able to support life but most of it disappeared when the solar wind took it away leaving the planet cold and arid like it is now.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission has provided scientists with data to support this theory, data which shows how the remaining Martian atmosphere is being absorbed into space. Solar wind is still causing the planet to lose gas at a rate of approximately 100 grams per second and although that may not seem like much, Bruce Jakosky, principle investigator for the Maven project explains that the loss is or rather becomes significant over a longer period of time.
Considering that the loss becomes even greater and shows significant rises during solar storms, scientists think that such atmospheric losses were a lot faster and more pronounced when the sun was younger and a lot more active, a few billions of years ago.
This conclusion would also suggest that solar wind erosion was and still is an important factor in atmospheric loss and, in the past, as it was more pronounced, had enough impact to account for major atmospheric changes as well as the Martian climate, as Joe Grebowsky, Maven project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explains.
Most of the planet’s atmosphere may have been lost into space around .7 billion years ago according to the Maven data. Nowadays, the planet only has one percent of the density that Earth’s atmosphere has at the sea level.
The main reason for which Mars lost its atmosphere is that, around the same time, the planet lost another very important asset: its planetary magnetic field. This magnetic field used to be the very thing which protected the planet’s atmosphere from being sucked out into space. Without it, there was nothing to stop the effects of the solar winds that later stripped its atmosphere into space.
It would appear that was the moment when Mars lost its best chance at ever developing life. The planet initially had a thick atmosphere and a wet and warm climate, all of which could have supported liquid water which, in its turn, would have supported life.
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