NASA announced today that Mars may have once been a warm and wet planet, with an atmosphere that could have easily supported life .
It was the loss of the Martian atmosphere, due primarily to the harsh solar winds battering the planet from the Sun, that led to its cold and barren atmosphere today.
Measurements from Nasa’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) mission show that the atmosphere was ripped away by a huge burst of gas and magnetism from the Sun. The results of the mission bring far more detail to scientists’ understanding of how the Martian atmosphere changed during its early life.
When it was younger, Mars was much warmer and wetter — and so potentially far more hospitable to life. But at some point since, it has dried out and become far colder, making it harder to live there and leaving life very rare if it exists at all.
Instruments on board the Maven craft found that ions were escaping from the planet at a much quicker rate during solar bursts, or coronal mass ejections. Watching one such event in March, it saw huge magnetic rotations that were flying out thousands of miles into space — and that ions were spewing out into space along those huge magnetic ropes.
The ions that left the planet earlier in its life likely did so along the same route, getting flung out into the atmosphere and so making the planet the harsh landscape that it is today.
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