Featured image from Telegraph.co.uk
The question that had baffled scientists for years of how Mars transformed into a dry, cold planet from one that had overflowing water and thick atmosphere for protection finally has an answer, the National Aeronautics Space Administration (Nasa) has announced.
New measurements from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven), showed solar winds have stripped ions from the Martian atmosphere, according to Nasa as quoted in a report on CNN.
Solar wind — charged particles from the Sun — have removed gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide from the planet, important elements for understanding the potential for life, according to Nasa.
The findings could mean there was big atmospheric loss early in the planet’s history, it said.
Nasa said Mars’ atmospheric fate could theoretically happen on Earth which was also losing ions, although the Earth was fine for now because of its magnetic field.
The Maven has also discovered auroras on Mars that were similar to Earth’s northern lights, the CNN report said quoting Maven.
Auroras form when charged particles from the solar winds enter Earth’s magnetic field and travel to the poles where the particles collide with atoms of gas in the atmosphere, according to the CNN report.
But the auroras on Mars may be caused by what is left of the magnetic field on the planet’s crust, which means these northern lights are spread out across a bigger area, the report said.
Another major finding of Maven showed that Mars’ notorious dust problem was believed to be interplanetary in origin, meaning from another planet, the report said.
Scientists came to this conclusion based on the grains and distribution of dust on Mars’ surface, which ruled out Martian moons Phobos and Deimos as the culprits, it said.
The Maven has been on a mission to study Mars’ upper atmosphere since its arrival to the planet’s orbit in September 2014.