Mars lost most of its atmosphere to space: scientists say

Mars once looked somewhat like Earth with thick atmosphere enclosing fluffy clouds, but the atmosphere was stripped away by solar wind and radiation, according to NASA researchers.

Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator for the Mars Atmosphere & Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), reported that data collected by the spacecraft suggested that a young, rambunctious sun caused the Red Planet to lose much of its atmosphere to space.

Sharing findings of the new study, Jakosky said, “We’ve determined that most of the gas ever present in the Mars atmosphere has been lost to space. This discovery is a significant step toward unraveling the mystery of Mars’ past environments.”

MAVEN Program Scientist Elsayed Talaat added that the new study taught them about the processes that could alter a planet’s habitability in due course.

Scientists have found evidence that Mars had thick atmosphere, rivers, lakes and even oceans of liquid water billions of years ago. Their belief is based on Martian features resembling dry riverbeds as well as minerals that can’t form in the absence of liquid water.

Liquid water, which is essential to sustain life, isn’t stable on the surface of Mars today, simply because the planet’s atmosphere is too thin to support it.


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