Data obtained from NASA’s Maven spacecraft indicates that the sun took away the thick atmosphere and water from the surface of Mars. The findings are published in the journal Science.
The Maven spacecraft is part of a program of NASA’s aimed at paving the way for humans to the planet in the 2030s. It has already provided invaluable information about the planet Mars.
NASA scientists say that around 100 grams of atmospheric gas are gradually being lost from the planet on account of the solar wind. Furthermore, big solar storms travelling at even greater speeds than the solar wind cause the escape rate to increase by 10 to 20 times, or even more.
It is suggested that these storms that have existed since billions of years ago might have severely affected the atmosphere of Mars. The latter would have then made a transition from a warm and moist environment to a cold and dry desert as it is today.
“I can’t help but imagine hamburgers flying out of the Martian atmosphere, one per second,” Maven scientist Dave Brain said in a statement. “It’s instead oxygen and carbon dioxide that are leaving the planet, which are important both for water and for the climate of the planet overall.”
Oxygen ions propelled into the atmosphere were observed during massive solar ejections of gas in March by principal scientist Bruce Jakosky and his team. Also, rapid magnetic activity was recorded. These findings caused the scientists to believe that similar major solar events in the distance past might have led to the atmospheric decline of the planet. Now, Mars no longer has a global magnetic field; the latter would have once protected it from direct erosion by the solar wind.
More analysis needs to be done to determine an accurate atmospheric escape rate of ancient Mars.