Washington: Solving a big mystery about the Red Planet, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission revealed that the sun has stripped away the Martian atmosphere.
New data from the MAVEN have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind.
Unlike Earth, Mars does not have a magnetic field to shield its atmosphere from solar wind.
The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms.
“Mars appears to have had a thick atmosphere, warm enough to support liquid water which is a key ingredient and medium for life as we currently know it,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington in a statement.
“Understanding what happened to the Mars atmosphere will inform our knowledge of the dynamics and evolution of any planetary atmosphere. Learning what can cause changes to a planet’s environment from one that could host microbes at the surface to one that doesn’t is important to know, and is a key question that is being addressed in NASA’s journey to Mars.”
The MAVEN mission has helped scientists identify the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.
MAVEN, which entered the Martian atmosphere on September 22, 2014, is on a mission to find out what exactly happened to Mars' thick and protective atmosphere, which could have sustained life many eons ago.