If the numerous photographs of Mars released by NASA and the International Space Station are anything to go by, the Red Planet has always been seen as dry and inhabitable for humans.
NASA’s revelations about Mars have mostly been about discoveries of life or signs of life on the planet. This time the topic in question is the Red Planet’s atmosphere and more specifically, what exactly happened to it.
Today, Earth is the only habitable world in the Solar System. But more than 3.5 billion years ago, it may have been joined by at least one other: Mars.
Right now, Mars’ atmosphere is thin and bone dry, but scientists believe it wasn’t always that way.
They feel that the sun might be the one to blame. Three different processes have been identified that may have stripped our neighbouring planet of its atmosphere and ultimately robbed it of its habitable environment: solar wind, extreme ultraviolet photons from the Sun, and most importantly, solar storm events.
According to AG News, this research is one of 44 new papers being published in Geophysical Research Letters(GRL) today and featured in Science tomorrow. Since it arrived in September 2014, MAVEN has been studying the upper atmosphere of Mars, thousands of kilometres above the surface, in addition to its ionosphere and its magnetosphere – the remnants of a much stronger magnetic field it once had – to determine how Mars became almost uninhabitable.