NOV 12, 2015 5:17 AM PST

Solar Winds Have Made Mars Cold and Dry


NASA's mission to explore the atmosphere and evolution of the climate on Mars reported some startling information this week. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) team reported that at one time Mars was probably a warm, wet planet much more capable of sustaining life. In a press release, MAVEN principal investigator at the University of Colorado Bruce Jakosky said MAVEN measurements indicated that the solar winds were stripping gas away from the planet at a high rate, leaving it dry and cold. "Like the theft of a few coins from a cash register every day, the loss becomes significant over time. We've seen that the atmospheric erosion increases significantly during solar storms, so we think the loss rate was much higher billions of years ago when the sun was young and more active."

It wasn't just storms from ancient history either. MAVEN found that in March of 2015 a series of intense storms hit the planet and accelerated the loss even further. The solar winds, full of protons and electrons, are coming at Mars from three different directions. The relentless barrage has made the planet cold and unlikely to support life.
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