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Extreme gas loss dried out Mars, MAVEN data suggest

Argon lost to interactions with solar wind hints at transformed climate

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2:46pm, March 30, 2017
MAVEN probe

LOST IN SPACE  Solar wind has expelled two-thirds of the Martian atmosphere’s argon and a majority of its carbon dioxide into space, data from the MAVEN probe (illustrated here) suggest.

The Martian atmosphere definitely had more gas in the past.

Data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft indicate that the Red Planet has lost most of the gas that ever existed in its atmosphere. The results, published in the March 31 Science, are the first to quantify how much gas has been lost with time and offer clues to how Mars went from a warm, wet place to a cold, dry one.

Mars is constantly bombarded by charged particles streaming from the sun. Without a protective magnetic field to deflect this solar wind, the planet loses about 100 grams of its now thin atmosphere every second (SN: 12/12/15, p. 31). To determine how much atmosphere has been lost during the planet’s lifetime, MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado Boulder and colleagues measured and

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