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MAVEN mission finding clues to Mars’ climate change

Orbiter collects clues about how the sun is stripping away the Red Planet’s atmosphere

2:00pm, November 5, 2015

SOLAR ATTACK  After over a year of orbiting Mars, the MAVEN spacecraft (illustrated) finds that energetic particles from the sun played a major role in robbing the Red Planet of its water.

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Solar winds slowly chip away at the Martian atmosphere while flares trigger widespread auroras. These are just two findings from MAVEN, NASA’s most recent mission to Mars, that appear in four papers published in the Nov. 6 Science.

By now, it’s clear that water once rushed through canyons and filled basins on the Red Planet, but not anymore. Whether the water escaped into space or was sequestered underground, understanding what became of the H2O can help researchers better understand the ancient Martian climate and its past habitability. After roughly a year of orbiting Mars (SN Online: 9/22/14), the MAVEN spacecraft is providing some important clues.

“Loss to space was a significant, if not dominant, process in changing the climate,”

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