Mars Atmosphere Destroyed by Solar Wind

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MAVEN Scientists Reveal Mars Atmosphere Destroyed in Early History

Throughout Mars history, the planet has been pummeled by solar radiation.

In a press conference today, NASA scientists and administrators from the Mars MAVEN probe reveled their findings that particles streaming from the Sun at a million miles an hour or more​ have bombarded the planet since the beginning of the solar system.

Mars atmosphere destroyed by solar storms

Artists rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere. Credit: NASA

And that bombardment -- the Solar Wind -- is responsible for stripping what once may have been a fairly abundant, and wet, atmosphere from the surface of Mars.

How?

Well, unlike Earth, Mars has no magnetic field to protect it.

It did -- once.  But as the planet cooled, the magnetic field ​disappeared. As one scientist put it, the planet's "dynamo shut down".

And with the shutdown, an unrelenting stream of particles from the sun was able to impact the planet. Over the course of several hundred million years -- from about 4.2 billion years ago to 3.7 billion years ago -- the atmosphere was steadily stripped off of the planet's surface.

The result -- Mars atmosphere destroyed.

And with the destruction of the atmosphere, so went the water. 

RELATED: Water on Mars

In fact, the process continues today.

As Nick Schneider from the University of Colorado, explained, Mars loses about 100 grams a day into space, or about a quarter pound.

This may not seem like much, but in it's early history, the solar storms that struck Mars were much more intense and ​the atmospheric loss much greater. 

But -- don't worry...

NASA scientists stressed there , with the strong magnetic field that surrounds our home planet, there ​is little chance that the same could happen here on Earth.

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