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October 20, 2017

Scientists reach closer to decoding Mars’ atmosphere


Newsroom24x7 Desk

marsWashington: NASA briefing on Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission’s findings on Martian atmosphere revealed findings in which MAVEN identified the process which appeared to have played a key role in transition of Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to cold, arid planet Mars appears today. Scientists felt they were getting closer to explaining precisely how Mars lost much of its atmosphere.Researchers working on the US space agency’s Maven satellite have reported their first big set of results in a clutch of scholarly papers.

These findings elaborate on how Martian air today is being removed at high altitudes through its interactions with the Sun. Scientists calculated the rates at which gases escaped, and suggested why these rates might have been even higher in the past. ‘We’re well on the way to answering many of our questions; much further along actually than I thought we would be at this stage,’ said Bruce Jakosky, the principal investigator on Nasa’s Maven spacecraft.’What we’re reporting today is data from just the first 6-7 months from our primary mission. We’re still analyzing this data, and we have already been approved for a mission extension that will allow us to round out one full Martian year and to see the response of the system to all the seasons on Mars,” he told to media.

Previous satellite observatory images indicated that the Red Planet was previously shrouded in a thick blanket of gases, which supported the presence of liquid water at its surface. This found support from evidences in the many landscape features that resembled the remains of river channels, deltas and lakes. However, data comparison with previous records and that of the atmospheric reality of today with reference to the air pressure on Mars today appeared to be less than 1% of what it is on Earth, meaning any free water would instantly boil away or freeze solid at that atmospheric conditions. Suggesting that some of the air had probably reacted with, and been incorporated into, minerals at the surface.

Analysis pointed to most likely explanation for the atmosphere’s loss, coming from the one that Maven began testing last year, that the Sun has simply stripped it away, turning Mars from a warm and wet world into a cold and dry one.Scientists are trying to understand when and how Mars became the dry and cold world we know today. To enrich the research with data and enable generation information on analysis, detailing and inference, the satellite has been making a series of deep dives into the atmosphere as it orbits the planet.These dips take it to under 200km from the surface thereby enabling it to sample the gases that are present and to record how they are behaving when excited by our star.

From a scientific perspective, the overall process is such – the Sun emits a constant stream of charged particles called the solar wind. This wind carries magnetic fields. When these solar winds hit the planet, they build up a capacity and generate electric fields that are then able to accelerate atmospheric ions. these ions hurl the solar winds and propel them either directly off into space, or deviate their direction by slamming them into other atmospheric constituents so that they are removed. Although the magnitude of loss rates due to the direct or tangent movement of propelling of these solar winds may appear on the face of it to be quite small, yet the impact of these hurls are large enough and significant on their thrust impact in a consolidated built-up manner — when applied over the 4.5 billion years of Mars’ history.

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