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How Mars Lost Its Atmosphere [Video]

Scientists have long theorized that Mars once had an atmosphere and surface water–but where did it go? This video showcases one of their theories about Mars’ vanished water reserves.

Courtesy of NASA and the NASAexplorer channel:

When you take a look at Mars, you probably wouldn’t think that it looks like a nice place to live. It’s dry, it’s dusty, and there’s practically no atmosphere. But some scientists think that Mars may have once looked like a much nicer place to live, with a thicker atmosphere, cloudy skies, and possibly even liquid water flowing over the surface. So how do you go from something like this–to something like this? NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft will give us a clearer idea of how Mars lost its atmosphere, and scientists think that several processes have had an impact.

For more information about MAVEN, check out the mission page here.

NASA – MAVEN: Mars Atmospheric Loss

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/13/12

Comments (19)

  1. Romeo

    are there any chances for this to happen on our planet ?

  2. Murphy

    Looks like NASA guys want to convince the others to give them their money. ;)

  3. r

    …kind of what Earth will look like in a few billion years

  4. Keith

    Imo this is a Bit misleading. Mars did not lose its atmosphere. The atmosphere changed, but it’s still not an environment like the Moon for example. And even there, I suppose one could argue that there is a rarified atmosphere of sorts, dust tho it may be.

  5. Naman

    @r Nope. By that time, Earth will be swallowed up by the Sun, which will be a VERY red giant.

  6. r

    @Naman: well, give or take a few billion years…that all depends on who’s counting & whether or not we get clobbered by any super-big rocks in the meantime :)

  7. LadyFitzgerald

    Earth is closer to the sun than Mars. Why didn’t this happen to Earth?

  8. r

    @ M’Lady: it will eventually happen as the Sun’s core rises (converting hydrogen to helium) causing it to expand, but for the time being the ozone layer, magnetic fields & fun stuff like that keep us from becoming global toast.

  9. StevenTorrey

    LadyFitzgerald asked a good question. What was different about Earth that it would be transformed from a molten mass into a planet that has abundant life above the microbial level? Ward & Brownlee RARE EARTH describe the factors that went into creating complex life on planet Earth. That there is complex life on planet Earth is truly miraculous…

  10. MrWild8

    Several Answers in One: (Sorry for the long post – almost an article in itself!)

    Earth has a large Molten Iron core. The spinning of the Earth produces a large Magnetic Field that surronds the earth and moves with it. The Sun’s rays are somewhat deflected, and directed by this Magnetic Field, thereby protecting us from the same cataclismic issue. Aurora Borialis, anyone? That is the Sun’s charged particles doing a similar thing to what the video explained, but are kept in the high upper atmosphere. Yes, they are hitting the Air in order to do this, but it is a very small portion compared to what happened on Mars.

    Mars DID have a magnetic Field early in it’s life, and being further from the Sun, and smaller than Earth, it may have cooled earlier and started Life earlier that Earth did. Once the Magnetic Field stopped ( cooling core perhaps?) and the atmosphere got blown away, life stopped also. THAT is the life that we are looking for.
    Now, now do we generate a magnetic field there again so that it will hold an atmosphere for future generations?
    (I have four kids and Love to challange their minds with these kids of things. How would YOU do it?)

  11. LadyFitzgerald

    Go to Amazon.com, order all the magnets they have, and send them to Mars?

  12. r

    exactly,…if done carefully

  13. SeL

    LoL

  14. Jack

    Professing to be wise, they became fools – - – Romans 1:22

  15. George

    Wanting to help the government’s [sic] cost cutting measures, they could save a lot by just renting the movie “Mission to Mars”. Question solved – please send check to …. :-)

  16. acubley

    So was there a reason the full screen button wasn’t on the video and yet it still allowed you to select HD resolutions? ;p

  17. jarod

    Jack…. really? Did you have to go there, when we were having a perfectly good discussion?
    Have you any *original* thoughts of your own?

    Unless, of course, you were being facetious.

  18. jack sucks

    @Jack… suck my balls: Cartman1:20

  19. MrWild8

    Thanks @Jarod and @Jack Sucks for coming to my rescue…

    …I was “turning the other cheek”…

    ;)

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