As far as we’re aware, Mars is a barren, lifeless world. Up until now, scientists have struggled to figure out why this is the case, but new evidence has provided a reason: Mars lost its atmosphere and most of its water due to the Sun’s solar winds.
This lethal process is still ongoing; Mars’ upper atmosphere is slowly being eroded by solar winds. NASA believe that this discovery will help provide further inside into the red planet’s history, evolution and perhaps even its habitability for life, and potentially humans.
In March, the Maven spacecraft viewed a solar storm stripping away Mars’ atmosphere, at a rapid rate of 100 grams of atmospheric gas every second. Although this does create stunning global auroras, this process has destroyed much of the planet’s protective atmosphere, leaving it open to the harshness of space.
Scientists know that extreme solar storms were a part of our Solar System’s history, therefore they believe that these storms destroyed the Martian atmosphere quickly, billions of years ago.
Today, Mars’ thin atmosphere and greater distance from the sun means it is much colder than Earth.
The average temperature is about -60°C (-80°F), although it can vary from -125°C (-195°F) near the poles during the winter.
Check out this brilliant video from NASA detailing just how solar winds damaged Mars’ atmosphere:
For more incredible facts, make sure you pick up the latest copy of How It Works. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, make sure you subscribe today!
Plus, take a look at: