News from the Red Planet: Mars’ Bygone Atmosphere

??????In this latest video update from the Mars Science Laboratory team, Ashwin Vasavada, the mission’s Deputy Project Scientist, discusses the recent findings by the Curiosity Rover. As always, these include ongoing studies of Mars atmosphere, in addition to soil and rock analysis, to determine what the Martian landscape may have looked like millions of years ago.

And in its latest research breakthrough, the rover has determined that Mars doesn’t have the same atmosphere it used to. Relying on its microwave oven-sized Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, the rover analyzed a sample of Martian air early in April, and the results that came back provided the most precise measurements ever made of in the Martian atmosphere.

SolarConjunctionWhat it noticed in particular was the isotopes of Argon, a basic element that is present in Earth’s atmosphere, Jupiter’s and even the Sun. In Mars case, the mix of light and heavy Argon – two different isotopes of the element – is heavier than in all the other cases. What this suggests is that the Martian atmosphere has thinned over the course of the past few million years.

This data conclusively confirms another long-held suspicion by scientists, that Mars did indeed have an atmosphere capable of supporting life. Alongside the voluminous evidence obtained by Curiosity for the existence of water, we now know that Mars may have supported life at one time, and that it did not always have the arid, cold climate it now does. More good news for those looking to build a case for settling there one day…

solarConjunction02Check out the video below to hear Ashwin Vasavada speak about these latest findings, including the Solar Conjunction which kept them from communicating with the Rover until today. Now that the conjunction has ended, we can expect plenty more updates and interesting finds from the rover. Who knows? Maybe even some evidence about the existence of a Martian civilization.

Don’t be looking at me like that! It could happen…


Source: universetoday.com

5 thoughts on “News from the Red Planet: Mars’ Bygone Atmosphere

  1. There are a few theories as to why the Martian atmosphere is how it is. The planet’s mass may be a contributing factor to a slow yet steady thinning process where it just blows into space because it lacks the mass to keep hold of it.

    Also, the thinning could be the result of the solar wind also blowing the atmosphere away because unlike earth, the planet’s magnetic field isn’t strong enough to repel the solar wind.

    The fact that the atmosphere is thinner now than it once was need not be the result of a failed civilisation. Though that does make for a better story. 🙂

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