BOULDER, Colo. — Solar wind and radiation stripped away the atmosphere of Mars, transforming the red planet forever, according to findings from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission spacecraft led by the University of Colorado.
Mars might have been able to support life billions of years ago. Results from MAVEN shows solar wind and radiation were responsible for most of the atmospheric loss on Mars.
The solar wind is a thin stream of electrically charged conducting gas blowing out from the surface of the sun.
The early sun had far more intense ultraviolet radiation and solar winds, according to the MAVEN team. It’s possible microbial life cold have existed at the surface early in Mars’ history.
But as the planet cooled off and dried up, any life could have been driven underground.
Researchers believe Mars also lost its magnetic field, making it susceptible to solar winds. Earth’s liquid metal core creates a magnetic field that deflects solar winds.
The MAVEN team got the results by measuring the atmospheric abundance of two different isotopes of argon gas.