Friday, September 14, 2012

MAVEN: Mars Atmospheric Loss

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.

One way a planet can lose its atmosphere is through a process called "sputtering." In this process, atoms are knocked away from the atmosphere due to impacts from energetic particles. Watch this brief video to learn more: