STOLEN BY THE SUN

Cosmos - - Holodeck -

So what hap­pened to Mars’ an­cient lakes and streams?

In Novem­ber 2015, NASA’S MAVEN (Mars At­mos­phere and Volatile Evo­lu­tion Mis­sion) or­biter re­vealed the an­swer: the so­lar wind blew away most of the at­mos­phere. With­out its pro­tec­tive blan­ket, the planet’s wa­ter evap­o­rated.

Dip­ping into the thin Mar­tian at­mos­phere, just 1% as thick as Earth’s, MAVEN mea­sured wisps of ionised gas stream­ing away from the planet at a rate of 100 grams per sec­ond. The rate in­creased 20fold when a so­lar storm struck. That’s shown in this sim­u­lated im­age: white streaks are the so­lar wind and the coloured streaks show the en­ergy of es­cap­ing Mar­tian gases. The hottest colours have the high­est en­ergy and are con­cen­trated at the pole.

CREDIT: NASA’S SCI­EN­TIFIC VISUALIZATION STU­DIO / MAVEN SCIENCE TEAM

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