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NASA revealed Thursday that solar wind has stripped away Mars' atmosphere

The findings may give clues into what we can expect for Earth

(CNN)We now know more about what happened to Mars' climate.


NASA announced on Thursday several major scientific findings by its MAVEN spacecraft
that reveal significant details on the fate of the Martian atmosphere.
Scientists have known that billions of years ago, Mars was a wet, warm planet with a thick
atmosphere that protected it. The Martian landscape once had water flowing through its long
rivers that spilled out into lakes and oceans.
That world is a stark contrast to the dry and bitter cold planet we know it as today. The
question researchers have pondered for ages is: What happened to cause such a major
transformation?
"Quoting Bob Dylan: 'The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,' " said Michael Meyer,
lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarter during the
announcement.

8 photos: Photos: Mars MAVEN mission


New measurements from the MAVEN, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, show solar
winds have stripped ions from the Martian atmosphere. Solar wind -- charged particles from
the Sun -- have removed gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide from the planet, important
elements for understanding the potential for life, according to NASA.
The findings could mean there was big atmospheric loss early in the planet's history.
Mars' atmospheric fate could theoretically happen on Earth which is also losing ions, but
NASA said during the conference that our planet is fine for now because of its magnetic field.
What happened to Mars' atmosphere? The answer from @MAVEN2Mars is blowing in the
solar wind: https://t.co/gUTToN1vmn pic.twitter.com/JZHZTYSwxo
NASA (@NASA) November 5, 2015
The MAVEN has also discovered auroras on Mars that are similar to Earth's northern lights.
On our planet, auroras form when charged particles from the solar winds enter Earth's

magnetic field and travel to the poles where the particles collide with atoms of gas in the
atmosphere.
But the auroras on Mars may be caused by what is left of the magnetic field on the planet's
crust, which means these northern lights are spread out across a bigger area.
Another major finding shows that Mars' notorious dust problem is believed to be
interplanetary in origin, meaning from another planet. Scientists came to this conclusion
based on the grains and distribution of dust on Mars' surface, which ruled out Martian moons
Phobos and Deimos as the culprits.
The MAVEN has been on a mission to study Mars' upper atmosphere since its arrival to the
planet's orbit in September 2014. Tasked with finding how Mars' climate changed in the last 4
billion years, it's possible we're closer to understanding future habitability on the planet.