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Visualizing Mars' Atmosphere Loss


Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Mars today is a cold, barren desert, but scientists think it was once a warm and wet planet. The change may have been caused by the loss of an early atmosphere driven into space by the sun’s solar wind. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that deflects the stream of charged particles continuously blowing off the sun. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the planet’s upper atmosphere, stripping away electrically charged gas atoms, called ions (depicted here in a simulation). Further details ...

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