MAVEN Reveals Mars Argon Loss to Space

  • Released Thursday, March 30th, 2017
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:19AM
  • ID: 12557

Solar wind and radiation are responsible for stripping the Martian atmosphere, according to results from NASA's MAVEN mission. By measuring light and heavy isotopes of argon in the Martian atmosphere, scientists have determined that the majority of the planet's air and water were removed to space by sputtering. In this process, ions from the Mars atmosphere get picked up by the solar wind and slammed into other atoms at the top of the atmosphere, knocking them into space.

Scientists used measurements of light and heavy argon from MAVEN and NASA's Curiosity rover to determine that sputtering has removed 65% of Mars' argon to space, along with the majority of other gases like carbon dioxide. Over billions of years, this transformed Mars from a hospitable environment into the cold, dry planet that we see today.
Learn more about the MAVEN argon loss finding.

Animations of the MAVEN spacecraft, sputtering, and the evolution of the Martian climate. This video file is in the standard NASA-TV broadcast format. Animations begin at 1:36.

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


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