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Solar Wind Rips Up Martian Atmosphere

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the that-atmosphere-had-it-coming dept.

Space 101

IHateEverybody writes "Scientists have found evidence that the solar wind is ripping off chunks of the Martian atmosphere, which could possibly explain why Mars has such a thin atmosphere today. The chunks are being ripped up along 'magnetic umbrellas,' which are bubbles of magnetic fields which rise from the ground and extend above the Martian atmosphere. This is surprising because scientists previously thought that these magnetic umbrellas protected the Martian atmosphere. Now it looks like exactly the opposite might be true."

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101 comments

Holy crap. (0, Offtopic)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864127)

I just logged in and got a first post (again).

Re:Holy crap. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864135)

And yet you wonder why your posts start at -1

Re:Holy crap. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864241)

Actually, no, I don't.

Re:Holy crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25869271)

You mean Modding actually does something?

Re:Holy crap. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864155)

You are a foe of CmdrTaco (1) LULZ

Re:Holy crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864243)

It is purely political.

Help- I Burned My Girlfriends Cooter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864131)

ok this is what happening,

my parents are out with family friends, and theyll be back any minute so i need your help

see, i volunteer on my sister's softball team (im 22 the girls are 15)

and whatever, i met this girl, her name is Alison, and were going out for a while. We have a lot in common, and sometimes i help her with homework. i helped her with her english essay and she still got a D... this is because her teacher is a prick... anywayz

so she came over like an hour ago, and i really want to lose my virginity, so i ask her to have sex

"no no i cant, its not right" she said, but i told her "dont worry, i know what im doing, ill be done in like 10 seconds, plus ill give you 2 n64 games if you say yes."

So then I gave her Diddy Kong Racing and Ken Griffy Jr. Baseball and we went up to my room. she is a bit confused and scared.

then i think to myself- yo i need lube, right? cuz i heard other people saying you need to lube up her clit otherwise it wont fit in properly.

ok so i have no lube, but i really want to lose my virginity, so i grab some butter from the fridge, but its cold and it wont melt, so i microwaved it for 8 minutes and i put it in a glass and poured it on her cooter, and now shes saying i burned it.

i dont know what to do, my parents are going to be back any minute and shes crying in the bathroom plz help you guys are really smart please help me.

any idea how to shut her up? should i give her another n64 game?

MOD PARENT UP!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864185)

Moderators, if you do not mod the parent up, I will track down you by IP address and then find your homage, and then I will slaughter you until you die!

Re:Help- I Burned My Girlfriends Cooter (-1, Offtopic)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864271)

Take your girlfriend to the hospital. Now.

Re:Help- I Burned My Girlfriends Cooter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864345)

No so I got a glass of captain morgans. It tastes like puke and burns going down but I told her to drink the glass anyway and she did and she is asleep now. Do you think she will be better when she wakes up? Should I give her another glass?

Re:Help- I Burned My Girlfriends Cooter (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864457)

Moron. That's a troll at least five years old.

Re:Help- I Burned My Girlfriends Cooter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864727)

She's got hot butter, you've got crabs, why are you complaining?

bad news for earth? (3, Interesting)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864133)

if this is possible on mars, what different properties does earth have to stop our atmosphear from one day just disapearing?

Re:bad news for earth? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864169)

A magnetic field.

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

X-acious (1079841) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864199)

Not being too specific, the metals in the Earth's core create a magnetic field which shields against the solar wind, among other things. That same magnetic field has been getting weaker though...

Re:bad news for earth? (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#25865261)

To be slightly more specific, the magnetic field of Earth has been oscillating all the time, even disappearing for some time on numerous occasions. And Earth's atmosphere is still here, so perhaps we do not have to worry too much about this (as for radiation effects on living beings including humans, however, that might be an entirely different question).

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#25872065)

Are we not closer to the sun then Mars is...
maybe the distance to the sun makes a diff...either it shields from the solar winds, or maybe the sun's flares actually destroy any solar wind, or even yet, the fact that there is heat from the sun at that temperature ...cooks the solar winds to change its make up once it reaches earth so that it is not as devastating???

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

Natetheinfamous (1343315) | more than 4 years ago | (#25872339)

Actually, that would make it worse. The sun is the source of solar winds, so our closer proximity means that the particle density of solar winds are greater where we are than at mars. The sun's flares do not "cook" and neutralize the solar wind, but instead, solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections add even more highly energetic and heavier particles into the solar wind, causing greater hazards to earth (particularly to communications satellites, electrical grids, and astronauts). For more information, check wikipedia next time.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#25873245)

But unlike a cooking pot which if you slow burn would evaporate with no sign of actual activity, wher as a full boil, would bring the cook pot to show signs of bubbling, the environment of a planet, could then be meant to have more humidity quicker, within its lifespan, where as for a short while
say a few hundred thousand years, have sustainable life because of that humidity condensed from boiling effect....however a slow burn would just evaporate slowly the water, never to give it enough "activity" to produce evolving life, and therefor be worse off in the long run, this is not something they teach you on wiki or in school.

Re:bad news for earth? (5, Informative)

SockPuppet_9_5 (645235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864209)

As I understand it, the Earth's magnetic field is healthy and extends up past the bulk of our atmosphere. The pushing from the solar wind deforms our atmosphere, but any ripples or other magnetic eddies are considerably smaller and that possible "ripping" of an Earth eddy would take place pretty far above the planet. I might guess that the Earth's magnetic field is consistent enough to prevent any large eddies from forming in the first place.

Re:bad news for earth? (5, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864273)

I would say that you are correct. The article is saying that the SMALL LIMITED mag fields on Mars allows, even encourages, the ripping. Our field encompasses the entire planet and prevents. I have wondered if the moon acting on our core is what makes it spin. As such, it would seem that pushing a large asteroid (perhaps ceres) around Mars would re-start its core spinning. Of course, that tech is out of our reach for a while, and we do not have enough data to know if something like that would work.

Re:bad news for earth? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864411)

Earth's core is Iron, hence the strong magnetic field. Mars don't have dat shit nigga.

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864415)

As such, it would seem that pushing a large asteroid (perhaps ceres) around Mars would re-start its core spinning.

No. Mars' core is solid, not liquid (like Earth's), so it can't spin, even if you put a large asteroid in orbit.

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864677)

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864755)

Good link, TheLink!

The meat of the article says

'Scientists have not until now had any firm evidence whether the core of Mars was solid or liquid, though they had suspected it would be at least partly liquid, and they knew it was mostly iron. The new study finds that at least the outer portion of the core is indeed molten, making it similar to the cores of Earth and Venus.'

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Funny)

SlowMovingTarget (550823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25865939)

A new study concludes that the core of Mars is the consistency of the syrupy goop found inside chocolate-covered fruit candy.

Apparently, Jello pudding does not actually make for a good planetary core.

Re:bad news for earth? (2, Insightful)

krnpimpsta (906084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25865701)

I would say that you are correct. The article is saying that the SMALL LIMITED mag fields on Mars allows, even encourages, the ripping. Our field encompasses the entire planet and prevents. I have wondered if the moon acting on our core is what makes it spin. As such, it would seem that pushing a large asteroid (perhaps ceres) around Mars would re-start its core spinning. Of course, that tech is out of our reach for a while, and we do not have enough data to know if something like that would work.

Putting a satellite around Mars.. hmmm.. maybe we should put two in orbit, and call them Phobos and Deimos. ;)

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Insightful)

Ornedan (1093745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25865895)

Ha. Ha.
Phobos and Deimos have mass, relative to Mars, of jack and shit. Mars/Eris relative mass would at least be in the same (decimal) order of magnitude as Earth/Moon.

It gets worse. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870901)

It is carbonaceous. IOW, it does not have the ability to interact with Mars VIA magnetic pull. The moon can do that on us.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 5 years ago | (#25865817)

"Live by the sword, die by the sword."

There is no good or bad, only properties.

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25868817)

There is no good or bad, only properties.

--
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_to_impeach_George_W._Bush [wikipedia.org]

Something about this doesn't match up.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 5 years ago | (#25869851)

I was referring to natural phenomenon, not people.

Although, at some point human behaviour may be totally explained and then we'd have to ask is there good and bad with people, or just input -> predictable processing -> output. Not that I'm wishing for that.

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Interesting)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864315)

There is a small loss of atmosphere anyway from other factors. Still, the atmosphere is slowly regenerated by the combination of gaseous emissions (like from volcanoes) and their conversion to life sustaining gases by low order life forms (plankton or something like that). Those emissions are slowing down because the Earth is cooling down but the loss of atmosphere (by natural causes) is way beyond our foreseeable future (maybe more than the lifespan of the Earth).

Re:bad news for earth? (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866619)

There is a small loss of [Earth] atmosphere anyway from other factors. Still, the atmosphere is slowly regenerated by the combination of gaseous emissions...

Save the Earth, eat a burrito!
     

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866969)

Hehe, I know you're joking but I am a little pedantic and have to say that the gases you would provide that way would not be helpful. They are not useful for life and very hard to convert back in life supporting gases.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) | more than 4 years ago | (#25873883)

Actually, a number of studies have shown that a methane rich environment is conducive to the creation of primitive amino acids.

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Insightful)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864779)

You're correct. Earth's protective magnetic field is generated by the molten iron core. When the planets were created, they all had the same molten core, but over time, they solidify. It takes longer in bigger planets because the core is bigger (duh). In Earth, the outer core remains molten while the inner core has solidified. Likewise, Venus, being a relatively big rocky planet also has an atmosphere that's protected by its magnetic field (hence the clouds on it surface). Mercury and Mars are smaller, their cores are likely less molten, so their magnetic fields are weaker and therefore they have no atmosphere. Eventually, Earth's core will also solidify so the atmosphere will get ripped away from here too.

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25866399)

Venus is roughly the same size as the Earth. However, it has no intrinsic magnetic field. The solar wind interacts directly with its ionosphere/atmosphere, similar to Mars. There are many differences between the solar wind interactions at the two bodies and many similarities. It is a interesting field and one of much study. Titan is another object where the incident plasma (usually Saturn's magnetospheric plasma but sometimes the solar wind) interacts directly with its ionosphere/atmosphere. Another example are comets.

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866905)

Venus is roughly the same size as the Earth. However, it has no intrinsic magnetic field.

Oddly, Venus' atmosphere is much thicker than ours. Although it has a molten core, it still has a very weak magnetic field. The leading theory is that Earth's magnetic field is somehow helped by plate tectonics, which generally doesn't happen on Venus. Plate tectonics may help molten fluids circulate to help run the magnetic dynamo. A lessor theory is that our moon plays a role. It may be a combo. It's still an open issue.
       

Re:bad news for earth? (4, Interesting)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 5 years ago | (#25867059)

A factor contributing to its weak magnetic field is probably that Venus rotates very slowly (its day is 243 earth days).

Re:bad news for earth? (2, Interesting)

Power_Pentode (1123285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870443)

Plate tectonics may help molten fluids circulate to help run the magnetic dynamo. A lessor theory is that our moon plays a role. It may be a combo. It's still an open issue

I've always suspected that the Earth's strong dynamo was due to the differential rotational speed of core and the crust - caused by the Moon continually slowing down the crust from tidal forces. This continual stirring also results in plate tectonics. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it :)

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25876661)

Plate Tectonics occurs on Venus, the problem is that the planet is so hot that any existing plates are very soft so the process is vastly different.

Venus may be a good example of a planet dominated by plume theory where the mantle bubbles through the surface and cools, but gravity slowly pulls things down flat again over millions of years.

One theory for molten core is that our planet contains radioactive materials that are still slowly decaying. The formation of the planets in a sense dictated the eventual makeup of every planet. The inner planets were rocky due to the majority of gasses being blown out past the asteroid belt to the point the gas giants were able to form.

Gas giants are to me are failed stars vs rocky planets. If they were allowed to gather enough mass this could have been a binary system.

Tatooine anyone.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#25872779)

Earth's protective magnetic field is generated by the molten iron core.

Actually, the pressure keeps it solid. What's molten is the mantle between the core and the surface.

When the planets were created, they all had the same molten core, but over time, they solidify.

From what I've understood, Earth's heart of iron is actually an iron asteroid/planetoid which collided with proto-Earth. That would make it likely unique within our solar system.

Likewise, Venus, being a relatively big rocky planet also has an atmosphere that's protected by its magnetic field (hence the clouds on it surface).

According to Wikipedia: Venus's magnetosphere is too weak to protect the atmosphere from cosmic radiation.

Eventually, Earth's core will also solidify so the atmosphere will get ripped away from here too.

Unlikely. In the end, solar wind is pretty weak and Earth is a lot bigger than Mars, and thus has far stronger gravity, strong enough to keep the atmosphere bound to the planet.

Besides, according to Wikipedia, the core is at around 7000 degree Kelvin right now, and keeps getting heated by radioactive decay of isotopes with half-life period of over a billion years. Given this, it would take until long after the Sun turns into a red giant for Earth to become geologically dead.

Re:bad news for earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864859)

The Earth's magnetic field strength is significantly higher is due to the dynamo effect of the rotation and the molten material. So part of the key if maintaining such a relatively higher planetary magnetic flux is to ensure the Earth's molten material does not cool down and solidify. So in essence, geothermal energy may be a pernicious renewable energy method.

Re:bad news for earth? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25865989)

Geothermal energy doesn't reach nearly far enough into the planet to have any effect on the temperature of the core. Even the deepest hole on earth, which is in Russia, if I remember right, is something like 15 miles deep. While that sounds like a really deep hole, if the earth were and egg, 15 miles wouldn't even have broken through the shell yet. At that minuscule distance, no amount of extracted heat would have any effect on the core.

The core of the earth is likely never going to cool, even if we install geothermal energy in every house and building on the planet. Between friction heating (from tidal forces) and nuclear heating, the core has remained molten for 4.5 billion years or so, and will remain molten for at least a few billion more, which is far beyond an amount ever worth worrying about.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

sabernet (751826) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864971)

I wonder what effect any potential polar reversal would have?

From what I understand, the time interval between when N becomes S and S becomes N is still unknown. I wonder how long the interval would have to be for the eventual polar reversal of Earth to cause any serious effects to our atmosphere(aside from seeing armies of confused foul migrating North for the winter).

Re:bad news for earth? (3, Informative)

fredrik70 (161208) | more than 5 years ago | (#25865351)

well, we know for a fact it occured quie a few times before, and our atmosphere is still here.

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] describes it quite well:

"Because the magnetic field has never been observed to reverse by humans with instrumentation, and the mechanism of field generation is not well understood, it is difficult to say what the characteristics of the magnetic field might be leading up to such a reversal. Some speculate that a greatly diminished magnetic field during a reversal period will expose the surface of the earth to a substantial and potentially damaging increase in cosmic radiation. However, Homo erectus and their ancestors certainly survived many previous reversals. There is no uncontested evidence that a magnetic field reversal has ever caused any biological extinctions. A possible explanation is that the solar wind may induce a sufficient magnetic field in the Earth's ionosphere to shield the surface from energetic particles even in the absence of the Earth's normal magnetic field [8].

Although the inspection of past reversals does not indicate biological extinctions, present society with its reliance on electricity and electromagnetic effects (e.g. radio, satellite communications) may be vulnerable to technological disruptions in the event of a full field reversal."

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#25869711)

So basically, you're saying Earth has its own set of deflector shields, and Mars doesn't? Awesome!

When we get to Mars we should try to reverse the polarity of Mars' atmosphere. That will fix things. Or maybe a tachyon burst from the deflector dish!

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866195)

As others have pointed out, the Earth's magnetic dipole field extends well past the atmosphere, so the reconnection events take place in vacuum, not the upper atmosphere as on Mars.

The other reason that Venus and Earth have substantial atmospheres is that the gravitational fields for Earth and Venus are stronger than for Mars (or Mercury). The result is the escape velocity is much higher and atoms are much less likely to escape Earth's gravity than Mars' gravity.

Re:bad news for earth? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866925)

if this is possible on mars, what different properties does earth have to stop our atmosphear from one day just disapearing?

Our solid, healthy, and reliable financial institutions.
       

Ob. Spaceballs reference (2, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25867925)

We have a large shield around our planet, which has a special, secret password. No one can ever strip aweay our atmosphere, no matter how much they suck or blow.

Re:Ob. Spaceballs reference (2, Funny)

AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868411)

We have a large shield around our planet, which has a special, secret password. No one can ever strip aweay our atmosphere, no matter how much they suck or blow.

Is the combination 12345?

Re:Ob. Spaceballs reference (3, Funny)

IHateEverybody (75727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868521)

We have a large shield around our planet, which has a special, secret password. No one can ever strip aweay our atmosphere, no matter how much they suck or blow.

Is the combination 12345?

Hey! I have the same combination on my luggage.

At least.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864193)

At least it's not ripping up Uranus.

Re:At least.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864235)

At least it's not ripping up Uranus.

I'm sorry, AC, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2007 to end that stupid joke once and for all.

It's now called Urectum.

Re:At least.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864303)

This will happen in 2620 you insensitive clod

Re:At least.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25865129)

Good thing you're not a proctologist.

at least... (3, Interesting)

Pharago (1197161) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864225)

at least we may know what to fix if we *ever* were to terraform that big red rock

But what about the "how" part . . . ? (2, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864255)

Or do we just leave that as an extra credit exercise for the students?

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864279)

I'm not certain it's actually necessary to fix it. The atmosphere would be stripped away on a timescale of millions of years. If you're capable of terraforming Mars to begin with, you're capable of replacing lost air faster than the Sun can strip it away. It's probably cheaper to do that than to rig up some enormous artificial magnetic shield.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (3, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864317)

Well, rigging up some enourmouse artificial magnetic shield has another side benefit: It protects you from the charged particles in the solar wind. Humans don't react well to massive doses of radiation in the form of energetic alpha, beta, and protons.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (4, Funny)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25864363)

I dunno, the 3rd and 4th arm are great and come in handy all the time, but on the downside my 2nd head is WAYYY to talkative.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864641)

Is that you, Zaphod Beeblebrox? Wait, no, sorry, my mistake. You mentioned four arms.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864985)

He maybe got an extra extra-arm so he can play the harmonica while skiboxing?

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25868049)

"Is that you, Zaphod Beeblebrox?"

Yeah, well, that's a very sweet thought, AC, but do you really think it's wise under the circumstances? I mean here he is on the run and everything, he must have the police of half the Galaxy after him by now, and he stops to post on slashdot. Okay, so ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866649)

I dunno, the 3rd and 4th arm are great and come in handy all the time, but on the downside my 2nd head is WAYYY too talkative.

But you have plenty of arms to sock it in the mouths.
         

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (1)

RockWolf (806901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868767)

but on the downside my 2nd head is WAYYY to talkative.

...And can't spell.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870619)

Total Recall quote of the day.

Benny: [to Mary, the three-breasted hooker] Baby, you make me wish I had three hands.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864519)

A nice, thick atmosphere does the same.

Depends on how large a field you want. (1, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868255)

People are exposed to 2.5 tesla magnetic fields in conventional MRIs, and there are MRIs that go up to 9.3 tesla (even though that's a bit beyond what the FDA approves). There are scanners for animals that go up to 12 tesla. Even the least of these is well beyond anything the Earth generates. Clearly, however, magnetic fields are not as dangerous as has been assumed. At least, within reasonable limits.

This is a localized magnetic field, however. If you were to set up a Faraday cage, so that you were enclosed in a uniform magnetic field, you shouldn't ever detect it. A totally uniform field has zero effect on anything inside that region of uniformity. This would offer some interesting possibilities, as it would be a great deal cheaper to rig up a Faraday cage of some given internal volume than a totally pressurized dome of equal internal volume. The rest of the air would be breathable, and short exposure to the localized fields outside should be no more hazardous than short exposure to the magnetic fields in an MRI, and simpler forms of life (plants, for example) should be safe enough, allowing you to place the terraforming mechanism outside the inhabitable zone.

There is another option, however. It is radioactive material that keeps the Earth's core as hot as it is. We have plenty of such material we desperately want to get rid of. Provided you could find a method of getting the nuclear waste into the Martial core, there should be more than enough by now to strengthen and stabilize the natural magnetic field to usable levels for longer than we'd ever care about. Getting it there would be a problem and a half - mechanical drilling would be impossible and relying on maintaining a sub-critical mass to achieve the "China Syndrome" long enough to nuclear drill through would at best risk landing you with a supervolcano in your lap. However, I'm going to call that an "implementation detail" and not worry about it.

Re:Depends on how large a field you want. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#25872549)

You miss the point. You need a magnetic field. It deflects the ionized particles in the solar wind. I'm Not implying that humans can't do fine in a magnetic field. Im Am implying that humans won't do well when continuously exposed to rads of radiation. By the way, you don't need a particularly strong magnetic field. You just need a large one.

Re:Depends on how large a field you want. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#25872591)

Oh, and if you combined all the "nuclear waste" we have ever generated, and implanted it into Mars' core, it would have negligeable affect.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#25873359)

Humans don't react well to massive doses of radiation in the form of energetic alpha, beta, and protons.

That's what an atmosphere is for. Even if the earth's magnetic field vanished today, we'd be fine, as the atmosphere works to scatter high-energy radiation. After all, during magnetic field inversions, it's not like all life on earth spontaneously went extinct.

Re:But what about the "how" part . . . ? (1)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 4 years ago | (#25872329)

On the other hand, the loss of air is only one side-effect of the lack of magnetic field. The Earth's magnetic field offers signifigant protection from cosmic radiation that is very harmful to complex life as we know it.

For an example of a planet that has managed to maintain (replenish faster than loss) an atmosphere without a magnetic field, see Venus.

incoming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25864409)

climate change troll in 5, 4, 3,...

Implications and Applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25865481)

Assuming everything the article suggests is correct, could this be a natural proof-of-concept example of a magnetic sail [wikipedia.org] ?

We don't (as far as I know) have the technology to test magnetic sails on our own, but it seems we may have been lent a giant laboratory far beyond our means in the form of Mars' peculiar magnetic fields.

Bad news for martian colony (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25866403)

"Oh no! Look, Billy! The sky is breaking apart!"

Re:Bad news for martian colony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25867397)

So, we can look forward to welcoming masses of refugees from Mars?
 
Gives a new meaning to the phrase 'illegal alien'.

perhaps bad news for us... (1)

stwf (108002) | more than 5 years ago | (#25867237)

Well might not the end result of this be that Mars was once exactly like us?

When you look at how long mankind has to evacuate the planet it seems this could shorten that time quite a bit. The core of the earth will cool long before the sun goes red dwarf.

Maybe we should be looking into terraforming Venus.

Re:perhaps bad news for us... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25867749)

Erm, no. The increasing heat of the sun will boil away the oceans within a billion or so years.

Re:perhaps bad news for us... (2, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868487)

The core of the earth will cool long before the sun goes red dwarf.

I think you mean red giant (red dwarf is a main stage star - our sun is a yellow dwarf that will eventually become red giant then a white dwarf).

Either way, the core of the Earth should be molten well past that event. Increasing temperatures (from various factors - both man made global warming but also the sun emits more and more heat as time goes on) are a far more serious concern than the atmosphere blowing away.

Re:perhaps bad news for us... (3, Informative)

IHateEverybody (75727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868611)

Well might not the end result of this be that Mars was once exactly like us?

When you look at how long mankind has to evacuate the planet it seems this could shorten that time quite a bit. The core of the earth will cool long before the sun goes red dwarf.

Maybe we should be looking into terraforming Venus.

Most scientists think that Mars was once a lot more like Earth in that it had flowing, a thicker atmosphere, and possibly life.

The sun won't go "red dwarf," it will turn into a red giant and will almost certainly swallow up Venus before it runs out of fuel and turns into a white dwarf. Long before any of that happens, the sun will have gotten hot enough to boil away Earth's oceans. The most common figures that I've seen is something like a 500 million to a billion years before the sun boils the oceans and makes Earth uninhabitable and five billion years before it turns into a red giant and swallows up Mercury and Venus. So we do have some time before we need to move.

but it would have to explain non-magnetic Venus (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#25867835)

Venus has 10,000 time the atmosphere of Mars and 90 times the earth. Yet no magnetic field protection and a ten times strong solar wind at that distance (r-squared divergence).
For all three planets, the planetary outgassing ratye from the interior is not well known and could be a factor in replenishment.

Re:but it would have to explain non-magnetic Venus (2, Interesting)

largesnike (762544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25868401)

Well actually, we know that Venus was catastophically resurfaced a few hundred million years ago, because impact craters are evenly distributed accross the surface (according to the Magellan data), so the parts of the surface are all the same age. The outgassing from such an enormous event, is likely to be the current atmosphere, which the sun has been gradually eroding ever since.

Just who are these people?! (1)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#25878033)

scientists previously thought that these magnetic umbrellas protected the Martian atmosphere. Now it looks like exactly the opposite might be true

Just who are these people, who get to keep their jobs and reputations after such "predictions"?

What else are they predicting now? (Other than climate change, that is?)

Re:Just who are these people?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25879653)

Just who are these people, who get to keep their jobs and reputations after such "predictions"?

They have a word for people who predict things and then discover their predictions are wrong:

"Scientists."

I suggest you do a bit of reading on what the Scientific Method is and how it works before you post fucktarded rhetorical questions like this in public.

sraM (1)

mmwithpeanuts (1341729) | more than 5 years ago | (#25881565)

We have not made a complete observation to know for sure what is transpiring with these bubbles. Mars is a somewhat fickle planeta, where magnetism may be weak in most areas, yet strong in some 'small' pockets, fluctuating. Also the mysteries of its two moons and their interactions with their parent planet. Life is not the only interesting thing we will discover about Mars. This is one strange planet!
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