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Research Suggests Mars Once Had a Thick Atmosphere

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the air-that-I-breathe dept.

Mars 98

astroengine writes "At one time, Mars had a thick, protective atmosphere — possibly even cushier than Earth's — but the bubble of gases mostly dissipated about 4 billion years ago and has never been replenished, new research shows. The findings come from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which has been moonlighting as an atmospheric probe as it scours planet's surface for habitats that could have supported ancient microbial life. 'On Earth, our magnetic field protects us, it shields us from the solar wind particles. Without Earth's magnetic field, we would have no atmosphere and there would be no life on this planet. Everything would be wiped out — especially when you go back 4 billion years. The solar wind was at least 100 times stronger then than it is today. It was a young sun with a very intense radiation,' Chris Webster, manager of the Planetary Sciences Instruments Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News. Unfortunately for Mars, the last 4 billion years have not been kind."

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YA MAD LATE BRO (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323359)

i heard dis from my cousin Laquishas baby daddy he wuz like "dem sciency people said mars once had life" and i obviously connected the pieces and thought to myself "der must have been an airosphere for life, life needs oxygen"

DATS Y U LATE

BUT NOTHING LIKE URANUS !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323391)

Or mine, for that matter !!

Page Formatting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323411)

What is this new page formatting where things follow you as you scroll called?

Re:Page Formatting (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44323965)

What is this new page formatting where things follow you as you scroll called?

PRISM

Planetary magnetic field (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323427)

Without Earth's magnetic field, we would have no atmosphere and there would be no life on this planet.

Are we sure of that? While I can accept that Mars lost its atmosphere due to the solar wind stripping it, it should also be noted that Venus has a very weak magnetic field, yet it has a far larger atmosphere than the Earth. In fact, most of the magnetic field of Venus comes from the solar wind interacting with the atmosphere.

Re:Planetary magnetic field (4, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44323759)

Which is why Venus has an atmosphere consisting mostly of CO2, the lighter hydrogen and oxygen gases get stripped off by the solar wind.
Hence no water on Venus or in its atmosphere

Re:Planetary magnetic field (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324723)

This is an unconvincing argument. Hydrogen would escape into space without the solar wind. And free oxygen is not a normal thing. It required life for it to be released on the Earth (from CO2). And as far as the high concentrations of CO2, the Earth has methods to store it as limestone which makes Venus look more extreme than the Earth even though the actual total carbon levels are similar. Thus, the inference that Earth couldn't have life without geomagnetism is still not conclusive in my opinion.

Re:Planetary magnetic field (3, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#44328143)

You are correct that the solar wind would strip off hydrogen, but the reason it isn't stripping it isn't due to the magnetosphere alone.

Part of the reason Earth has hydrogen is because it also has oxygen. While the two elements (at least hydrogen) would be stripped by the solar wind if they remained separate, the Hydrogen is 'weighted down' by being bound in water molecules with Oxygen.

The solar wind has stripped most of the Helium from our planet's atmosphere because it is a noble gas and doesn't react with other elements. If the solar wind is already strong enough to strip off the He, it would certainly be strong enough to strip off the much lighter Hydrogen.

Re:Planetary magnetic field (1)

tempest69 (572798) | about a year ago | (#44328501)

The Oxygen isn't going to just "strip off" Venus has a huge amount of Oxygen in the atmosphere. With little hydrogen the earth would have an incredibly thick atmosphere. Without life the O2 wouldn't be replenished and it would be an atmospheric compound.

Re:Planetary magnetic field (1)

phrackthat (2602661) | about a year ago | (#44334399)

From the almighty Wikipedia:

While Venus and Mars have no magnetosphere to protect the atmosphere from solar winds, photoionizing radiation (sunlight) and the interaction of the solar wind with the atmosphere of the planets causes ionization of the uppermost part of the atmosphere. This ionized region, in turn induces magnetic moments that deflect solar winds much like a magnetic field.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_escape#Significance_of_solar_winds [wikipedia.org]

I would also think that solar winds would be a steady source of hydrogen atoms as it consists largely of hydrogen ions (also known as protons (H+)). Once in the atmosphere they would capture electrons to become stable hydrogen. This has been detected on the moon for instance (only 10% of the solar wind ions deflect off the moon and 90% become embedded in the lunar surface and become neutral hydrogen atoms by picking up free electrons). Since Venus has very little water (approximately .002% of the atmosphere versus .40% for earth's atmosphere), apparently the stripping the by solar winds is at least as great as the contributed hydrogen.

If we're going to get into the world of fantasy, I would think that setting up a sun-facing device that created a weak magnetic field far enough out in front of Venus that was strong enough to slow the rain of protons but not deflect them, could result in Venus gradually building up a water canopy . . .

Re:Planetary magnetic field (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44324207)

I contend that the core had cooled and was emitting no gases so the air 'evaporated'. I believe that our hot, steamy core is what regularly replenishes our atmosphere, and is made breathable by plankton as it bubbles up from the sea floor.

Re:Planetary magnetic field (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#44328429)

I contend that the core had cooled and was emitting no gases so the air 'evaporated'. I believe that our hot, steamy core is what regularly replenishes our atmosphere, and is made breathable by plankton as it bubbles up from the sea floor.

Volcanism is responsible for a great portion of our atmosphere. Early life cracked carbon dioxide and increased the oxygen content of the Earth. This early oxygen was absorbed by the surface of the Earth until it was saturated (or bound as more H2O due to reactions with the protoatmosphere). Once the crust was saturated with oxygen, you saw a very sudden spike in Oxygen content of the Earth's atmosphere once the free hydrogen was bound and the crust was saturated. The Oxygen had nowhere else to go. You can actually see this effect by looking at estimates for atmospheric oxygen content and the increases/declines/spikes.

Long story short, it's not that the atmosphere is being replenished, but without volcanism there wouldn't be enough initial atmosphere to ever really get started.

Re:Planetary magnetic field (1)

Zaatxe (939368) | about a year ago | (#44326569)

(Disclaimer: I am not an astronomer, I'm just a big fan of Carl Sagan's Cosmos!)

Venus' gravity is 2.4 times stronger than Mars'. Maybe that helps to hold the atmosphere.

Once again I'll say it (4, Interesting)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | about a year ago | (#44323429)

We need to put boots on Mars

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323575)

Is the power/phone line already full [wildcatfitness.net] ?

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323733)

Why?

Re:Once again I'll say it (2)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#44324539)

To protect its feet. Duh.

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#44323753)

OK, I think we all get it, Mars used to have an atmosphere and life...so what. Am I the only one who is bored beyond tears with these Mars revelations?

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323915)

Same here. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, there was hope that there was life on Mars and the possibility of a very wet tropical climate on Venus . This caused all kinds of speculation and early sci-fi especially about Mars. Then as we discovered there are no canals on Mars and Venus is as close to Hell as is possible. But the dreams never died, dreams are powerful stuff. There are still people who think sending men on Mars is somehow important, or even the future of humanity. They are deluded.

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324135)

The alternative is the future of humanity being us dying on this rock. Seems so much better that way.

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324381)

How doomy and gloomy! Who promised you it would be eternal anyways? No matter what, evolution is still happening, there wasn't a human race a million years ago, there won't be one in another million. So what? You'll be dead way before that, why do you (pretend) to care so much about the entire future species? And what about "this rock"? Are the other planets any better in that regard? Mars is just another rock, Venus is a rock with too much gas, the other planets are even more useless.

This "rock" is the only and best place for us. We're not going anywhere else.

Re:Once again I'll say it (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | about a year ago | (#44324489)

It's okay, Og. Come out of the cave. It's warm out here.

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324643)

That's right, because it's on Earth. You wouldn't choose to come out if there was no air, the blinding radiation of the Sun would cook you in the light, freeze you in the dark, and kill you anyways from cosmic radiation.

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324893)

How doomy and gloomy! Who promised you it would be eternal anyways? No matter what, evolution is still happening, there wasn't a human race a million years ago, there won't be one in another million. So what? You'll be dead way before that, why do you (pretend) to care so much about the entire future species? And what about "this rock"? Are the other planets any better in that regard?

Nobody said life was eternal, except the people who lied to you, QA. I don't care if there's a human race in a million years, I care if there's sentience outside the solar system in a million years. I care because sentience is pretty neat. And because it's so neat the rest of the universe would be an awful waste of space if sentience were limited to this one tiny rock. Sentience's job is to find other rocks that are just as good, if not better, for sentience. I don't know of any better rocks yet, but I'd like to find some, even though I'll never get to visit.

Re:Once again I'll say it (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year ago | (#44325023)

Not many people are dreaming that there is currently life on mars. But there may be evidence of that life once existed there and if that is true then it has huge implications. Perhaps the most important implication would be for SETI. If life developed on Mars independently from Earth that makes it much more likely that life is actually pretty common in the galaxy. Not intelligent life, but life nevertheless. It could even be concluded that when the conditions are right life will nearly always develop. There is a theory that life here actually started from life on Mars. It doesn't seem very likely, but it would be nice to find that Mars life was not DNA based or was in some other way obviously not from here. Back in the 70s Viking did seem to detect life in one of its soil tests.

Re:Once again I'll say it (5, Insightful)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44324463)

Am I the only one who is bored beyond tears with these Mars revelations?

My guess is that the vast majority of non-nerds are just as bored with extraplantery discoveries as you. The majority here though are probably keen to get as many of these science stories as they can.

Re:Once again I'll say it (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44324767)

Am I the only one who is bored beyond tears with these Mars revelations?

No. But there are enough people who are not bored to keep the exploration going. Don't be insulted, but the world need ditch diggers too.

No, we do not need to put boots on Mars. (1, Insightful)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#44323779)

Mars is trapped in its orbit and will remain there for the foreseeable future. It will still be there once we have developed the new energy solutions we need on this planet.

How can you resist? (3, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44324053)

Mars is trapped in its orbit and will remain there for the foreseeable future. It will still be there once we have developed the new energy solutions we need on this planet.

What application is demanding the development of new energy solutions? Right now ALL OF OUR EGGS ARE IN ONE BASKET. Solving the extinction problem should be priority #1. You call yourself Sentient?! Get your ass to Mars. Damn, we can't be ANY more blunt than that! The dinosaurs! Think!

So, here you are, with a space program. You've got a HUGE fabulous moon that's easy to see and get to that's got the same chemical composition of your planet, and a nice deep crater at the south pole to hang out in from solar storms. The next planet out has more gravity but has no magnetic field or atmosphere, but it's got resources you can use... PERFECT trial grounds for learning how to survive in deep space. Beyond that, there's a huge asteroid field with abundant resources for building things in space without the gravity tax, including Ceres a dwarf planet made of ice and rock... Ice = water = hydrogen & oxygen... grrrrr. Next we have a HUGE Gas Giant to study gravitational effects without getting burnt by the sun. In the solar system you just happen to find yourself in there are beautiful ringed worlds further out, and There's ice moons and moons full of methane, and... And... AND.

calm, stay calm...

And this puny minded ape wants to JUST SIT THERE?! You let defected pieces of shit like this survive among you?! You'll NEVER solve the Fermi Paradox at this rate!

Re:How can you resist? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324289)

Please watch less science fiction.
Please learn to distinguish fiction from reality.
Please post less.

Re:How can you resist? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324443)

You are dealing with a stereotypical Space Nutter here. Juvenile fantasies, doom and gloom and pretend-caring about the speeeecieeeees.

The Fermi Paradox is only a paradox if you think other life forms would somehow have access to different materials and energy sources than we do.

It's a given that it's the same Periodic Table of Elements all across the universe. Any aliens on other planets will have the same exact physics and chemistry we have. They'll have the same limits on energy sources and materials, and I believe evolution will have the same effect on them, ie they won't be any better adapted to long-term survival in space than we are.

The Fermi Paradox really should be "Given what we KNOW about reality, why do people still think it's like Star Trek out there?"

Very simply put: We are here, they are there, and no one's coming over for a visit. End of story.

Re:How can you resist? (4, Insightful)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year ago | (#44324909)

I believe evolution will have the same effect on them, ie they won't be any better adapted to long-term survival in space than we are.

Our bodies are not adapted for speed like a cheetah. So we will never travel faster than a human can run. We don't have big teeth. So we can never be predator. Only prey. We don't have wings. So we will never fly. We don't have gills. So we will never swim underwater longer than we can hold our breath. And obviously we will never ever be able to walk on the moon because there is no air there and we need air to survive.

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44353061)

perfect reply.

We surely won't be able to do anything.. if we don't try.

Re:How can you resist? (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44326317)

simple because what we don't KNOW about reality is a billion times greater than what we do know. Or when i was sleeping did we solve the physics of Gravity?

  What happens if you take a higgs particle and add it to an existing atom?

Those two things alone should make you think about others. I think we are going to find a way to expand small quantum mechcanics effects on larger scales. Of course it is a pipe dream, and probably false but it is better than the flat earth philosophy you seem to think of .

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324629)

The Fermi Paradox solves itself just fine without our going to see for ourselves, you know.

1. Transcendence
2. Inevitable self-annihilation
3. Annihilation by third parties who don't want to share

Take your pick.

As for the "are we there yet?!" sentiment, the answer is "No. Now sit down and shut the fuck up already." Patience. We've been here for a long while, biologically speaking, and we're not in any rush. Our existential threats right now are ourselves and cosmic phenomena that being on multiple planets would not solve. In other words -- we actually do have more important things to take care of right now (such as moral / spiritual evolution, namely, but also some technological problems like energy and the light-speed-limit issue) before we set out.

Re:How can you resist? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44324913)

The Fermi Paradox solves itself just fine without our going to see for ourselves, you know.

1. Transcendence

Goddamn hippies.

2. Inevitable self-annihilation

There's nothing inevitable about self-annihilation. We've got exactly one data point as far as species capable of it go, and that one hasn't self-annihilated yet.

3. Annihilation by third parties who don't want to share

What third parties would those be? There's only us and, possibly, aliens who are not-us. I think that covers everything.

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44325515)

Goddamn hippies.

Transcendence is entirely possible, and with multiverse talk gaining only more speed and traction in cosmology, it's pretty silly to reject on the basis of lack of evidence the premise of what has only ever been claimed to be a speculation about a speculation... In other words, you can't prove that transcendence isn't possible, and no one is trying to claim that it is, only wondering whether it is. The distinction is subtle, I know, but do try.

There's nothing inevitable about self-annihilation. We've got exactly one data point as far as species capable of it go, and that one hasn't self-annihilated yet.

No, but in our incredibly brief history, we've had too many near-misses to count already, and our potential for world-destruction is only getting greater (as if it needed to from this point). And let's not forget the couple dozen (yes -- DOZEN) mass extinctions that took place without any effort by Man.

What third parties would those be? There's only us and, possibly, aliens who are not-us. I think that covers everything.

You're missing the forest for the trees. The Fermi Paradox does not posit that there are no aliens -- it only wonders why we haven't seen any evidence of them. So "apex predator" aliens running around wiping out aliens before evidence of stellar engineering / broadcasting is created would be a good explanation. Beyond a certain point of technological advancement, it's just ludicrous to assume that we would be capable of detecting the actions of such beings. This is still a valid solution to the Paradox.

After all... we're here, aren't we? The Paradox can (and should) be framed from the "outside" perspective, too, you know.

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44328903)

Transcendence is entirely possible, and with multiverse talk gaining only more speed and traction in cosmology, it's pretty silly to reject on the basis of lack of evidence the premise of what has only ever been claimed to be a speculation about a speculation... In other words, you can't prove that transcendence isn't possible, and no one is trying to claim that it is, only wondering whether it is

Make up your mind.

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44331631)

To wonder about something unknown is not to make a claim about it.

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44326723)

We've got exactly one data point as far as species capable of it go, and that one hasn't self-annihilated yet.

I think you're overlooking the great Raptor crusades which killed off the dinosaurs.

Re:How can you resist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44329039)

I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout.

Energize the demolition beams.

Re:No, we do not need to put boots on Mars. (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44324771)

The sun is trapped in its orbit too. It makes a lap around Sag A* about once every 250 million years.

Re:Once again I'll say it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323843)

Next robot we send we till tape a pair of Doc Martins tot he side of it....

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323913)

We should probably put a few astronauts there as well.

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323943)

Who else would drop off the boots?

Re:Once again I'll say it (2)

ruiner13 (527499) | about a year ago | (#44324347)

Wow, it used to have a thick atmosphere AND feet? Awesome! What is Mars' shoe size?

Re:Once again I'll say it (1)

Sardaukar86 (850333) | about a year ago | (#44325201)

What is Mars' shoe size?

OK, so I'm off-topic and wasting everyone's time here and I do apologise:

I can't believe it but I just saw correct (advanced) apostrophe usage on the 'dot. Life on other planets doesn't seem quite so unlikely now.

And on spelling optional day too!

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44327587)

We need to put Gloshes on Mars!

Re:Once again I'll say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44328113)

We need to put boots on Mars

Say it as often as you like, but it still sounds stupid, pointless, and wasteful. Sure it's romantic. That's why the main people pushing for this are ex-astronauts.

Terraforming Mars (3, Funny)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#44323431)

If we're going to terraform mars, I say we should go big.

Collide Mars and Venus together, that gets you a planet that's 92% of the mass of the Earth. Maybe add Mercury in there as well, that gets you 98%.

Move to an appropriate orbit and wait for it to cool... ;)

With the violence of the impact, you should be able to get a magnetic field going. I figure that the collision that created the earth & moon is what kickstarted ours.

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323485)

I hope we are safely away from the solar system when this is done. Not sure how you put in that massive amount of kinetic energy to change the orbits of planets in the solar system without affect Earth's or other planet orbits.

Re:Terraforming Mars (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324075)

Assuming an Earth-sized planet in Venus orbit, even at its very closest, it would only accelerate the Earth at about 3 mm / s^2. If we can manage to move Mars and Mercury to collide with Venus in such a way that all material is maintained by Venus, such a minute effect on our orbit is meaningless. But since we're dreaming up unicorns, let's move Mars to be a moon of Venus instead. Then we can terraform both and have a nicely habitable double planet.

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324639)

Conveyor belt of asteroids stealing / bestowing acceleration between the bodies while they are being mined and transformed into habitats... Sounds like a rather efficient long-term plan to me. Besides, until interstellar travel is possible, what else have we got to do with ourselves? Having multiple inhabited worlds while making progress in other areas sounds like a very wise thing to me...

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324703)

You're so painfully ignorant.....shooting asteroids to alter an orbit that way would take billions of years

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44325747)

...and billions more asteroids than we actually have... all the asteroid material in the inner solar system combined have around 4% of the moon's mass. Even if you move the whole lot around at will, you'd struggle to make Mars even wobble a bit.

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324967)

Quick patent it and sell it to Intellectual Ventures.

Re:Terraforming Mars (2)

kcmastrpc (2818817) | about a year ago | (#44323487)

The molten iron core gives earth a strong magnetic core. How do you figure a collision created this?

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323557)

How did the iron coalesce into the center?

Re:Terraforming Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44325741)

Because it's heavy, and heavy things sink to the centre. Most all of the heavy elements have sunk to the core.

Re:Terraforming Mars (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#44323803)

Think of a planet like a giant centrifuge. Smash the two planets together and you'll create enough heat that you'd end up with a massive molten mass. Have the hit be 'off center' and you'll impart a huge amount of kinetic motion. Between gravity and centrifugal forces the heavier elements like iron will tend to end up towards the center while spinning, thus creating your magnetic field.

Re:Terraforming Mars (2)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#44323767)

Immanuel Velikovsky, is that you?

Re:Terraforming Mars (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#44324023)

Move Venus to MSL3 and spin it. As the atmosphere cools, drop chunks of Ganymede every few years for water and possibly organics. If it cools too far (unlikely with all that CO2 and added water), move it to ESL3.

Colliding Mars and Mercury into Venus adds nothing of value, certainly nothing worth the hundred million extra years you'd need to wait afterwards.

Re:Terraforming Mars (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year ago | (#44331993)

As long as we're going big to the level of planetary scale engineering with imaginary technology and power sources, we shouldn't combine planets. We would be better off splitting Venus into some smaller planets. If, for example, we split Venus into two planets, we would end up with about 25% more surface area between the two new planets than the original planet and they would still have surface gravity of about .72 earth gravities. Personally, I think that should be plenty of surface gravity, but, if the goal is to have living space with the same surface gravity as Earth, you could achieve that by tossing out some of the lighter material in the mantle and still end up with multiple smaller planets with more surface area than the original Venus, but the same surface gravity as Earth. Obviously you could get a magnetic field going to provide some protection from solar radiation. Of course, if you're tearing planets apart, you could take some of the extra material and just make a shield of some sort such as an orbital particle cloud or set of solid orbital rings, etc. Shifting the new planets into a further orbit wouldn't be necessary since you could just control how much light reaches them, or even just heat and light them through artificial means (which is not that power-hungry an application compared with tossing planets around). With the power and technology we're talking about to do all this in the first place, waiting for it to cool shouldn't be necessary.

assumptions (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323457)

Basically they start with the assumption that mars once had had free-flowing water.
That implies that the atmosphere should have had higher partial pressure than exists today (otherwize there wouldn't be any free flowing water).
This was not their research.

Given that assumption. These researchers looked at the profile of isotopes in the air and the ground and noted that the atmosphere isotopes skewed heavier than the models of dissolved gasses in the ground from other parts of the solar system. Then they hypothesized that if there was a thicker atmosphere at one time and was dissipated, the lighter isotopes would escape from the top of the atmosphere, leaving the heavier isotopes ratio in the thinned atmosphere. And they observed that this was true so it was consistent with this assumption.

Of course the original assumption about water may or may not be true. Or the composition of the dissolved gasses in the ground may or may not be true. Or the mechanism of lighter isotopes escaping from the top of the atmosphere may or may not be true. At best this is indirect circumstantial supporting evidence of a thick atmosphere hypothesis. Sadly NASA researchers trump up these things for the press to get ahold of (e.g., the ever reoccurring life-on-mars press announcements over the years).

Re:assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323473)

thanks for a proper summary

Re:assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324303)

Sadly NASA researchers trump up these things for the funding.

FTFY

Re:assumptions (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#44325339)

These researchers looked at the profile of isotopes in the air and the ground and noted that the atmosphere isotopes skewed heavier than the models of dissolved gasses in the ground from other parts of the solar system.

I take it they have a statistically relevant number of ground samples from other parts of the solar system to make this judgement then.

I Can't Believe It, It's Like a Dream (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#44323493)

I think we all know what happened to the atmosphere on Mars, and how to replenish it. We just need to find the reactor [youtu.be] . See you at the part, Richter!

Re: I Can't Believe It, It's Like a Dream (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | about a year ago | (#44326519)

party

Re: I Can't Believe It, It's Like a Dream (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#44326847)

Yeah, sorry. Typo. Should have been, "pahty."

How did it form an atmosphere? (2)

spectral7 (2030164) | about a year ago | (#44323501)

How did Mars form an atmosphere in the first place if it has no magnetic field to keep it from getting stripped away?

Re:How did it form an atmosphere? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about a year ago | (#44323663)

It has no magnetic field now. The theory is that there was an active geodynamo (hey, I have used that word twice this week...) originally as the result of residual heat of formation and radioisotope decay, just like the Earth. Mars, being smaller, cooled quicker from the original heat of formation and has smaller quantities of radioisotopes for the volume, so the formerly molten mantle and core have largely solidified. I think the current theory is that the core is still partially molten but not nearly enough to generate the dynamo, and thus no magnetic field to speak of. There are still residual localized magnetic fields possibly laid down when the global field was still active but then altered by the last bit of tectonic activity (which is also essentially non-existent).

Re:How did it form an atmosphere? (5, Informative)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about a year ago | (#44323997)

How did Mars form an atmosphere in the first place if it has no magnetic field to keep it from getting stripped away?

One of my favorite moments in my formal education came when I took a second year geology elective called "Geologic Time". We spent some time discussing the formation of the solar system. If I may, I'll give a brief summary, as it will give some context to your question.

Many billions of years ago, a large star composed of hydrogen formed. Due to the high pressure and temperature in that star, new elements formed by fusion, with the largest element formed being iron. The star had a relatively short life, collapsed, and exploded in a supernova. During the explosion, neutrons, amongst other things were sprayed around the already existing matter. Those neutrons, being neutral, tended to "stick" to other nuclei. This, combined with beta decay explains the formation of elements larger than iron.

A wisp of the dust from that supernova began to coalesce into a spinning disk, due to gravity and angular momentum. The larger amount of material in the center of the disk was pulled together by gravity strongly enough to create fusion. Thus our sun was born. Within the spinning disk, some material was naturally volatile (e.g. water, methane, etc.). Some of the material tended towards becoming solid. One such material was silicon. The silicon reacted with oxygen to form silicon dioxide (I think). The silicon dioxide tended to form solid spheres in much the same way that hail is formed within a thunderstorm. These little spheres of silicon were commonly the size of ball bearings or actual hailstones. We call them chondrules.

When the sun ignited, it created an outwards stream of particles, which we call the solar wind. The particles in the solar wind easily pushed volatile molecules like water and methane outwards, away from the Sun. However, the solar wind was not able to push silicon chondrules outwards very much, due to their large size (compared to gas molecules). Thus, the inner planets are made of rocky silicon, while the outer planets, beginning with Jupiter, are made of volatile gaseous compounds.

The inner rocky planets slowly expanded in size due to falling rocks (and later comets). Eventually, radioactive decay in the Earth (and Mars) increased the inner temperatures of these planets enough that they melted inside, that is, they changed from largely hetorogenous chunks of rock to something more like today's planets. As the inside of the Earth melted, the most dense elements sank to the center. The most common dense element was iron. Thus the Earth got its iron core. Due to the motion of that solid/liquid iron core, the Earth developed a natural magnetic field. That magnetic field deflected the high speed charged particles in the solar wind around the Earth, thus protecting our atmosphere from being blown away. For some reason that I am not aware of, Mars did not develop a significant magnetic field. Thus, over time, Mars lost its atmosphere due to molecular collisions with particles in the solar wind.

I think the best way to answer your question would be to say that Mars got its atmosphere the same way that Earth did. Likely from some combination of comet collisions bringing volatiles from the outer solar system, and from volcanism releasing volatiles that were initially trapped in the rocky Earth. The solar wind acted on Mars' atmosphere over many billions of years, slowly removing it molecule by molecule. It wouldn't have happened right away...it would have taken a very long time to thin Mar's atmosphere significantly.

There...a bit longer than what I intended, but not bad considering what I described.

Re:How did it form an atmosphere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324759)

kk so here's the thing:

Mars is made of iron. That's why it's red. So why no plate tectonics? It had plenty water which is also required for plate tectonics.

I think it's the moon that riles up the Earth's core. No moon no active core even with water and plenty iron.

Which quite possibly partially resolves Fermi. Well that and the fact that it's seriously unlikely we overlap in time and/or space with any potential signals.

Re:How did it form an atmosphere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44330699)

You know how I know you have never played Doom?

Re:How did it form an atmosphere? (1)

Thrymm (662097) | about a year ago | (#44325139)

It probably had a magnetic field in the long distant past. I am no geologist, but assume many of the same elements are on Mars as Earth; however Earth is much denser. Olympus Mons is about 14 miles high. Something was hot liquid billions of years ago, and if there were metallic ores, would have generated a magnetic field for at least a little while.

Another idea (3, Interesting)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a year ago | (#44323625)

I'm pushing the limits of the google translator, but where we go.

I believe Mars was once equal to Earth: Dense enought atmosphere, oceans of water on the surface, and even a magnetic field protecting the atmosphere. But, some day long, long ago this [wikipedia.org] happened, and caused the equivalent of Armageddon on the planet and turned him into what we know today. A "killed" planet.

Re:Another idea (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#44324059)

The Hellas Basin impact would have increased the amount of volatiles in the atmosphere, delaying the "thinning". It can't be responsible for Mars' loss of atmosphere and water, impacts don't work that way.

IMO, the impacts in the Late Heavy Bombardment are probably the reason Mars ever had an atmosphere/ocean. Once the bombardment ended, the planet started to geologically freeze up, and that prevented the atmosphere from being replenished.

Re:Another idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324815)

I remember from somewhere (Nova?) that large volcanoes (Mars has the highest) spewed away inner hot iron to the surface (hence the color red), effectively cooling the core faster and stopping the dynamo that powered its magnetic field.

The Creepiest Thing About This Movie.. The Arrival (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323665)

Is that something quite like it might actually be going on!

I myself would have thought it insane not too long ago, but the way world leaders are systematically and purposely messing up the planet with flouride, GMOs, cancer adjuvants, and so many other things that seem meant for the specific purpose of destroying the human population, it doesn't make any sense to any rational human being. But what if this is being carried out for other-than human beings? What if they really DO want us all dead, so they can take the world for themselves?

The other creepy thing is that this same theme has played out in so many other movies.. "They Live," "Body Snatchers," "Oblivion," it's all basically the same thing. And you look at the Bilderbergers and what they are doing, and how it is becoming more and more apparent that there is a globalist "elite" that really pulls the strings out there, and we seem to hear that they are worshiping demons and such, but that they have an odd code of honor that they must tell people what they are going to do before they do it... this makes these films all the creepier. Are they a message? Maybe.

Listen to David Icke. He will sound like an absolute fruit loop at first, but more and more of what he says is beginning to make sense.

discussion -- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115571/board/threads/ [imdb.com]
movie -- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115571/ [imdb.com]

The Arrival ((1996))

CAN you FEEL THAT BUDDY? huh huh huh?

Re:The Creepiest Thing About This Movie.. The Arri (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#44323785)

Mod up.

Re:The Creepiest Thing About This Movie.. The Arri (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324121)

Here's the problem with your theory: Assuming aliens who could travel across the stars would even need to come to Earth (rather than, say, a perfectly habitable planet closer to home), a handful of custom viruses-that I suspect we could make ourselves-could wipe out the entire human race.

Re: The Creepiest Thing About This Movie.. The Arr (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44325911)

And what if they would be susceptible to the virus too?

Or they don't want to kill off the whole human race, just parts.

Re:The Creepiest Thing About This Movie.. The Arri (2)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44324497)

Listen to David Icke. He will sound like an absolute fruit loop at first, but more and more of what he says is beginning to make sense.

So you are saying his paranoia is infectious?

more importantly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323739)

were there midgets on Mars carrying machine guns?

Mars... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323941)

Get your ass there.

Old News (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#44324061)

There is not a single thing in this summery that has not be talked about extensively in 20 year old documentaries.

Re:Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324073)

Jesus, I hope English is not your first language.

Atmospheric Loss? (3, Interesting)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about a year ago | (#44324081)

This article seems to be alluding to the solar wind stripping Mars's atmosphere away. Wasn't there just a study a few months ago showing that the effects of solar winds on a planetary atmosphere are not nearly as significant as was once believed, and that there is almost no way that the solar wind alone could be responsible for the Martian atmospheres losses. Personally I'd trust that data a lot more as I think it was based on current measurements of the effects of the solar wind on the Martian atmosphere, not extrapolations from microscopic amounts of materials found in Martian meteorites that likely went through extreme events getting here (being blown off of Mars, spending years, decades, centuries and even eons in space, and then atmospheric reentry) that could have altered their chemistry. My two cents on the whole thing is most of the Martian atmosphere is probably still on Mars, tens, hundreds or even thousands of miles below the surface. Most people don't conceive of how narrow a margin we cling to life on this spinning ball of mud floating on a sea of lava. If you took a basketball and laid a single sheet of paper on its surface that width is far more than the area in which humans can survive without supplemental support systems. As the planets interior cooled the atmosphere may have retreated into the crust, on Earth this is prevented the elements in question (water, nitrogen, oxygen) tend to be ejected by Earths interior in a variety of ways (geysers, volcanoes, fissures) because of their tendency to expand when they come into contact with heat. On Mars as the planet cooled the atmosphere could have leaked through fissures and permeable areas in the crust as the internal temperatures were no longer able to keep it near the surface. This could open interesting possibilities for colonization, as to retrieve significant amounts of atmosphere, water and other necessary components future colonists may only need to sink "wells" deep enough to reach those deposits. Microbial life may even have followed these life sustaining elements into the planets crust as they retreated over the eons.

Re:Atmospheric Loss? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324343)

Some of the stuff I've read, and since I'm not spending any of my own precious brain power on this I can't say but here goes.

In the upper atmosphere on earth solar radiation (UV, etc) breaks appart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen ions. Turns out that due to the distribution of velocities, a small percentage of hydrogen ions have escape velocity, and they zoom off into space never to return. As such the earth is losing hydrogen at a fair rate. Not much per day but over 100's of millions of years it's a lot. Mars with it's much smaller gravity well would have a lost hydrogen and other gases at a vastly higher rate, so that a billion years in it would have lost an oceans worth.

First to say it (1)

hessian (467078) | about a year ago | (#44324097)

Mars was once a thriving world.

Its citizens became decadent, and they turned their technology on each other in a final war.

A few brave ones came to earth and made it resemble their erstwhile home, which they could observe through telescopes in its final nuclear holocaust.

Re:First to say it (1)

margeman2k3 (1933034) | about a year ago | (#44324557)

There was a short story I read like that, except I can't find it online.
Earth was prosperous, until war and climate change made it uninhabitable. There was a legend of another prosperous/utopian planet they could go to when their own became uninhabitable, so humanity gathers the last of their resources, and all of humanity (whatever's left of it at this point) migrates to Mars.
At the end, they find a plaque on Mars saying that Earth was the planet where humanity would go when their own planet (Mars) was uninhabitable.

Space Balls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324229)

I suggest the atmospheric containment system of the planet Druidia.

Re:Space Balls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324499)

That's great until somebody farts.

Those darn selfish martians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44326907)

It was the SUV's on mars wasn't it

What a waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44327137)

This is nothing more than scientist getting millions and millions of government dollars for the sole purpose of trying to prove evolution. Further, the whole Mars exploration is to try to prove that there is no God. The end of every evolutionist's life immediately proves them wrong.
All of this Mars waste could be used to replenish our aging satellites. What an absolute waste.

Re:What a waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44328825)

Nope, that's not going to cut it. Go back to GameFAQs and practice some more, you're not ready to troll here.

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