The MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) spaceship launched by NASA to keep an eye on the red planet has sent in some recent reports about its atmosphere. It reports that the atmosphere of Mars is infested with electrically charged metal atoms.
According to NASA, the long life of metallic ions helps them to get far from their original location via neutral winds and electrical fields. They can also be used to infer motion in the ionosphere. Researchers assume that the study of these ions can lead to the detection of the real reason behind the red planet losing its atmosphere, whose presence could have turned it into a livable place.
Reportedly, the metal present in the atmosphere comes from a constant rain of small sized meteoroids on Mars. On hitting the atmosphere of the red planet with high speed, the meteoroid uses to vaporize. The metal atoms present in the vapor get transformed into electrically charged ions after their electrons get torn away by other charged atoms and molecules present in the ionosphere.
According to Forbes, the MAVEN spacecraft plays a very important role in understanding the red planet in a better way. Researchers say that in addition to the meteoroids hitting the atmosphere, the solar flares also hit Mars with high intensity. As the red planet does not have an atmosphere cover, a solar storm directly affects the red planet. The rate of loss of the atmosphere exceeds by four to eight pounds each second during even the weakest of solar storms.
Researchers opine that at this rate, Mars will become airless in the next two billion years. This will turn Mars into the world having close proximity with Moon or Mercury. Other factors like sputtering, thermal escape, and certain photochemical processes might lead to the loss of atmosphere on Mars in a more rapid manner.
Researchers opine that MAVEN, though very efficient, is able to capture only one aspect of the reason behind the loss of atmosphere on the red planet. It will take more in-depth research to understand all the reasons behind this phenomenon.