How Planet Mars May Have Lost Its Atmosphere
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It is possible that Mars once was as lush as Earth is today. So, what happened?

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There are several ways for Mars to have lost its atmosphere: (1) Mars' low gravity let the atmosphere leak away into space; (2) A lot of impacts of asteroids blasted part of the atmosphere away. The energy of the impacts could have been enough to push the gas away from a planet with small gravity. (3) Mars had a "reverse greenhouse effect" (called a "runaway refrigerator") occur. Since Mars was slightly further from Sun than the Earth, Mars' initial temperature was lower. This meant that the water vapor condensed to form a liquid water layer on the surface. Gaseous carbon dioxide dissolves in liquid water and can then be chemically combined with rocks. The removal of some of the carbon dioxide caused a temperature drop. This caused more water vapor to condense, leading to more removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide. (4) The atmosphere was slowly eaten away by the solar wind that is able to directly reach the upper atmosphere because Mars does not have a magnetic field. (5) A combination of these effects.   NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft, which will be launched in late 2013 and is planned to enter Mars orbit during the fall of 2014, will give us a clearer idea of how Mars lost its atmosphere.   More at
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