ISRO finds that Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process

ISRO finds that Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process
ISRO finds Mars atmospheric deterioration is being sped up by global dust stormsISRO
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation’s orbiter around Mars has found that not only is Mars losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, but temperature changes in the upper atmosphere may also be speeding up the process.
  • The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) observed a planet-encircling storm around the Red Planet to find that it heavily impacted the atmospheric rate of loss.
  • These findings confirm what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission found on the other side of the planet.
Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation ( ISRO).

ISRO finds that Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process
Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet's appearance when haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart.NASA

Its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has confirmed what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) found happening on the other side of the planet — Mars’ upper atmosphere heating up and expanding due to global dust storms.

ISRO finds that Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process
NASA’s MAVEN and ISRO’s MOM observe Mars from two different sides during the planet-encircling dust storm to find an increase in Argon density<br>ISRO

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The study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research outlines how the rate of loss is altered by the change in the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere.

Simply put, all terrestrial planets within our solar system are losing their atmosphere to some degree or another. The size of the planet and the temperature of its upper atmosphere determines the rate of loss.

ISRO’s MOM tracks planet-encircling storm on Mars
ISRO pegs Mars’ atmospheric deterioration to be faster than Earth’s because it’s much smaller. However, the planet-encircling dust storms in its upper atmosphere raise the atmospheric temperatures within the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere by several degrees. The impact of this is multifold.

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MOM started to observe a global dust storm building up within the Martian upper atmosphere during the first week of June 2018. By July, the storm had matured.

ISRO finds that Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process
An artistic impression of the Mars upper atmospheric expansion due to the global dust storm. The black arrows in the image indicate the expansion of the upper atmosphere due to the global dust storm.ISRO

Measuring the densities of Mars’ thermosphere, scientists found that Mars' upper atmosphere is warming and expanding. The neutral densities within Mars thermosphere had also increased significantly — something that has also been observed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission.

MOM and MAVEN team up on opposite sides of the Red Planet
While MOM was observing the Red Planet’s evening side, MAVEN was observing the morning side. And comparing the results of the two shows that the argon densities measured by MOM were consistently larger than those measured by MAVEN.
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According to ISRO, the difference is mainly due to atmospheric circulation, which causes warming on the evening side and cooling on the morning side.

Understanding how Mars is losing its atmosphere and the impact that loss is having on the planet can prove integral in the attempt to have humans on the Red Planet someday. NASA’s Perseverance probe is currently travelling across the solar system with three fabric samples that may be used one day to build the spacesuits that astronauts will wear on Mars.

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