Scientists believes that massive dust storms may bear the responsiblity for destroying the Martian atmosphere eons ago.
In a potentially groundbreaking new discovery, scientists have found that huge dust storms could have played a big role in wrecking the Martian atmosphere and causing gas to excape into space, making it the uninhabitable hellscape it is today.
While scientists knew that water once flowed freely on the surface of the Red Planet, with tons of riverbeds, canyons, and minerals bearing witness to that, it was unclear as to why Mars totally dried up. Experts posited that solar wind stripped that atmosphere around Mars, causing the planet to then lose its magnetic field, which all took place about 4 billion years ago. That in turn doomed the water on the planet.
But this new study, based on data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, tells a different story. MRO observed an increase in water vapor in the middle atmosphere about 30 to 60 miles above the ground during dust storms, particularly during one dust storm in 2007 that affected the entire planet. The vapor moved higher and higher, and rapidly increased in volume.
More research will be needed, as global dust storms only come around every so often so there are not many opportunities to study it in depth. However, an opportunity could be upcoming, as the next big Martian dust storm is expected to begin this summer and last until 2019.