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Published on Nov 5, 2015
Mars is a cold and barren desert today, but scientists think that in the ancient past it was warm and wet. The loss of the early Martian atmosphere may have led to this dramatic change, and one of the prime suspects is the solar wind. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the stream of charged particles continuously blowing off the Sun. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the Mars upper atmosphere and can accelerate ions into space. Now, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has observed this process in action – by measuring the speed and direction of ions escaping from Mars. This data visualization compares simulations of the solar wind and Mars atmospheric escape with new measurements taken by MAVEN.