You've probably been hearing a lot of wild things about Mars lately -- water, human habitation, space crabs, etc. -- and sometimes it's difficult to determine what to really believe. But today NASA itself (ever a reliable source when it comes to space news) made some heavily-hyped announcements regarding Mars' atmosphere, and how the decidedly desolate Red Planet may have looked a lot like our wet, squishy Earth at one point, before solar storms ravaged the atmosphere and solar winds destroyed Mars' ocean -- essentially turning the planet into an encompassing desert.
So, this "big news," is honestly a little underwhelming. We were expecting Space Crabs, dudes.
At any rate, data collected by NASA's Maven rover has determined that when it was younger, it was warmer and wetter (who wasn't, am I right?) but a gigantic burst of solar gas and magnetism from the Sun literally ripped a portion of the atmosphere away, slowly decaying the planet into the barren, cold environment present today. NASA also confirmed an Aurora present in Mars' Northern Hemisphere, very similar to our Northern Lights.
Here are their findings, in succinctly packaged video form:
The Sun is constantly emitting high-energy particles, especially during solar storms -- on Earth, we're protected from these potentially harmful rays by the magnetic field that surrounds our planet. On Mars, there's not much a field to speak of, so obviously the effects are increasingly detrimental.
"Like the theft of a few coins from a cash register every day, the loss becomes significant over time...We've seen that the atmospheric erosion increases significantly during solar storms, so we think the loss rate was much higher billions of years ago when the sun was young and more active,” Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator, said in a previous statement.
So what does this mean for Earth? Should we be terrified that our own wet and warm planet will follow the same fate as that cold, only slightly wet, red planet? With conditions like these, is it even possible for us to colonize -- or potentially terraform -- Mars? Will we ever be able to go up there and see that space babe and/or endorse her candidacy in the Miss Universe pageant?