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Curiosity rover finds evidence, Mars lost its atmosphere 4bn years ago

Washington, July 19 (): Scientists suggested from the dual tests by instruments on the Curiosity rover, combined with data from the first Viking probes and Mars meteorites that have fallen to Earth that the Red Planet lost its atmosphere within the first billion years of its history. Two new papers appearing in this week’s issue of Science revealed this finding.

The Mars rover Curiosity has been doing research in the Martian surface and snapping photos at every chance it gets. The research papers from the Mars Science Laboratory talked about the surface of the planet. They said that Mars has been steadily losing its atmosphere over the past 4 billion years.

Curiosity’s tunable laser spectrometer and quadruple mass spectrometer form a part of Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory. They took separate readings of the Martian atmosphere to sort out the elements and measure the pattern of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopes, the papers report.

Paul Mahaffy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre and the principal investigator for SAM and lead author of one of the two papers about Curiosity said as atmosphere was lost, the signature of the process was embedded in the isotopic ratio.

The new results were compared with the very rough readings taken from 1976 Viking probes and with the analysis of isotope variation found in meteorites that have been blasted off Mars by eruptions or impacts. The new data fits current climate models, and NASA says it’s confident about the results.

Adam Burrows, a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University in New Jersey, said that the accuracy of SAM makes these new findings stand out. In the meantime, the measurement of Viking measurements were very rough. But, they have got a pretty consistent picture saying that there has been isotopic enrichment.

Burrows continued that these measurements were not enough to give a complete picture. He said they have to wait and see what Curiosity measures both throughout the planet and throughout the Martian year (almost twice as long as an Earth year) as these ratios change fairly from season to season and place to place. In spite of all such assumptions, he said it is the best data they have got from another world.