MAVEN Looks for Clues to Mar’s Missing Atmosphere

Maven is improving our understanding of Mars
An artist’s conception of MAVEN in orbit around Mars

Where did Mar’s thicker atmosphere go?

This shot shows water ice clouds at the top that indicate a storm front on the Red Planet

Mars has always been a mystery

Astronomy News – Space scientists looking at the atmosphere of the Red Planet have a bit of a mystery on their hands as the facts would seem to indicate that Mars should have a much more prominent atmosphere. The formation of an atmosphere thick enough for liquid water to flow on the planet’s surface would have made the Red Planet a very promising place for the formation of life in our solar system. Planet scientists that have been studying Mars and the data collected by instruments they have focused on the Red Planet and are planning on journeying to the Red Planet to delve into the mystery of Mar’s atmosphere using MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission), sometime in the future. They want to see if they can find any clues as to where Mar’s atmosphere might have gone and the possible reasons it’s no longer present on Mars. They also want to see if they can determine a timeline for the disappearance of the Red Planet’s thick atmosphere, which could give them an idea whether Mar’s had time to develop life forms.

Planet scientists looking at the surface of Mars see features that lead them to believe that the surface of the Red Planet has been a cold and barren place for billions of years. This is hardly the environment for Earth-based life to develop, but surface features resembling water-channels of some kind and minerals scientists know will form in the presence of water have been found on the surface of Mars. These facts lead planet scientists to the possibility that Mars once had a much thicker atmosphere and was warm enough for liquid water to flow along the surface of Mars. The only problem is Mars currently has a very thin atmosphere unable to protect any liquid water that forms on the surface of Mars from the radiation of the sun and consequently any water would have been scoured from the planet’s surface, long ago. This environment would be the end-of-the-road for any known Earth-based life form, but it’s possible any Martian life forms that existed during the time when Mar’s thicker atmosphere went missing could have decided to go underground in order to survive. NASA plans on sending MAVEN out to the Red Planet to see if they can find any clues to the mystery of where Mar’s thicker atmosphere went, sometime in 2013, if NASA’s current plans stay on target.

Evidence exists suggesting Mars once had a lot more water

What are the possible reasons Mar’s no longer has a much thicker atmosphere? Space scientists at this point believe that Sol could be the main culprit in the disappearance of the Red Planet’s atmosphere, that Sol’s breath, or solar wind, is the possible force responsible for Mars no longer having a much thicker atmosphere possibly capable of supporting Earth-based life. They think it’s possible the electrically charged ions and electrons in the solar wind could have slowly stripped away Mar’s thicker atmosphere in its early days, after Mars lost its global magnetic field, which would have normally shielded the thicker atmosphere of the Red Planet from the force of Sol’s solar wind, just as Earth’s global magnetic field protects our atmosphere from the solar wind. Sol’s solar wind isn’t the only possibly culprit in the disappearance of Mar’s thicker atmosphere and NASA’s planning on sending MAVEN to the Red Planet within the next two years to take a look at what remains of the upper atmosphere of Mars, the ionosphere and the way the atmosphere of the Red Planet interacts with Sol and its solar wind.

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Your Child’s FirstScope Will Open Their Eyes to the Possibilities in the Universe

The Celestron Firstscope is the perfect gift for the little astronomer
This telescope will change your child’s view of the world and universe around them

Astronomy Products

Open your child’s eyes to the universe with a Celestron FirstScope

Set up your FirstScope at your favorite dark sky spot and let your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” begin

Take a child on a journey to the beginning of space and time

Astronomy Products – Take your child into the dark places of the Earth and spend the night staring upward at the night sky they probably didn’t really know existed. This could be your opportunity to open up their mind to the real world and the possibilities of space and time, and turn interest into fascination. This is how astronomers are future game changers of the world and humanity are created. Celestron’s FirstScope will light the fire of discovery in your child’s mind and set them on a course that could lead to great moments in history.

Only $49.95, Celestron’s FirstScope is a 3-inch reflector with a standard 1 1/4 inch rack-and-pinion focuser, 20mm and 4mm eyepieces (which magnify 15x and 75x, respectively), and an amazing steady tabletop mount. Weighing just 4.5 pounds (2 kg), the FirstScope is light enough for your young ones to carry around safely, and sensitive enough to allow them to enjoy viewing the Moon, bright planets, and dozens of deep sky objects. The FirstScope also has the option of a separate accessory kit, which includes a finder scope, two eyepieces, a Moon filter and CD-ROM planetarium program, all for only $20. 


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A True Pioneer of the Human Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time

Crater Goddard is a good object to begin a young astronomers study of the Moon
Crater Goddard arcs past the Moons’ eastern limb during a few nights in October, beginning on the 10th

The Moon dances, spins and twirls and crater Goddard arcs past your view

On the 10th of October, you’ll see lots of real estate between the Moon’s eastern limb and Mare Crisium

The Moon was one of the first celestial objects viewed by man

Star gazers can pay respects to a true pioneer of human space travel Robert Goddard beginning on the night of October 10th, by taking a journey to the Moon to view the crater named after this gentleman of astronomy. Your view of the Moon’s crescent will show plenty of open landscape between the Moon’s eastern limb and Mare Crisium on this night.

Astronomy News – A large oval plain encompassing an area 270 miles wide by 350 miles long, with the long side running east to west, Mare Crisium will appear different on this night because of the foreshortening of the lunar globe. Mare Crisium also stands alone on the surface of the Moon and isn’t interconnected with the other maria you’ll view on the Moon’s surface during your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. The last place on the Moon’s surface to be visited by mankind, Mare Crisium, or the Sea of Crises, was host to the unmanned soviet spacecraft Luna 24 in 1976. Look for dark patches along the Moon’s limb on October 10th, which is actually hardened lava of Mare Marginis, the Sea on the Margin, and finds the short white arc just beyond the eastern shore of the sea. This short white arc is the illuminated rim of crater Goddard. Watch as Goddard arcs past the Moon’s eastern limb over the next few nights and you’ll get a good lesson in how the Earth’s satellite moves as the Moon’s eastern limb rotates away from Earth.

On October 15th, Goddard will appear in profile and you should see the rim of this crater poking outward, like two towering peaks framing a darker interior. On October 18th, Goddard will have disappeared over the limb and only about half of Mare Marginis will be viewable. On October 22nd, the Moon will be in full phase at 9:37 P.M. EDT and only an outline of the shoreline of Mare Marginis will be visible. By this time, Mare Crisium will appear much closer to the limb and is prominent in your view of the Moon.

Take a young astronomer on a journey to the Moon tonight

Why does Mare Crisium appear closer and what causes this visual sleight-of-hand? The Moon actually spins at a pretty constant rate, generally completing one rotation on its axis each month. In the same time frame, however, the Moon orbits the Earth on an elliptical path, and this means the Moon’s speed of rotation will vary. This allows viewers to see a few degrees beyond the normal limb of the Moon during specific time frames of the lunar cycle, which is an effect an astronomer refers to as the libration of the Moon.

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