According to research, huge dust storms on Mars contributed to atmosphere and water loss on the Red Planet. It is believed that the planet used to be a much warmer and wetter world a long time ago. Researchers suggest that the planet froze due to the process of gas escaping from its atmosphere. Scientists already knew of the phenomenon of atmosphere loss on the planet, although they never studied it as in-depth as in this study.
The new study indicates that the dust storms on Mars are responsible for the ongoing process of gas escaping from the planet’s atmosphere. The study was published this week in the journal Nature Astronomy. The study was conducted based on the observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) at the time of the most recent Martian global dust storm in 2007. However, scientists are optimistic about gathering more details as a massive dust storm on Mars is likely to occur again this year. It’ll likely grow so large that it’ll darken the sky surrounding the entire planet, according to the statement.
“We found there’s an increase in water vapor in the middle atmosphere in connection with dust storms,” Nicholas Heavens of Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Water vapour is carried up with the same air mass rising with the dust.”
Scientists used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter in order to detect the association between the existence of water vapor in Mars’ middle atmosphere and escaping hydrogen from the top of the atmosphere. However, according to the scientists from NASA, they discovered this process in years without the dramatic changes produced in the global dust storm.
“It would be great to have a global dust storm we could observe with all the assets now at Mars, and that could happen this year,” David Kass of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, the study’s co-author, said in the statement.
Scientists succeeded in sequencing a pattern of multiple regional dust storms on Mars at the time of the northern spring and summer. However in the vast majority of Martian years, those regional dust storms don’t spread into a global dust storm. The regional dust storms expanded to global dust storms in 1977, 1982, 1994, 2001, and 2007. The next global storm is likely to begin in the upcoming summer and will likely last until the beginning of 2019.
According to the statement, the Mars Climate Sounder on MRO is capable of scanning the atmosphere in order to detect dust and ice particles and is able to indirectly sense water vapor concentrations from the effects on the temperature. Scientists used recently refined analysis methods on the 2007 data and discovered an increase in water vapor by more than a hundred-fold in the middle atmosphere at the time when the global storm occurred.