Professor Bernard Wood of Oxford University says Mars’ primitive atmosphere was lost through a sudden “catastrophic” event such as a giant impact, similar to the one which happened to Earth and formed the Moon.
Data returned by the Curiosity rover suggests a “catastrophic” event destroyed the atmosphere of the red planet around four billion years ago.
The Curiosity rover is on two-year investigatory mission to explore one of the most interesting areas of Mars, hunting for evidence of microbes and collecting a host of data and images from the red planet
According to a study of rock samples collected from the surface of the Gusev crater by Nasa’s Spirit rover were found to contain five times as much nickel as Martian meteorites found on Earth.
This suggests that the surface rocks, which are at least 3.7 billion years old, formed in an oxygen-rich environment while the meteorites, aged between 180 million and 1.4 billion years, did not.
Professor Bernard Wood of the department of earth sciences at Oxford University said: “This means most of Mars’ atmosphere has been lost sometime in the past. It seems likely that in the past Mars had a relatively thick atmosphere and it had water in that atmosphere.”