Here’s 4 billion years of Martian evolution, in just under two minutes (VIDEO)


posted Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 3:18 PM EDT

Image Credit: Michael Lentz/NASA Goddard Conceptual Image Lab

If you've spent any time playing with the Mars panoramas that have come from the Curiosity rover, you know that currently, Mars is an arid waste, totally incapable of harboring life, or even water. But that wasn't always the case — billions of years ago, the Martian atmosphere was radically different, and capable of holding liquid water. This animation from NASA takes you through four billion years of Martian atmospheric change, as the planet transforms from blue to red.

This animation comes from the NASA Goddard Conceptual Image Lab, and is made with help from scientists that are part of the upcoming Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission. MAVEN is set to launch this month, and arrive on Mars in September of 2014, where it will analyze Mars' atmosphere, and investigate how it came to be the way it is today.

It's believed that billions of years ago, Mars had a thick enough atmosphere to keep water in its liquid state, an essential factor for potentially being able to harbor life. As the animation suggests, at that point in the planet's history, it would have had blue skies much like our own, too. It's thought the planet lost its magnetic field, which meant the atmosphere was then eroded by solar winds.

Hopefully, MAVEN will provide is with a lot more information about the pre-history of the red planet. Until then, we can just watch this animation, and imagine what it might once have been. 

(via PopSci)