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This animation shows how a particular stream of the solar wind sweeps through space, interacting with both Earth and Mars. They found that while the pressure of the solar wind increased at each planet by similar amounts, the increase in the rate of loss of martian oxygen was ten times that of Earth’s increase.
Such a difference would have a dramatic impact over billions of years, leading to large losses of the martian atmosphere, perhaps explaining or at least contributing to its current tenuous state.
The result proves the efficacy of Earth’s magnetic field in deflecting the solar wind and protecting our atmosphere. Now, by making measurements during a planetary alignment when the two planets were being hit by exactly the same part of the solar wind, the team have proved it in reality. They now hope to extend their work by incorporating data from ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft, which also carries a sensor that can measure the loss of its atmosphere.
Venus will provide an important new perspective on the issue because like Mars, it has no global magnetic field, yet it is similar in size to Earth and has a much thicker atmosphere. This artist's impression shows how the solar wind shapes the magnetospheres of Venus (top), Earth (middle) and Mars (bottom).
There are a number of upcoming planetary alignments that will provide good opportunities for such studies.


In addition, scientists are keen to observe how the increase in solar activity associated with the current solar cycle may affect the loss of atmospheric particles from all three planets. A camera visiting Venus, onboard the Venus Express spacecraft, has sent back its first pictures of the planet. ESAa€™s Science Programme Committee has extended the operations of ESAa€™s Mars Express, Venus Express and Cluster missions until 31 December 2009.
Despite its magnetic field, Earth is losing its atmosphere to space at about the same rate as planets that lack this protective barrier against the solar wind. Planet-hunting is an ongoing process that's resulting in the discovery of more and more planets orbiting distant stars.
We have the largest print-on-demand fulfillment network in the world with 15 manufacturing centers in five different countries. If you can't find the answers to your question on our FAQ page, please submit a support ticket, and our staff will respond to your question(s) right away. Conceptual computer artwork of the Earth being protected by its magnetic field (magnetosphere). Unlike Earth, which has an internal magnetic field, Mars lacks a planet-wide magnetic field so the martian magnetosphere is smaller than the terrestrial one. Unlike Venus and Mars, Earth has an internal magnetic field which makes its magnetosphere bigger.


For the first time, scientists are able to investigate from the top of its atmosphere, down nearly to the surface.
It acquired its moniker because of its shape and its apparent color when seen in early images from Earth. The Sun's wind, which originates from its hot outer layer (corona), contains charged particles emitted at a rate equivalent to about one-millionth of the moon's mass each year. The yellow swirls surrounding the Earth are charged particles from the Sun (the solar wind). This allowed a direct evaluation of the effectiveness of Earth’s magnetic field in protecting our atmosphere. Earth's magnetic field is caused by fluid dynamo processes in its iron core, and the resulting electric currents. Intense solar storms, such as solar flares, produce potential lethal levels of radiation for astronauts in space, raise radiation levels on the Earth's surface, and severely disrupt satellite and radio communications.



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