NASA Scientist to Discuss “The Case of the Missing Martian Atmosphere” at Library of Congress Lecture

feed-307WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The public is invited to a free talk called “The Case of the Missing Martian Atmosphere” with Dr. Jared Espley in the Pickford Theater, third floor, Madison Building, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. on Thursday, September 18 at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

Jared Espley is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and a team member on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission. His talk will focus on climate change on Mars and the MAVEN mission.

Several types of evidence from past Mars missions lead us to believe that Mars used to be much different from the dry, cold place we find today. Ancient gullies and canyons look as if they were carved by flowing water, minerals that can only be made in standing water have been found, and ancient volcanoes of many sizes litter the surface. Clearly, the atmosphere had to have been thicker and possibly warmer to support so much liquid water on the surface.

What happened? Because Mars lacks a planetary-sized magnetic field, the solar wind is able to gradually erode its upper atmosphere. Could a whole atmosphere’s worth of erosion have taken place? MAVEN which was launched on November 18, 2013 and is set to arrive September 21 should help us explore this possibility.

“MAVEN’s goals are related to one of the fundamental mysteries of Mars — we want to figure out how Mars went from a warm, wet environment to the cold, dry desert we see today,” Espley said.

He notes that the spacecraft won’t actually touch down on the planet, but will dip into its atmosphere, enter an elliptical orbit, and sample the solar wind. It will examine how the atmosphere is thinning and why water disappeared over the area. Scientists hope that discovering more about how the climate on Mars shifted over long periods of time could offer greater understanding of our changing climate here on Earth.

Climate Change on Mars is the first program of the 2014 fall science series of lectures sponsored by the Library’s Science, Technology and Business division in partnership with NASA Goddard.

If you cannot make it to the lecture, it will be captured and later broadcast on the Library’s science/technology webcast page and YouTube channel “Topics in Science” playlist in the coming months. In the meantime, you might be interested in viewing Dr. Pamela Conrad’s 2013 program Extraterrestrial Real Estate- Measuring Habitability on Mars with the Curiosity Rover. You can view a recording of the program on the Library’s Webcast page or YouTube channel. Also, NASA scientist Dr. James Garvin visited the Library in 2010 to give a Mars Update- you can view a webcast or YouTube video of his 2010 presentation.

For more information about NASA’s MAVEN mission, visit:

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