On Thursday, Nov. 5 at 2 pm ET, NASA will announce their latest discovery about Mars and its mysterious atmosphere.
You can watch it live on NASA TV and ask your questions on Twitter using #AskNASA. We’ve provided the livestream at the end of this post.
This announcement is just the latest in a series of major discoveries about the Red Planet, including the strongest evidence yet of flowing, liquid water on the surface, reported last September.
As of right now, NASA isn’t providing many details about the announcement, except for saying that they will present “key science findings” about Mars’ atmosphere, which is still a major mystery.
Scientists think that the Martian atmosphere was much thicker in the past than it is today and has slowly been thinning out over millions of years. Right now, Mars’ atmosphere is less than 1% the thickness of Earth’s.
How thick the atmosphere used to be and how Mars lost most of it is still an ongoing subject of research. An answer to these questions could help scientists determine how habitable Mars was in the distant past and what our chances are of finding evidence of ancient life today.
Last year, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft began orbiting Mars for the sole purpose of examining its atmosphere in unprecedented detail.
In particular, MAVEN is investigating how water and carbon dioxide molecules disassociate into their individual, atomic hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon components.
Some of these atoms escape the Martian atmosphere, so by looking at their abundance changes over time, scientists can get a better idea of what’s causing these elements to separate from their parent molecules and escape into space.
Though NASA did not specify whether these findings are from MAVEN or another spacecraft, it’s safe to say this is a MAVEN announcement. That’s because four out of the five scientists presenting today are on the MAVEN team.
Here’s who will be presenting, and don’t forget to tune back in at 2 pm ET for the announcement:
- Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters
- Bruce Jakosky, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) principal investigator at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder
- Jasper Halekas, MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyser instrument lead at the University of Iowa, Iowa City
- Yaxue Dong, MAVEN science team member at LASP
- Dave Brain, MAVEN co-investigator at LASP
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