Did a rogue planet steal the atmosphere from Mars?

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Offline Jamesá Enix

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Jamesá Enix asked the Naked Scientists:
   
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There was an interesting article in the December podcast concerning the possibility that Mars may have lost its atmosphere to another planet.  I thought that I was the only one who thought of such wild things.

Is there any way to tell where the rouge planet went?  I would think that there is a trail indicating where it went after pulling the Mars atmosphere and water away?   Cosmic dust trails if you will. 

If the rogue earth did take Mars' atmosphere and water we may never know!  I was so long ago that the trail has truly gone cold. 

Any thoughts on this theory?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 25/01/2010 15:30:02 by _system »

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Offline LeeE

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Did a rogue planet steal the atmosphere from Mars?
« Reply #1 on: 26/01/2010 01:25:42 »
Heh - I thought Mars was the 'rouge' planet  [;)]

More seriously though, I strongly doubt that Mars could have lost its atmosphere to a 'rogue' planet.  If another planet were to come close enough to 'steal' its atmosphere it's likely that both planets would be pulled apart by the gravitational tidal forces and would have to reform, pretty much from scratch again.

In any case, there's no need for such an unlikely scenario as the lack of a dense atmosphere on Mars can be attributed to its smaller size and its lack of a magnetosphere.  Being quite a bit smaller than the Earth, Mars could not hold on so tightly to its atmosphere, and without a magnetosphere to protect it from the solar wind, the atmosphere was simply blown away by the wind from the Sun.
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Offline Jamesá Enix

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Did a rogue planet steal the atmosphere from Mars?
« Reply #2 on: 04/02/2010 17:06:19 »
Thanks so much for your response. 
What has changed on Mars to reduce the magnetosphere? 

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Offline LeeE

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Did a rogue planet steal the atmosphere from Mars?
« Reply #3 on: 04/02/2010 17:18:09 »
The evidence suggests that Mars has a smaller iron core than the Earth's, commensurate with its smaller size, which has cooled and solidified.  Eventually, the Earth's core will cool and solidify too, at which point our magnetosphere will collapse and the Earth will most likely lose most of its atmosphere as well.  This isn't likely to happen for quite some time yet though.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!

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Offline Geezer

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Did a rogue planet steal the atmosphere from Mars?
« Reply #4 on: 05/02/2010 07:20:21 »
Heh - I thought Mars was the 'rouge' planet 

You'd have to have your francophone switched on to get that one.
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