Did high-energy astrophysical sources contribute to Martian atmospheric loss?

Dimitra Atri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mars is believed to have had a substantial atmosphere in the past. Atmospheric loss led to depressurization and cooling, and is thought to be the primary driving force responsible for the loss of liquid water from its surface. Recently, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution observations have provided new insight into the physics of atmospheric loss induced by Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections and solar wind interacting with the Martian atmosphere. In addition to solar radiation, it is likely that its atmosphere has been exposed to radiation bursts from high-energy astrophysical sources which become highly probable on time-scales of ~Gy and beyond. These sources are capable of significantly enhancing the rates of photoionization and charged particle-induced ionization in the upper atmosphere. We use Monte Carlo simulations to model the interaction of charged particles and photons from astrophysical sources in the upper Martian atmosphere and discuss its implications on atmospheric loss. Our calculations suggest that the passage of the Solar system though dense interstellar clouds is the most significant contributor to atmospheric loss among the sources considered here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L64-L68
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 21 2016


  • Methods: numerical
  • Planets and satellites: atmospheres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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