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Comparison Of The Atmospheres Of Mars And Earth

The diameter of Mars is almost half the diameter of the Earth, and its atmosphere is much more rarefied, accounting for less than 1% of the Earth’s by volume. The atmosphere’s chemical composition is also different: it mainly consists of carbon dioxide, while the Earth’s air is rich in nitrogen and oxygen. Evidence from the planet’s surface indicates that Mars was once much warmer and wetter than today.

The study of the possibility of life on Mars is becoming a key topic in the study of the planet, particularly in the ExoMars mission, implemented by the European Space Agency and Roscosmos. The ExoMars Trace Gas satellite is capable of analyzing gases even in minimal concentrations in the atmosphere. Methane occupies a small proportion of the Martian atmosphere and may serve as a key to understanding current activity on the planet.

On Earth, most methane is produced by living things. This gas is also present in natural hydrocarbon deposits, the formation of which is supported by volcanic and hydrothermal activity. Because of the key role that biological processes play in the formation of methane on Earth, identifying the sources of this gas on Mars becomes a central task for the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft.

Banner image: The planets in this graphic are not to scale. Mars atmospheric values are as measured by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Credit: ESA
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