I recently watched a TED talk by a journalist, Stephen Petranek, in which he talks about colonization of Mars. Reaching the end of the presentation he talks about terraforming the planet, making it "more like Earth".

According to him, Mars is cold because of its thin atmosphere. One way to solve this though, would be to heat the vast amounts of carbon dioxide found in the planet's poles, which would then sublime, and this CO2 would warm the planet, allowing plants to grow.

Some people pointed out in the comment section that because there is less gravity and no magnetic field, like on Earth, the new atmosphere wouldn't last, so it wouldn't be feasible. I was quite fascinated by the idea of changing the whole planet to accomodate life, like in Earth, and I got very curious: would that really be a hidrance to forming the desired atmosphere, or is it actually possible to accomplish?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I myself would like to think that the magnetic field - thing is the barrier keeping this from being a reality. I've read some popular science related stuff about this and afaik the consensus is that it would take well over a hundred years and the lack of electromagnetic protection would potentially just blow the atmosphere away. $\endgroup$
    – DakkVader
    Jul 17, 2018 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ total recall I think $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2018 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Mars' magnetic field is very weak. The solar wind and its charged particles will easily decompose water and many other molecules. So, an Earth-like atmosphere is impossible.

  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean by decompose? $\endgroup$
    – Bersan
    Oct 16, 2018 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Bersan When charged particles or ionizing radiations "collide" with molecules like water, they might get decomposed; in the case of water, it could be separated into oxygen and hydrogen. Because of Mars' weak gravity, the broken down particles which are much lighter are also likely to escape Mars' atmosphere. So, even if u are to suddenly surround Mars with an Earth-like atmosphere, it will not be able to maintain it. Not an expert but I think that is the mechanism here. $\endgroup$
    – Miles123K
    Oct 16, 2018 at 12:49

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