The internet is full of foretellings surrounding an impending doom for the human race and life in general on our beloved rocky world. Few of us probably lose our sleep over such (often) bogus predictions. However, when astrophysicists, armed with hard scientific data, go on record saying that Earth is going down the same route as Mars did before turning into a barren wasteland, you can’t help but listen.
According to current data, nearly 400 pounds of hydrogen and 6.6 pounds of helium escape from Earth’s atmosphere every moment. Note that this revelation may be startling to most of us, but scientists have known about the phenomenon for awhile now. It doesn’t pose an immediate existential threat to us, and therefore, needs not be sensationalized.
At her Ted X talk last year, Anjali Tripathi, astrophysicist at Harvard University, highlighted this issue by drawing out how atmospheric escape from the planet will massively alter the composition of the atmosphere over time, eventually reaching the tipping point wherein life as we know it would not be able to sustain itself, let alone flourish.
“[…] tenuous veneer around our planet that allows life to flourish… And it is such an amazing phenomenon that the fact that it is disappearing should frighten you, at least a little bit,” Tripathi said.
Mars, now a seemingly barren wasteland, is believed to have been in possession of a rich and luxurious atmosphere much akin to that of Earth’s long back in its glorious history. Hence all the speculations about the Red Planet teeming with life in the distant past. However, over a course of hundreds of millions of years, the planet was stripped off its atmosphere owing to a multitude of factors including the relentless bombardment by solar winds.
Don’t ruin your festive mood yet, though. Although the process is ongoing, Earth won’t turn into another Mars anytime soon. In fact, as Tripathi points out in the video below, the process will start expediting once the Sun starts getting hotter and brighter — but luckily for us, we have at least a few hundred million years left till Earth bids farewell to all life forms.