This simple six-word question poses a relevant and timely challenge for the field of Heliophysics, and has the potential to engage both laypeople and experts. The Magnetic fields, Atmospheres, and the Connection to Habitability (MACH) DRIVE Science Center (DSC) will determine whether a global magnetic field is essential for a planet to retain a habitable atmosphere.
We will pursue three coordinated high-level objectives in Phase I:
Observations: Obtain directly comparable ion escape rates for Venus, Earth and Mars.
Models: Extend global models for ion loss at unmagnetized planets to Earth-strength fields.
Theory: Construct a unified conceptual framework for ion loss from planets.
More information coming. If you can't wait contact Bill.Peterson@lasp.colorado.edu.