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Atmosphere
FromWikipedia,thefreeencyclopedia

Anatmosphere(NewLatinatmosphaera,createdinthe17th
centuryfromGreek[atmos]"vapor"[1]and[sphaira]
"sphere"[2])isalayerofgasessurroundingaplanetorothermaterial
bodyofsufficientmass[3]thatisheldinplacebythegravityofthe
body.Anatmosphereismorelikelytoberetainedifthegravityis
highandtheatmosphere'stemperatureislow.
TheatmosphereofEarth,whichismostlynitrogen,alsocontains
oxygenusedbymostorganismsforrespirationandcarbondioxide
usedbyplants,algaeandcyanobacteriaforphotosynthesis,also
protectslivingorganismsfromgeneticdamagebysolarultraviolet
radiation.Itscurrentcompositionistheproductofbillionsofyears
ofbiochemicalmodificationofthepaleoatmospherebyliving
organisms.

Mars'thinatmosphere

Thetermstellaratmospheredescribestheouterregionofastar,and
typicallyincludestheportionstartingfromtheopaquephotosphere
outwards.Starswithsufficientlylowtemperaturesmayform
compoundmoleculesintheirouteratmosphere.

Contents
1Pressure
2Escape
3Terrain
4Composition
5Structure
5.1Earth
5.2Others
5.2.1IntheSolarSystem
5.2.2OutsidetheSolarSystem
6Circulation
7Importance
8Seealso
9References
10Furtherreading
11Externallinks
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Pressure
Atmosphericpressureistheforceperunitareathatisalways
appliedperpendicularlytoasurfacebythesurroundinggas.Itis
determinedbyaplanet'sgravitationalforceincombinationwiththe
totalmassofacolumnofgasabovealocation.OnEarth,unitsofair
pressurearebasedontheinternationallyrecognizedstandard
atmosphere(atm),whichisdefinedas101,325Pa(760Torror
14.696psi).
Thepressureofanatmosphericgasdecreaseswithaltitudedueto
thediminishingmassofgasaboveeachlocation.Theheightat
whichthepressurefromanatmospheredeclinesbyafactorofe(an
irrationalnumberwithavalueof2.71828..)iscalledthescale
heightandisdenotedbyH.Foranatmospherewithauniform
temperature,thescaleheightisproportionaltothetemperatureand
inverselyproportionaltothemeanmolecularmassofdryairtimes
theplanet'sgravitationalforceperunitareaofonthesurfaceof
Earth.Forsuchamodelatmosphere,thepressuredeclines
exponentiallywithincreasingaltitude.However,atmospheresare
notuniformintemperature,sotheexactdeterminationofthe
atmosphericpressureatanyparticularaltitudeismorecomplex.

Escape
Surfacegravity,theforcethatholdsdownanatmosphere,differs
significantlyamongtheplanets.Forexample,thelargegravitational
forceofthegiantplanetJupiterisabletoretainlightgasessuchas
hydrogenandheliumthatescapefromobjectswithlowergravity.
Secondly,thedistancefromtheSundeterminestheenergyavailable
toheatatmosphericgastothepointwhereitsmolecules'thermal
motionexceedtheplanet'sescapevelocity,thespeedatwhichgas
moleculesovercomeaplanet'sgravitationalgrasp.Thus,thedistant
andcoldTitan,Triton,andPlutoareabletoretaintheiratmospheres
despiterelativelylowgravities.Interstellarplanets,theoretically,
mayalsoretainthickatmospheres.
Sinceagasatanyparticulartemperaturewillhavemolecules
movingatawiderangeofvelocities,therewillalmostalwaysbe
ThelayersofEarth'satmosphere
someslowleakageofgasintospace.Lightermoleculesmovefaster
thanheavieroneswiththesamethermalkineticenergy,andso
gasesoflowmolecularweightarelostmorerapidlythanthoseofhighmolecularweight.Itisthoughtthat
VenusandMarsmayhavebothlostmuchoftheirwaterwhen,afterbeingphotodissociatedintohydrogen
andoxygenbysolarultraviolet,thehydrogenescaped.Earth'smagneticfieldhelpstopreventthis,as,

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normally,thesolarwindwouldgreatlyenhancetheescapeofhydrogen.However,overthepast3billion
yearstheEarthmayhavelostgasesthroughthemagneticpolarregionsduetoauroralactivity,includinga
net2%ofitsatmosphericoxygen.[4]
Othermechanismsthatcancauseatmospheredepletionaresolarwindinducedsputtering,impacterosion,
weathering,andsequestrationsometimesreferredtoas"freezingout"intotheregolithandpolarcaps.

Terrain
Atmosphereshavedramaticeffectsonthesurfacesofrockybodies.Objectsthathavenoatmosphere,or
thathaveonlyanexosphere,haveterrainthatiscoveredincraters.Withoutanatmosphere,theplanethas
noprotectionfrommeteors,andallofthemcollidewiththesurfaceandcreatecraters.
Arockybodywithathickatmospheredoesnothavesignificantcratersonitssurface.Thefriction
generatedwhenameteorentersanatmospherecausesthevastmajoritytoburnupbeforehittingthe
surface.Whencratersdoimpact,theeffectsareoftenerasedbytheactionofwind.Asaresult,cratersare
rareonobjectswithatmospheres.
Allobjectswithatmosphereshavewindandweather.Winderosionisasignificantfactorinshapingthe
terrainofrockyplanetswithatmospheres,andovertimecanerasetheeffectsofbothcratersandvolcanoes.
Inaddition,sinceliquidscannotexistwithoutpressure,anatmosphereallowsliquidtobepresentatthe
surface,resultinginlakes,riversandoceans.EarthandTitanareknowntohaveliquidsattheirsurfaceand
terrainontheplanetsuggeststhatMarshadliquidonitssurfaceinthepast.

Composition
Initialatmosphericmakeupisgenerallyrelatedtothe
chemistryandtemperatureofthelocalsolarnebula
duringplanetaryformationandthesubsequentescapeof
interiorgases.Theoriginalatmospheresstartedwiththe
radiallylocalrotatinggasesthatcollapsedtothespaced
ringsthatformedtheplanets.Theywerethenmodified
overtimebyvariouscomplexfactors,resultinginquite
differentoutcomes.
TheatmospheresoftheplanetsVenusandMarsare
primarilycomposedofcarbondioxide,withsmall
quantitiesofnitrogen,argon,oxygenandtracesofother
gases.

Earth'satmosphericgasesscatterbluelightmore
thanotherwavelengths,givingtheEarthablue
halowhenseenfromspace.

TheatmosphericcompositiononEarthislargely
governedbythebyproductsoftheverylifethatit
sustains.DryairfromEarth'satmospherecontains78.08%nitrogen,20.95%oxygen,0.93%argon,0.038%
carbondioxide,andtracesofhydrogen,helium,andother"noble"gases(byvolume),butgenerallya
variableamountofwatervapourisalsopresent,onaverageabout1%atsealevel.

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ThelowtemperaturesandhighergravityofthegasgiantsJupiter,Saturn,UranusandNeptuneallows
themmorereadilytoretaingaseswithlowmolecularmasses.Theseplanetshavehydrogenhelium
atmospheres,withtraceamountsofmorecomplexcompounds.
Twosatellitesoftheouterplanetspossessnonnegligibleatmospheres:Titan,amoonofSaturn,andTriton,
amoonofNeptune,whicharemainlynitrogen.Pluto,inthenearerpartofitsorbit,hasanatmosphereof
nitrogenandmethanesimilartoTriton's,butthesegasesarefrozenwhenfartherfromtheSun.
OtherbodieswithintheSolarSystemhaveextremelythinatmospheresnotinequilibrium.Theseinclude
theMoon(sodiumgas),Mercury(sodiumgas),Europa(oxygen),Io(sulfur),andEnceladus(watervapor).
TheatmosphericcompositionofanextrasolarplanetwasfirstdeterminedusingtheHubbleSpace
Telescope.PlanetHD209458bisagasgiantwithacloseorbitaroundastarintheconstellationPegasus.
Itsatmosphereisheatedtotemperaturesover1,000K,andissteadilyescapingintospace.Hydrogen,
oxygen,carbonandsulfurhavebeendetectedintheplanet'sinflatedatmosphere.[5]

Structure
Earth
TheEarth'satmosphereconsists,fromthegroundup,ofthetroposphere(whichincludestheplanetary
boundarylayerorpeplosphereaslowestlayer),stratosphere(whichincludestheozonelayer),mesosphere,
thermosphere(whichcontainstheionosphere),exosphereandalsothemagnetosphere.Eachofthelayers
hasadifferentlapserate,definingtherateofchangeintemperaturewithheight.
Threequartersoftheatmosphericmassresideswithinthetroposphere,andthedepthofthislayervaries
between17kmattheequatorand7kmatthepoles.Theozonelayer,whichabsorbsultravioletenergyfrom
theSun,islocatedprimarilyinthestratosphere,ataltitudesof15to35km.TheKrmnline,located
withinthethermosphereatanaltitudeof100km,iscommonlyusedtodefinetheboundarybetweenthe
Earth'satmosphereandouterspace.However,theexospherecanextendfrom500upto1,000kmabovethe
surface,whereitinteractswiththeplanet'smagnetosphere.

Others
Otherastronomicalbodiessuchastheselistedhaveknownatmospheres.
IntheSolarSystem
AtmosphereoftheSun
AtmosphereofMercury
AtmosphereofVenus
AtmosphereofEarth
AtmosphereoftheMoon
AtmosphereofMars
AtmosphereofCeres
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AtmosphereofJupiter
AtmosphereofIo
AtmosphereofCallisto
AtmosphereofEuropa
AtmosphereofGanymede
AtmosphereofSaturn
AtmosphereofTitan
AtmosphereofEnceladus
AtmosphereofUranus
AtmosphereofTitania
AtmosphereofNeptune
AtmosphereofTriton
AtmosphereofPluto
OutsidetheSolarSystem
AtmosphereofHD209458b

Circulation
Thecirculationoftheatmosphereoccursduetothermaldifferenceswhenconvectionbecomesamore
efficienttransporterofheatthanthermalradiation.Onplanetswheretheprimaryheatsourceissolar
radiation,excessheatinthetropicsistransportedtohigherlatitudes.Whenaplanetgeneratesasignificant
amountofheatinternally,suchasisthecaseforJupiter,convectionintheatmospherecantransportthermal
energyfromthehighertemperatureinterioruptothesurface.

Importance
Fromtheperspectiveoftheplanetarygeologist,theatmosphereisanevolutionaryagentessentialtothe
morphologyofaplanet.Thewindtransportsdustandotherparticleswhicherodesthereliefandleaves
deposits(eolianprocesses).Frostandprecipitations,whichdependonthecomposition,alsoinfluencethe
relief.Climatechangescaninfluenceaplanet'sgeologicalhistory.Conversely,studyingsurfaceofEarth
leadstoanunderstandingoftheatmosphereandclimateofaplanetbothitspresentstateanditspast.
Forameteorologist,thecompositionoftheatmospheredeterminestheclimateanditsvariations.
Forabiologist,thecompositioniscloselydependentontheappearanceofthelifeanditsevolution.

Seealso
Atmometer(evaporimeter)
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Edgeofspace
Ionosphere
Sky
Stellaratmosphere

References
1. (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?
doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Da%29tmo%2Fs),HenryGeorgeLiddell,RobertScott,A
GreekEnglishLexicon,onPerseusDigitalLibrary
2. (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?
doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dsfai%3Dra^),HenryGeorgeLiddell,RobertScott,A
GreekEnglishLexicon,onPerseusDigitalLibrary
3. OntarioScienceCentrewebsite(http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/school/clc/visits/glossary.asp)
4. Seki,K.Elphic,R.C.Hirahara,M.Terasawa,T.Mukai,T.(2001)."OnAtmosphericLossofOxygenIons
fromEarthThroughMagnetosphericProcesses"(http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/291/5510/1939).
Science291(5510):19391941.Bibcode:2001Sci...291.1939S
(http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2001Sci...291.1939S).doi:10.1126/science.1058913
(https://dx.doi.org/10.1126%2Fscience.1058913).PMID11239148
(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11239148).Retrieved20070307.
5. Weaver,D.Villard,R.(20070131)."HubbleProbesLayercakeStructureofAlienWorld'sAtmosphere"
(http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/07/).HubbleNewsCenter.Retrieved20070311.

Furtherreading
SanchezLavega,,Agustin(2010).AnIntroductiontoPlanetaryAtmospheres.Taylor&Francis.
ISBN9781420067323.

Externallinks
PropertiesofatmosphericstrataTheflightenvironmentoftheatmosphere
(http://www.allstar.fiu.edu/aero/fltenv2.htm)
Atmosphere(http://www.mdpi.com/journal/atmosphere/)anOpenAccessjournal
Retrievedfrom"http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Atmosphere&oldid=654705629"
Categories: Atmosphere Gases Planetaryatmospheres Planetaryscience
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