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Mars's thin atmosphere Mars atmosphere.jpg
Mars's thin atmosphere
The layers of Earth's atmosphere Atmosphere layers-en.svg
The layers of Earth's atmosphere

An atmosphere (from Ancient Greek ἀτμός (atmos), meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα (sphaira), meaning 'ball' or 'sphere' [1] [2] ) is a layer or a set of layers of gases surrounding a planet or other material body, that is held in place by the gravity of that body. An atmosphere is more likely to be retained if the gravity it is subject to is high and the temperature of the atmosphere is low.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Gas One of the four fundamental states of matter

Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter. A pure gas may be made up of individual atoms, elemental molecules made from one type of atom, or compound molecules made from a variety of atoms. A gas mixture, such as air, contains a variety of pure gases. What distinguishes a gas from liquids and solids is the vast separation of the individual gas particles. This separation usually makes a colorless gas invisible to the human observer. The interaction of gas particles in the presence of electric and gravitational fields are considered negligible, as indicated by the constant velocity vectors in the image.

Planet Class of astronomical body directly orbiting a star or stellar remnant

A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.


The atmosphere of Earth is composed of nitrogen (about 78%), oxygen (about 21%), argon (about 0.9%) , carbon dioxide (0.04%) and other gases in trace amounts. Oxygen is used by most organisms for respiration; nitrogen is fixed by bacteria and lightning to produce ammonia used in the construction of nucleotides and amino acids; and carbon dioxide is used by plants, algae and cyanobacteria for photosynthesis. The atmosphere helps to protect living organisms from genetic damage by solar ultraviolet radiation, solar wind and cosmic rays. The current composition of the Earth's atmosphere is the product of billions of years of biochemical modification of the paleoatmosphere by living organisms.

Atmosphere of Earth Layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth

The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gases, commonly known as air, that surrounds the planet Earth and is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere of Earth protects life on Earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exist on the Earth's surface, absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention, and reducing temperature extremes between day and night.

Nitrogen Chemical element with atomic number 7

Nitrogen is the chemical element with the symbol N and atomic number 7. It was first discovered and isolated by Scottish physician Daniel Rutherford in 1772. Although Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Henry Cavendish had independently done so at about the same time, Rutherford is generally accorded the credit because his work was published first. The name nitrogène was suggested by French chemist Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal in 1790, when it was found that nitrogen was present in nitric acid and nitrates. Antoine Lavoisier suggested instead the name azote, from the Greek ἀζωτικός "no life", as it is an asphyxiant gas; this name is instead used in many languages, such as French, Russian, Romanian and Turkish, and appears in the English names of some nitrogen compounds such as hydrazine, azides and azo compounds.

Oxygen Chemical element with atomic number 8

Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third-most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. At standard temperature and pressure, two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless and odorless diatomic gas with the formula O
. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.8% of the Earth's atmosphere. As compounds including oxides, the element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust.

The term stellar atmosphere describes the outer region of a star and typically includes the portion above the opaque photosphere. Stars with sufficiently low temperatures may have outer atmospheres with compound molecules.

Stellar atmosphere outer region of the volume of a star

The stellar atmosphere is the outer region of the volume of a star, lying above the stellar core, radiation zone and convection zone.

Opacity is the measure of impenetrability to electromagnetic or other kinds of radiation, especially visible light. In radiative transfer, it describes the absorption and scattering of radiation in a medium, such as a plasma, dielectric, shielding material, glass, etc. An opaque object is neither transparent nor translucent. When light strikes an interface between two substances, in general some may be reflected, some absorbed, some scattered, and the rest transmitted. Reflection can be diffuse, for example light reflecting off a white wall, or specular, for example light reflecting off a mirror. An opaque substance transmits no light, and therefore reflects, scatters, or absorbs all of it. Both mirrors and carbon black are opaque. Opacity depends on the frequency of the light being considered. For instance, some kinds of glass, while transparent in the visual range, are largely opaque to ultraviolet light. More extreme frequency-dependence is visible in the absorption lines of cold gases. Opacity can be quantified in many ways; for example, see the article mathematical descriptions of opacity.

Photosphere A stars outer shell from which light is radiated

The photosphere is a star's outer shell from which light is radiated. The term itself is derived from Ancient Greek roots, φῶς, φωτός/phos, photos meaning "light" and σφαῖρα/sphaira meaning "sphere", in reference to it being a spherical surface that is perceived to emit light. It extends into a star's surface until the plasma becomes opaque, equivalent to an optical depth of approximately 2/3, or equivalently, a depth from which 50% of light will escape without being scattered. In other words, a photosphere is the deepest region of a luminous object, usually a star, that is transparent to photons of certain wavelengths.


Atmospheric pressure at a particular location is the force per unit area perpendicular to a surface determined by the weight of the vertical column of atmosphere above that location. On Earth, units of air pressure are based on the internationally recognized standard atmosphere (atm), which is defined as 101.325 kPa (760  Torr or 14.696 psi). It is measured with a barometer.

Force Any action that tends to maintain or alter the motion of an object

In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity, i.e., to accelerate. Force can also be described intuitively as a push or a pull. A force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. It is measured in the SI unit of newtons and represented by the symbol F.

In science and engineering, the weight of an object is related to the amount of force acting on the object, either due to gravity or to a reaction force that holds it in place.

The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 101325 Pa. It is sometimes used as a reference or standard pressure. It is approximately equal to the atmospheric pressure at sea level.

Atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing altitude due to the diminishing mass of gas above. The height at which the pressure from an atmosphere declines by a factor of e (an irrational number with a value of 2.71828...) is called the scale height and is denoted by H. For an atmosphere with a uniform temperature, the scale height is proportional to the temperature and inversely proportional to the product of the mean molecular mass of dry air and the local acceleration of gravity at that location. For such a model atmosphere, the pressure declines exponentially with increasing altitude. However, atmospheres are not uniform in temperature, so estimation of the atmospheric pressure at any particular altitude is more complex.

Atmospheric pressure, sometimes also called barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 1013.25 mbar (101325 Pa), equivalent to 760 mm Hg (torr), 29.9212 inches Hg, or 14.696 psi. The atm unit is roughly equivalent to the mean sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth, that is, the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 atm.

<span class="texhtml mvar" style="font-style:italic;">e</span> (mathematical constant) mathematical constant

The number e is a mathematical constant that is the base of the natural logarithm: the unique number whose natural logarithm is equal to one. It is approximately equal to 2.71828, and is the limit of (1 + 1/n)n as n approaches infinity, an expression that arises in the study of compound interest. It can also be calculated as the sum of the infinite series

Irrational number Real number that cannot be expressed as a ratio of integers

In mathematics, the irrational numbers are all the real numbers which are not rational numbers, the latter being the numbers constructed from ratios of integers. When the ratio of lengths of two line segments is an irrational number, the line segments are also described as being incommensurable, meaning that they share no "measure" in common, that is, there is no length, no matter how short, that could be used to express the lengths of both of the two given segments as integer multiples of itself.

Atmospheric escape

Surface gravity differs significantly among the planets. For example, the large gravitational force of the giant planet Jupiter retains light gases such as hydrogen and helium that escape from objects with lower gravity. Secondly, the distance from the Sun determines the energy available to heat atmospheric gas to the point where some fraction of its molecules' thermal motion exceed the planet's escape velocity, allowing those to escape a planet's gravitational grasp. Thus, distant and cold Titan, Triton, and Pluto are able to retain their atmospheres despite their relatively low gravities.

The surface gravity, g, of an astronomical or other object is the gravitational acceleration experienced at its surface at the equator, including the effects of rotation. The surface gravity may be thought of as the acceleration due to gravity experienced by a hypothetical test particle which is very close to the object's surface and which, in order not to disturb the system, has negligible mass.

Jupiter Fifth planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two-and-a-half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter and Saturn are gas giants; the other two giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants. Jupiter has been known to astronomers since antiquity. It is named after the Roman god Jupiter. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter can reach an apparent magnitude of −2.94, bright enough for its reflected light to cast shadows, and making it on average the third-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.

Hydrogen Chemical element with atomic number 1

Hydrogen is the chemical element with the symbol H and atomic number 1. With a standard atomic weight of 1.008, hydrogen is the lightest element in the periodic table. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the Universe, constituting roughly 75% of all baryonic mass. Non-remnant stars are mainly composed of hydrogen in the plasma state. The most common isotope of hydrogen, termed protium, has one proton and no neutrons.

Since a collection of gas molecules may be moving at a wide range of velocities, there will always be some fast enough to produce a slow leakage of gas into space. Lighter molecules move faster than heavier ones with the same thermal kinetic energy, and so gases of low molecular weight are lost more rapidly than those of high molecular weight. It is thought that Venus and Mars may have lost much of their water when, after being photo dissociated into hydrogen and oxygen by solar ultraviolet, the hydrogen escaped. Earth's magnetic field helps to prevent this, as, normally, the solar wind would greatly enhance the escape of hydrogen. However, over the past 3 billion years Earth may have lost gases through the magnetic polar regions due to auroral activity, including a net 2% of its atmospheric oxygen. [3] The net effect, taking the most important escape processes into account, is that an intrinsic magnetic field does not protect a planet from atmospheric escape and that for some magnetizations the presence of a magnetic field works to increase the escape rate. [4]

Other mechanisms that can cause atmosphere depletion are solar wind-induced sputtering, impact erosion, weathering, and sequestration—sometimes referred to as "freezing out"—into the regolith and polar caps.


Atmospheres have dramatic effects on the surfaces of rocky bodies. Objects that have no atmosphere, or that have only an exosphere, have terrain that is covered in craters. Without an atmosphere, the planet has no protection from meteoroids, and all of them collide with the surface as meteorites and create craters.

Most meteoroids burn up as meteors before hitting a planet's surface. When meteoroids do impact, the effects are often erased by the action of wind.[ citation needed ] As a result, craters are rare on objects with atmospheres.[ clarification needed ]

Wind erosion is a significant factor in shaping the terrain of rocky planets with atmospheres, and over time can erase the effects of both craters and volcanoes. In addition, since liquid s can not exist without pressure, an atmosphere allows liquid to be present at the surface, resulting in lakes, rivers and oceans. Earth and Titan are known to have liquids at their surface and terrain on the planet suggests that Mars had liquid on its surface in the past.


Earth's atmospheric gases scatter blue light more than other wavelengths, giving Earth a blue halo when seen from space Top of Atmosphere.jpg
Earth's atmospheric gases scatter blue light more than other wavelengths, giving Earth a blue halo when seen from space

A planet's initial atmospheric composition is related to the chemistry and temperature of the local solar nebula during planetary formation and the subsequent escape of interior gases. The original atmospheres started with a rotating disc of gases that collapsed to form a series of spaced rings that condensed to form the planets. The planet's atmospheres were then modified over time by various complex factors, resulting in quite different outcomes.

The atmospheres of the planets Venus and Mars are primarily composed of carbon dioxide, with small quantities of nitrogen, argon, oxygen and traces of other gases.

The composition of Earth's atmosphere is largely governed by the by-products of the life that it sustains. Dry air from Earth's atmosphere contains 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and traces of hydrogen, helium, and other "noble" gases (by volume), but generally a variable amount of water vapor is also present, on average about 1% at sea level.

The low temperatures and higher gravity of the Solar System's giant planetsJupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune—allow them more readily to retain gases with low molecular masses. These planets have hydrogen–helium atmospheres, with trace amounts of more complex compounds.

Two satellites of the outer planets possess significant atmospheres. Titan, a moon of Saturn, and Triton, a moon of Neptune, have atmospheres mainly of nitrogen. When in the part of its orbit closest to the Sun, Pluto has an atmosphere of nitrogen and methane similar to Triton's, but these gases are frozen when it is farther from the Sun.

Other bodies within the Solar System have extremely thin atmospheres not in equilibrium. These include the Moon (sodium gas), Mercury (sodium gas), Europa (oxygen), Io (sulfur), and Enceladus (water vapor).

The first exoplanet whose atmospheric composition was determined is HD 209458b, a gas giant with a close orbit around a star in the constellation Pegasus. Its atmosphere is heated to temperatures over 1,000 K, and is steadily escaping into space. Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and sulfur have been detected in the planet's inflated atmosphere. [5]



Earth's atmosphere consists of a number of layers that differ in properties such as composition, temperature and pressure. The lowest layer is the troposphere, which extends from the surface to the bottom of the stratosphere. Three quarters of the atmosphere's mass resides within the troposphere, and is the layer within which the Earth's terrestrial weather develops. The depth of this layer varies between 17 km at the equator to 7 km at the poles. The stratosphere, extending from the top of the troposphere to the bottom of the mesosphere, contains the ozone layer. The ozone layer ranges in altitude between 15 and 35 km, and is where most of the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun is absorbed. The top of the mesosphere, ranges from 50 to 85 km, and is the layer wherein most meteors burn up. The thermosphere extends from 85 km to the base of the exosphere at 400 km and contains the ionosphere, a region where the atmosphere is ionised by incoming solar radiation. The ionosphere increases in thickness and moves closer to the Earth during daylight and rises at night allowing certain frequencies of radio communication a greater range. The Kármán line, located within the thermosphere at an altitude of 100 km, is commonly used to define the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. The exosphere begins variously from about 690 to 1,000 km above the surface, where it interacts with the planet's magnetosphere. Each of the layers has a different lapse rate, defining the rate of change in temperature with height.


Other astronomical bodies such as these listed have known atmospheres.

In the Solar System

Graphs of escape velocity against surface temperature of some Solar System objects showing which gases are retained. The objects are drawn to scale, and their data points are at the black dots in the middle. Solar system escape velocity vs surface temperature.svg
Graphs of escape velocity against surface temperature of some Solar System objects showing which gases are retained. The objects are drawn to scale, and their data points are at the black dots in the middle.

Outside the Solar System


The circulation of the atmosphere occurs due to thermal differences when convection becomes a more efficient transporter of heat than thermal radiation. On planets where the primary heat source is solar radiation, excess heat in the tropics is transported to higher latitudes. When a planet generates a significant amount of heat internally, such as is the case for Jupiter, convection in the atmosphere can transport thermal energy from the higher temperature interior up to the surface.


From the perspective of a planetary geologist, the atmosphere acts to shape a planetary surface. Wind picks up dust and other particles which, when they collide with the terrain, erode the relief and leave deposits (eolian processes). Frost and precipitations, which depend on the atmospheric composition, also influence the relief. Climate changes can influence a planet's geological history. Conversely, studying the surface of the Earth leads to an understanding of the atmosphere and climate of other planets.

For a meteorologist, the composition of the Earth's atmosphere is a factor affecting the climate and its variations.

For a biologist or paleontologist, the Earth's atmospheric composition is closely dependent on the appearance of the life and its evolution.

See also

Related Research Articles

Triton (moon) largest moon of Neptune

Triton is the largest natural satellite of the planet Neptune, and the first Neptunian moon to be discovered. The discovery was made on October 10, 1846, by English astronomer William Lassell. It is the only large moon in the Solar System with a retrograde orbit, an orbit in the direction opposite to its planet's rotation. At 2,710 kilometres (1,680 mi) in diameter, it is the seventh-largest moon in the Solar System, the only satellite of Neptune massive enough to be in hydrostatic equilibrium and the second-largest planetary moon in relation to its primary, after Earth's Moon. Because of its retrograde orbit and composition similar to Pluto's, Triton is thought to have been a dwarf planet captured from the Kuiper belt.

The thermosphere is the layer in the Earth's atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. Within this layer of the atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation causes photoionization/photodissociation of molecules, creating ions in the ionosphere. Taking its name from the Greek θερμός meaning heat, the thermosphere begins at about 80 km (50 mi) above sea level. At these high altitudes, the residual atmospheric gases sort into strata according to molecular mass. Thermospheric temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation. Temperatures are highly dependent on solar activity, and can rise to 1,700 °C (3,100 °F) or more. Radiation causes the atmosphere particles in this layer to become electrically charged, enabling radio waves to be refracted and thus be received beyond the horizon. In the exosphere, beginning at about 600 km (375 mi) above sea level, the atmosphere turns into space, although by the criteria set for the definition of the Kármán line, the thermosphere itself is part of space.

The exosphere is a thin, atmosphere-like volume surrounding a planet or natural satellite where molecules are gravitationally bound to that body, but where the density is too low for them to behave as a gas by colliding with each other. In the case of bodies with substantial atmospheres, such as Earth's atmosphere, the exosphere is the uppermost layer, where the atmosphere thins out and merges with interplanetary space. It is located directly above the thermosphere. Very little is known about it due to lack of research. Mercury, the Moon and the Galilean satellites of Jupiter have surface boundary exospheres, which are exospheres without a denser atmosphere underneath.

Atmospheric science The study of the atmosphere, its processes, and interactions with other systems

Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere, its processes, the effects other systems have on the atmosphere, and the effects of the atmosphere on these other systems. Meteorology includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics with a major focus on weather forecasting. Climatology is the study of atmospheric changes that define average climates and their change over time, due to both natural and anthropogenic climate variability. Aeronomy is the study of the upper layers of the atmosphere, where dissociation and ionization are important. Atmospheric science has been extended to the field of planetary science and the study of the atmospheres of the planets and natural satellites of the solar system.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite orbital observatory whose mission was to study the Earth’s atmosphere, particularly the protective ozone layer, and which crashed on Earth in 2011

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was a NASA-operated orbital observatory whose mission was to study the Earth’s atmosphere, particularly the protective ozone layer. The 5,900-kilogram (13,000 lb) satellite was deployed from Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-48 mission on 15 September 1991. It entered Earth orbit at an operational altitude of 600 kilometers (370 mi), with an orbital inclination of 57 degrees.

Earths energy budget

Earth's energy budget accounts for the balance between the energy Earth receives from the Sun, and the energy the Earth radiates back into outer space after having been distributed throughout the five components of Earth's climate system and having thus powered the so-called Earth’s heat engine. This system is made up of earth's water, ice, atmosphere, rocky crust, and all living things.

Venera 4 space probe

Venera 4, also designated 1V (V-67) s/n 310 was a probe in the Soviet Venera program for the exploration of Venus. The probe comprised an entry probe, designed to enter the Venus atmosphere and parachute to the surface, and a carrier/flyby spacecraft, which carried the entry probe to Venus and served as a communications relay for the entry probe.

This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.

Ice giant giant planet primarily composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium

An ice giant is a giant planet composed mainly of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, such as oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur. There are two ice giants in the Solar System: Uranus and Neptune.

Atmospheric escape

Atmospheric escape is the loss of planetary atmospheric gases to outer space. A number of different mechanisms can be responsible for atmospheric escape, operating at different time scales; the most prominent is Jeans Escape, named after British astronomer Sir James Jeans, who described the process of atmospheric loss to the molecular kinetic energy. The relative importance of each loss process is a function of the planet's mass, its atmosphere composition, and its distance from its sun.

Terraforming of Mars process of changing Mars ecology

Terraforming of Mars is a hypothetical process of planetary engineering by which the surface and climate of Mars would be deliberately changed to make large areas of the environment hospitable to humans, thus making the colonization of Mars safer and sustainable.

Terraforming of Venus

The terraforming of Venus is the hypothetical process of engineering the global environment of the planet Venus in such a way as to make it suitable for human habitation. Terraforming Venus was first scholarly proposed by the astronomer Carl Sagan in 1961, although fictional treatments, such as The Big Rain of The Psychotechnic League by novelist Poul Anderson, preceded it. Adjustments to the existing environment of Venus to support human life would require at least three major changes to the planet's atmosphere:

  1. Reducing Venus' surface temperature of 462 °C
  2. eliminating most of the planet's dense 9.2 MPa (91 atm) carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide atmosphere via removal or conversion to some other form
  3. the addition of breathable oxygen to the atmosphere.
Atmosphere of Venus atmosphere of the planet Venus

The atmosphere of Venus is the layer of gases surrounding Venus. It is composed primarily of carbon dioxide and is much denser and hotter than that of Earth. The temperature at the surface is 740 K, and the pressure is 93 bar (9.3 MPa), roughly the pressure found 900 m (3,000 ft) underwater on Earth. The Venusian atmosphere supports opaque clouds made of sulfuric acid, making optical Earth-based and orbital observation of the surface impossible. Information about the topography has been obtained exclusively by radar imaging. Aside from carbon dioxide, the other main component is nitrogen. Other chemical compounds are present only in trace amounts.

Ocean planet Type of planet with a surface completely covered by an ocean of water

An ocean planet, ocean world, water world, aquaplanet or panthalassic planet is a type of terrestrial planet that contains a substantial amount of water either at its surface or subsurface. The term ocean world is also used sometimes for astronomical bodies with an ocean composed of a different fluid, such as lava, ammonia or ethane.

Extraterrestrial atmosphere

The study of extraterrestrial atmospheres is an active field of research, both as an aspect of astronomy and to gain insight into Earth's atmosphere. In addition to Earth, many of the other astronomical objects in the Solar System have atmospheres. These include all the gas giants, as well as Mars, Venus, and Pluto. Several moons and other bodies also have atmospheres, as do comets and the Sun. There is evidence that extrasolar planets can have an atmosphere. Comparisons of these atmospheres to one another and to Earth's atmosphere broaden our basic understanding of atmospheric processes such as the greenhouse effect, aerosol and cloud physics, and atmospheric chemistry and dynamics.

Atmosphere of Mercury Composition and properties of the atmosphere of the innermost planet of the Solar System

Mercury has a very tenuous and highly variable atmosphere containing hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, calcium, potassium and water vapor, with a combined pressure level of about 10−14 bar. The exospheric species originate either from the Solar wind or from the planetary crust. Solar light pushes the atmospheric gases away from the Sun, creating a comet-like tail behind the planet.

The atmosphere of Triton is the layer of gases surrounding Triton. The surface pressure is only 14 microbars, ​170000 of the surface pressure on Earth, and it is composed of nitrogen, similar to those of Titan and Earth. It extends 800 kilometers above its surface. Recent observations have shown an increase in temperature.

Atmosphere of Pluto

The atmosphere of Pluto is the tenuous layer of gases surrounding Pluto. It consists mainly of nitrogen (N2), with minor amounts of methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO), all of which are vaporized from their ices on Pluto's surface. It contains layered haze, probably consisting of heavier compounds which form from these gases due to high-energy radiation. The atmosphere of Pluto is notable for its strong and not completely clear seasonal changes caused by peculiarities of the orbital and axial rotation of Pluto.

Hydrodynamic escape refers to a thermal atmospheric escape mechanism that can lead to the escape of heavier atoms of a planetary atmosphere through numerous collisions with lighter atoms.


  1. ἀτμός Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  2. σφαῖρα Archived 2017-05-10 at the Wayback Machine , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  3. Seki, K.; Elphic, R. C.; Hirahara, M.; Terasawa, T.; Mukai, T. (2001). "On Atmospheric Loss of Oxygen Ions from Earth Through Magnetospheric Processes". Science. 291 (5510): 1939–1941. Bibcode:2001Sci...291.1939S. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1126/science.1058913. PMID   11239148. Archived from the original on 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
  4. Gunell, H.; Maggiolo, R.; Nilsson, H.; Stenberg Wieser, G.; Slapak, R.; Lindkvist, J.; Hamrin, M.; De Keyser, J. (2018). "Why an intrinsic magnetic field does not protect a planet against atmospheric escape". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 614: L3. Bibcode:2018A&A...614L...3G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201832934.
  5. Weaver, D.; Villard, R. (2007-01-31). "Hubble Probes Layer-cake Structure of Alien World's Atmosphere". Hubble News Center. Archived from the original on 2007-03-14. Retrieved 2007-03-11.

Further reading