More on Saturn›, 6. Early in its history (particularly in periods older than 3.5 billion years ago) Mars had a thick enough atmosphere for water to run on its surface. Social Media Lead: Neptune has a thick atmosphere and is covered by constantly changing clouds that whip around the planet. As it descended to a pressure of 5 bars, the probe should have passed into a region of frozen water clouds, then below that into clouds of liquid water droplets, perhaps similar to the common clouds of the terrestrial troposphere. It has a thick atmosphere full of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and clouds made of sulfuric acid. The distance in this case is the circumference (2πR or πd), or approximately 1250 km, and the time is 24 h, so the speed at the edge of the storm would be about 52 km/h. The atmospheres of the jovian planets have many regions of high pressure (where there is more air) and low pressure (where there is less). The wind speeds in circular storm systems can be formidable on both Earth and the giant planets. Consistent with the small tilt of Jupiter’s axis, the pattern does not change with the seasons. Although many of the details of the weather on the jovian planets are not yet understood, it is clear that if you are a fan of dramatic weather, these worlds are the place to look. One hypothesis suggests that perhaps colorful hydrogen compounds rise from warm areas. By the end of this section, you will be able to: The atmospheres of the jovian planets are the parts we can observe or measure directly. Since Saturn is tilted by 27°, we see the orientation of Saturn’s rings around its equator change as the planet moves along its orbit. Kristen Erickson However, even the planets with atmospheres closest Earth's support much less life. All planets in the solar system have an atmosphere with varying compositions of different gases. There are 8 planets and over 160 moons in the solar system. The location of the main layers on each planet is also shown. 55 Cancri e, a “super Earth” exoplanet (a planet outside of our solar system with a diameter between Earth’s and Neptune’s) that may be covered in lava, likely has an atmosphere containing nitrogen, water and even oxygen–molecules found in our atmosphere–but with much higher temperatures throughout. Unlike Uranus, Neptune has an atmosphere in which convection currents —vertical drafts of gas—emanate from the interior, powered by the planet’s internal heat source. It … Some can bond to rocks and cycle in and out of the atmosphere; others will dissolve in water, reaching equilibria between atmospheric and oceanic abundances. Two examples of storms on Jupiter illustrate the use of enhanced color and contrast to bring out faint features. Amanda Barnett The most prominent of these are large, oval-shaped, high-pressure regions on both Jupiter (Figure 10) and Neptune. (credit: modification of work by Voyager Project, JPL, and NASA). At the temperatures and pressures of the upper atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, methane remains a gas, but ammonia can condense and freeze. The planet Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are sometimes called the Gas Giants because so much of the mass of these planets consists of a gaseous atmosphere. Note that Saturn’s winds move faster than those of the other planets. Which planet is associated with the Great Dark spot. The actual colors are a bit more muted, as shown in Figure 1 in Exploring the Outer Planets. More on Earth’s atmosphere›, 2. Winds are also extremely high on Saturn, with speeds of up to 1800 kilometers per hour measured near the equator. Surface temperature on Venus is around 480˚C – much too hot to sustain life as we know it. Figure 5: Cloud Structure on Saturn and Hexagon Pattern on Saturn’s North Pole. And the only reason that Earth has oxygen is because Earth has plants that do photosynthesis. As late as the 1930s, the most prominent features photographed in these spectra remained unidentified. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; NASA/JPL/University of Arizona). After the war, Van Allen (Figure 1) was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Iowa. Figure 9: Winds on the Giant Planets. Some of the atmospheres are flimsy while others are extraordinarily dense. These are atmospheres that arise long after a planet's primary atmosphere has vanished into the ether. Mars is a planet that shows climate change on a large scale. Voyager photographed distinct shadows on the methane cloud tops, permitting the altitudes of the high clouds to be calculated. In the upper atmospheres, hydrocarbons and other trace compounds are produced by photochemistry. It’s a pity that the probe did not enter a more representative region, but that’s the luck of the cosmic draw. It's so hot on Venus, metals like lead would be puddles of melted liquid. Each of the planets has a different atmosphere, although there are clear similarities between the atmospheres of the four terrestrial planets and the four gas giant planets. Different conditions on different planets can also give rise to particular effects. The planet’s minimum troposphere temperature is 49 Kelvin (minus 224.2 degrees Celsius), making it even colder than Neptune in some places. Toward the center of the storm, the wind speeds can be much higher. Their cloud composition depends on their temperature, and studies suggest that the clouds are unevenly distributed. The primary clouds that we see around these planets, whether from a spacecraft or through a telescope, are composed of frozen ammonia crystals. In addition to the moon, Mercury, the larger asteroids, a number of the moons of the giant planets and even some of the distant Kuiper belt objects out beyond the orbit of Neptune, all may have surface boundary exospheres. Just as it does on Earth, air flows between these regions, setting up wind patterns that are then distorted by the rotation of the planet. Earth, like other terrestrial planets, features air deriving from heavy gases and compounds. Orbiting so close to its host star, the planet could not maintain liquid water and likely would not be able to support life. The white oval is roughly the size of planet Earth, to give you a sense of the huge scale of the weather patterns we are seeing. We study the features in these atmospheres not only for what they have to teach us about conditions in the jovian planets, but also because we hope they can help us understand the weather on Earth just a bit better. Practically every other planet in our solar system can be considered to have an atmosphere, apart from perhaps the extremely thin, transient atmosphere of Mercury, with the compositions varying from planet to planet. He then worked for several research institutions and served in the Navy during World War II. The IGY (stretched to 18 months) took place between July 1957 and December 1958. http://cnx.org/contents/2e737be8-ea65-48c3-aa0a-9f35b4c6a966@10.1, Discuss the atmospheric composition of the giant planets, Describe the cloud formation and atmospheric structure of the gas giants, Characterize the giant planets’ wind and weather patterns, Understand the scale and longevity of storms on the giant planets. Do Jovian planets have thick or thin atmospheres? We do not know exactly what causes the colors in the clouds of Jupiter. Below and to the right of the Red Spot is one of the white ovals, which are similar but smaller high-pressure features. At first astronomers thought that methane and ammonia might be the main constituents of these atmospheres, but now we know that hydrogen and helium are actually the dominant gases. A runaway greenhouse effect occurs when a planet's atmosphere contains greenhouse gas in an amount sufficient to block thermal radiation from the planet, preventing the planet from cooling and from having liquid water on its surface. On both Jupiter and Saturn, the temperature near the cloud tops is about 140 K (only a little cooler than the polar caps of Mars). A positive velocity means that the winds are blowing in the same direction as, but faster than, the planet’s internal rotation. Spectroscopic observations of the jovian planets began in the nineteenth century, but for a long time, astronomers were not able to interpret the spectra they observed. This image compares the winds of the giant planets, illustrating that wind speed (shown on the horizontal axis) and wind direction vary with latitude (shown on the vertical axis). Jupiter has no solid surface to slow down an atmospheric disturbance; furthermore, the sheer size of the disturbances lends them stability. These chemicals include hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon . (b) The clouds of Jupiter are turbulent and ever-changing, as shown in this Hubble Space Telescope image from 2007. For starters, it should be noted that every planet in the Solar System has an atmosphere of one kind or another. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech. In addition, Earth’s atmosphere has been able to contain water in each of its three phases (solid, liquid, and gas), which has been essential for the development of life on the planet. The most precise measurements of composition were made on Jupiter by the Galileo entry probe in 1995; as a result, we know the abundances of some elements in the jovian atmosphere even better than we know those in the Sun. One side of the planet, the "dayside," is a scorching 1,410 degrees Fahrenheit (770 degrees Celsius). Think about our big terrestrial hurricanes. Every time you take a breath of fresh air, it’s easy to forget you can safely do so because of Earth’s atmosphere. Note the horizontal bands in the atmosphere. On Jupiter, this cloud level is at a pressure of about 0.1 bar (one tenth the atmospheric pressure at the surface of Earth), but on Saturn it occurs lower in the atmosphere, at about 1 bar. Most the atmosphere above this level is clear and transparent, with less haze than is found on Uranus. The moon and mercury are considered together. Some scientists refer to the charged-particle zones around those planets as Van Allen belts as well. It is now proudly displayed as the university’s “Van Allen belt.”). Above the visible ammonia clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere, we find the clear stratosphere, which reaches a minimum temperature near 120 K. At still higher altitudes, temperatures rise again, just as they do in the upper atmosphere of Earth, because here the molecules absorb ultraviolet light from the Sun. On Earth, the lifetime of a large oceanic hurricane or typhoon is typically a few weeks, or even less when it moves over the continents and encounters friction with the land. Thick. (credit a: modification of work by Reta Beebe, Amy Simon (New Mexico State Univ. (a) In this Cassini image, colors have been intensified, so we can see the bands and zones and storms in the atmosphere. The atmosphere of Earth is divided into several different layers. Unlike Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus is almost entirely featureless as seen at wavelengths that range from the ultraviolet to the infrared (see its rather boring image in the chapter on The Giant Planets). Andrew Ingersoll of Caltech, a member of the Galileo team, called this entry site the “desert” of Jupiter. Mars’ Atmosphere: Planet Mars has a very thin atmosphere which is composed of 96% carbon dioxide, 1.93% argon and 1.89% nitrogen along with traces of oxygen and water. Figure 8: High Clouds in the Atmosphere of Neptune. Venus is similar in size to Earth. With the exception of Mercury, which has a very thin atmosphere, the high- percentage objects are the largest bodies in the solar system. They range in color from white to orange to red to brown, swirling and twisting in a constantly changing kaleidoscope of patterns. As we will see, storms on these planets can grow bigger than the entire planet Earth. Martian atmosphere is relatively thin and the atmospheric pressure on the surface caries from 0.004 atm.pres Earth to 0.009 atm.press Earth. Closer to the poles, winds shift forward and flow with the planet’s rotation. The Great Dark Spot rotated with a period of 17 days, versus about 6 days for the Great Red Spot. Despite its great distance and low energy input from the Sun, wind speeds at Neptune surpass 1,200 miles per hour (2,000 kilometers per hour), making them three times stronger than Jupiter’s and nine times stronger than Earth’s. If a planet has a lot of methane in its atmosphere, life is the most likely cause. What makes Earth’s atmosphere special, and how do other planets’ atmospheres compare? But in spite of how common this type of atmosphere … [1] The darker belts are regions where the cooler atmosphere moves downward, completing the convection cycle; they are darker because fewer ammonia clouds mean we can see deeper into the atmosphere, perhaps down to a region of ammonium hydrosulfide (NH4SH) clouds. Speed equals distance divided by time. The planet Neptune is seen here as photographed by Voyager in 1989. Simultaneously, a second team of rocket engineers and scientists had quietly been working on a military launch vehicle called Jupiter-C. Van Allen spearheaded the design of the instruments aboard a small satellite that this vehicle would carry. These include all the gas giants, as well as Mars, Venus, and Pluto. Its atmosphere forms from nitrogen too, and to a lesser extent, carbon dioxide, argon, ozone and helium. These bright, narrow cirrus clouds are made of methane ice crystals. The atmosphere is almost entirely carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulphuric acid. All planets in the solar system have an atmosphere with varying compositions of different gases. Their atmospheres contain small quantities of methane and ammonia gas, both of which also condense to form clouds. (a) The three oval-shaped white storms below and to the left of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are highly active, and moved closer together over the course of seven months between 1994 and 1995. Figure 2: Jupiter’s Colorful Clouds. Venus’ atmosphere, like Mars’, is nearly all carbon dioxide. The highest wind speeds near its equator reach 2100 kilometers per hour, even higher than the peak winds on Saturn. Saturn is generally bland, in spite of its extremely high wind speeds, and Uranus is featureless (perhaps due to its lack of an internal heat source). Saturn has one anomalous cloud structure that has mystified scientists: a hexagonal wave pattern around the north pole, shown in Figure 6. The six sides of the hexagon are each longer than the diameter of Earth. They apparently represent the tops of upward-moving convection currents. Another uniquely striking feature is a hexagon-shaped jet stream encircling the North Pole. When we breathe, we’re taking in an air mixture of about 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 1 percent argon, water vapor and carbon dioxide. Titan, Saturn's moon, has a methane-rich atmosphere. These gases will accumulate at the surface of the planet and in the atmosphere. Although Mars' atmosphere used to be thick enough for water to run on the surface, today that water is either scarce or non-existent. A planet like Mercury has essentially no atmosphere. Within the tropospheres of these planets, the temperature and pressure both increase with depth. It also detected lightning storms, but only at great distances, further suggesting that the probe itself was in a region of clear weather. The US government spurred its scientists and engineers to even greater efforts to get something into space to maintain the country’s prestige. Superimposed on the regular atmospheric circulation patterns we have just described are many local disturbances—weather systems or storms, to borrow the term we use on Earth. Unlike Sputnik, Explorer 1 was equipped to make scientific measurements of high-energy charged particles above the atmosphere. Unlike Uranus, Neptune has an atmosphere in which convection currents—vertical drafts of gas—emanate from the interior, powered by the planet’s internal heat source. However, the primary US satellite program, Vanguard, ran into difficulties: each of its early launches crashed or exploded. This is another indication that the behavior of such giant planet atmospheres is a complex problem that we do not fully understand. In fact, scientists estimate that it has about three times as much water as Saturn does. Recall from earlier chapters that convection is a process in which liquids, heated from underneath, have regions where hot material rises and cooler material descends. A planet or moon’s atmosphere must contain specific chemicals to support life as we know it. If a storm has a diameter of 400 km and rotates once in 24 h, what is the wind speed? Because of the Red Planet’s low atmospheric pressure, and with little methane or water vapor to reinforce the weak greenhouse effect (warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from the planet toward space), Mars’ surface remains quite cold, the average surface temperature being about -82 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 63 degrees Celsius). The rocky, inner planets of our solar system vary in sizes, atmospheres, and temperatures. Thus, the layers are stretched out over a longer distance, as you can see in Figure 4. Large storms (oval-shaped high-pressure systems such as the Great Red Spot on Jupiter and the Great Dark Spot on Neptune) can be found in some of the planet atmospheres. These beautiful images of Saturn were recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope between 1996 and 2000. In 1955, the United States and the Soviet Union each committed themselves to launching an Earth-orbiting satellite during IGY, a competition that began what came to be known as the space race. Figure 7: Neptune. Venus' atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. In fact, Voyager measurements show that the atmospheric temperature is even a few degrees higher on the dark winter side than on the hemisphere facing the Sun. WASP-39b, a hot, bloated, Saturn-like exoplanet (planet outside of our solar system) some 700 light-years away, apparently has a lot of water in its atmosphere. See Figure 1 in Exploring the Outer Planets to get a better sense of the colors your eye would actually see near Jupiter. More on the greenhouse effect›, 4. neptune. There is … Which planet has the greater temperature extremes? How many satellites does Mars have? This is much faster than wind speeds on Earth. These currents carry warm gas above the 1.5-bar cloud level, forming additional clouds at elevations about 75 kilometers higher. There is a thick layer of carbon dioxide below these clouds, which subjects the surface of the planet to an intense greenhouse effect. In addition to oxygen, some planets have other properties conducive to life, such as water and predictable temperatures. 1. But of course it is a moon not a planet. The cloud colors are due to impurities, the product of chemical reactions among the atmospheric gases in a process we call photochemistry. ), Figure 3: Saturn over Five Years. By observing the changing cloud patterns on the jovian planets, we can measure wind speeds and track the circulation of their atmospheres. These high-altitude clouds form bright white patterns against the blue planet beneath. The blue color, exaggerated with computer processing, is caused by the scattering of sunlight in the planet’s upper atmosphere. In our solar system all the other planets (and moons) have oxygen within compounds, but there are no other planets with large amounts of oxygen in their atmospheres (which is probably what you really wanted to know). Dr. Lori Glaze Its winds are among the fastest in the solar system, reaching speeds of 1,118 miles (1,800 kilometers) per hour. The upper clouds are composed of methane, which forms a thin cloud layer near the top of the troposphere at a temperature of 70 K and a pressure of 1.5 bars. In spite of the strange seasons induced by the 98° tilt of its axis, Uranus’ basic circulation is parallel with its equator, as is the case on Jupiter and Saturn. Wind is the name of the game on Neptune. Calculations indicate that the basic atmospheric structure of Uranus should resemble that of Jupiter and Saturn, although its upper clouds (at the 1-bar pressure level) are composed of methane rather than ammonia. The planet Jupiter chemical composition is similar to sun more than any of the other planets. (credit: NASA/JPL). They look like white ovals, and one can be seen clearly below and to the right of the Great Red Spot in Figure 11. a. the sun has fusion reactions, Jupiter has fission reactions b. Jupiter does not have enough mass to create the condition needed for fusion c. the sun is mostly hydrogen and helium d. Jupiter is a terrestrial planet The Earth's atmosphere contains approximately 22 percent oxygen, which exceeds the oxygen content in other planetary atmospheres. The compositions of the two atmospheres are generally similar, except that on Saturn there is less helium as the result of the precipitation of helium that contributes to Saturn’s internal energy source. Saturn shows similar but much more subdued cloud activity; instead of vivid colors, its clouds have a nearly uniform butterscotch hue (Figure 3). The vibrant colors of the clouds on Jupiter present a puzzle to astronomers: given the cool temperatures and the composition of nearly 90% hydrogen, the atmosphere should be colorless. The atmospheric motions we see on these planets are fundamentally different from thos… The largest and most famous of Jupiter’s storms is the Great Red Spot, a reddish oval in the southern hemisphere that changes slowly; it was 25,000 kilometers long when Voyager arrived in 1979, but it had shrunk to 20,000 kilometers by the end of the Galileo mission in 2000 (Figure 11). The atmosphere traps heat and keeps Venus toasty warm. “Tropos” means “change,” and the name reflects our constantly changing weather and mixture of gases. The light zones on Jupiter are regions of upwelling air capped by white ammonia cirrus clouds. Saturn shows a similar pattern, but with a much stronger equatorial jet stream, as we noted earlier. Saturn may be the only planet in our solar system with a warm polar vortex (a mass of swirling atmospheric gas around the pole) at both the North and South poles. On January 31, 1958, Van Allen’s Explorer 1 became the first US satellite in space. If there was a substantial atmosphere present on the planet… Science Writer: The scattering of sunlight by gas molecules lends Neptune a pale blue color similar to that of Earth’s atmosphere (Figure 7). photochemistry: chemical changes caused by electromagnetic radiation. We can calculate that on a planet with no solid surface, the lifetime of anything as large as the Red Spot should be measured in centuries, while lifetimes for the white ovals should be measured in decades, which is pretty much what we have observed. (Once, when Van Allen was giving a lecture at the University of Arizona, the graduate students in planetary science asked him if he would leave his belt at the school. The giants spin faster, and their rapid rotation tends to smear out of the circulation into horizontal (east-west) patterns parallel to the equator. 2. The ammonia clouds mark the upper edge of the planets’ tropospheres; above that is the stratosphere, the coldest part of the atmosphere. The diagrams in Figure 4 show the structure and clouds in the atmospheres of all four jovian planets. (credit: modification of work by NASA/JPL). 9. It soon became clear to the Galileo scientists that the probe happened to descend through an unusually dry, cloud-free region of the atmosphere—a giant downdraft of cool, dry gas. Calculate the wind speed at the outer edge of the spot. At least this is what scientists expected. A planet would also need to have the equivalent of the nutrient broth in the bottle for life to thrive — perhaps a liquid water ocean that exchanges chemicals with a rocky surface. Io. Life on Earth could not exist without that protective cover that keeps us warm, allows us to breathe, and protects us from harmful radiation—among other things. The outer layer is 1000 km long and comprises nearly 96% of hydrogen, 3% helium, and 1% of other gases like methane and ammonia. Even Earth's most powerful winds hit only about 250 miles per hour (400 kilometers per hour). With the exception of Mercury, which has a very thin atmosphere, the high-percentage objects are the largest bodies in the solar system. However, Venus has about 154,000 times more carbon dioxide in its atmosphere than Earth (and about 19,000 times more than Mars does), producing a runaway greenhouse effect and a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead. Figure 1: James Van Allen (1914–2006). Its winds move backward at the equator, blowing against the planet’s rotation. Bill Dunford, This site is maintained by the Planetary Science Communications team at. The Galileo probe sampled one of the clearest of these dry downdrafts. The overall structure is similar to that of Jupiter. The terrestrial planets are rich in heavier gases and gaseous compounds, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, ozone, and argon. Three similar but smaller disturbances (about as big as Earth) formed on Jupiter in the 1930s. In addition to its longevity, the Red Spot differs from terrestrial storms in being a high-pressure region; on our planet, such storms are regions of lower pressure. These bands are semi-permanent features, although they shift in intensity and position from year to year. In 1998, the Galileo spacecraft watched as two of these ovals collided and merged into one. Each layer has its own properties, depending on how far you are from the surface of the planet. The atmosphere is quite dusty, containing particulates that measure 1.5 micrometers in diameter, which is what gives the Martian sky a tawny color when seen from the surface. At higher latitudes there are alternating east- and west-moving streams, with each hemisphere an almost perfect mirror image of the other. Neptune differs from Uranus in its appearance, although their basic atmospheric temperatures are similar. [3] Mars' climate is quite different from Earth's; Mars has a very thin atmosphere—with its atmospheric density being 1% of Earth's atmospheric density. The easiest way to think about the atmosphere above our planet is to imagine an invisible shield that protects our planet from all the bad stuff that floats around in the universe. Neptune is the windiest planet in our solar system. More on Uranus›, 7. The planet Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are sometimes called the Gas Giants because so much of the mass of these planets consists of a gaseous atmosphere. The probe continued to make measurements to a pressure of 22 bars but found no other cloud layers before its instruments stopped working. The atmospheric motions we see on these planets are fundamentally different from those on the terrestrial planets. (These layers were initially defined in Earth as a Planet. 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 (467 °C, 872 °F), and the pressure is 93 bar (1,350 psi), roughly the pressure found 900 m (3,000 ft) underwater on Earth. However, it has continued to shrink, raising speculation that we may see its end within a few decades. If you are big enough planet, like Jupiter or Saturn, you kept the atmosphere that was the remnants of the gas in the solar nebula when the planets were formed (mostly hydrogen and helium). Figure 8 is a remarkable close-up of Neptune’s outer layers that could never have been obtained from Earth. He and his collaborators began using rockets to explore cosmic radiation in Earth’s outer atmosphere. If you watch their behavior in satellite images shown on weather outlets, you will see that they require about one day to rotate. Of these, the planets Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have significant atmospheres. In addition, there is no solid surface below the atmosphere against which the circulation patterns can rub and lose energy (which is how tropical storms on Earth ultimately die out when they come over land). When sunlight reflects from the atmospheres of the giant planets, the atmospheric gases leave their “fingerprints” in the spectrum of light. Then better spectra revealed the presence of molecules of methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3) in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. Different gases freeze at different temperatures. In each diagram, the yellow line shows how the temperature (see the scale on the bottom) changes with altitude (see the scale at the left). Intriguingly, no other planet in the universe has an atmosphere like Earth's. 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