We are probably familiar with Earth’s atmosphere because we rely on it to breathe. However, have you thought of the atmospheres of other planets? Well, they are very unusual, weird, and peculiar compared to the condition on Earth, so we’ll explore that here!
Let’s review one of our close neighbors, Mars. Firstly, its atmosphere is about 100 times thinner than Earth’s. (Tim Sharp, 2017)1. Moreover, it consists of mostly carbon dioxide with very little oxygen, making us unable to breathe without special equipment. (the NSSDCA, 2020).
Even worse, Mars has dust storms in its atmosphere. That means some dust can be blown away to different places around the planet at a top speed of about 96 kilometers (60 miles) per hour. Furthermore, the dust storms are sometimes global, meaning that they surround the entire planet and are visible by telescopes.
Also, dust storms can severely affect rovers with solar panels. For instance, an unprecedented dust storm took the Opportunity rover offline permanently.
Venus has the craziest atmosphere of all planets in the Solar System. In fact, approximately 96.5% of the air surrounding Venus is carbon dioxide. That creates a runaway greenhouse effect that renders the planet hotter than Mercury, with its surface temperature is around 470° Celsius.
Moreover, wind is blowing everything on the surface at about 360 kilometers (224 miles) per hour! That’s stronger than most hurricanes we see on Earth. Venus also has clouds of sulfuric acid, which is infamous for its strong acidity.
Gas Giants and Ice Giants
After two puzzling planets, the atmospheres settle down a little bit on gas giants, although they are still uninhabitable. That’s because the complexity isn’t that large anymore, but it can still be strange.
The composition of both categories are dominated by two gases: Hydrogen and helium. (Elizabeth Howell, 2018). If you think further, this is normal because the two elements are the most abundant ones across the cosmos. Also, there are some other elements, such as methane, that makes Uranus and Neptune blue.
Furthermore, ice giants, which Uranus and Neptune are examples of, have “icy” materials inside themselves. They include water, ammonia, and methane. (Nola Taylor Redd, 2018).
What About Exoplanets?
Well, it’s time to get out of the Solar System to explore even weirder worlds. Remember that the Universe is vast, and we have already discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets!
First and foremost, we’ll tell you some shocking and terrifying news. An exoplanet called HD 189733b has wind speeds clocking at 8,690 kilometers (5,400 miles) per hour.
What’s worse, it rains glass. That means, if you stand there, it’s literally death by a thousand cuts. Pieces of glass flies everywhere very speedily, so landing there is more than difficult: It’s fatal.
Another unusual one is TrES-2b. The weird thing is that it reflects less than 1% of light that is hitting it, making it extremely dark. Other than its atmosphere being non-reflective, it is also as hot as lava. This is because the planet is a hot Jupiter, orbiting its star every 2.5 days.
How to Find the Composition of Exoplanets?
There are some ways to find an exoplanet’s composition, and the easiest one is to use transit spectroscopy. It reads the light that is bent around the planet, removes the star’s spectrum, and compares it to the spectrum of chemicals.
So, we discussed the atmospheres of different planets and how bizarre they are in this article. Are there even more unusual features of the atmospheres mentioned above? Let us know in the comments. For more information, check out the references below.
References and Credits
- Tim Sharp. (2017, September 12). Mars’ Atmosphere: Composition, Climate & Weather | Space. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://www.space.com/16903-mars-atmosphere-climate-weather.html
- (2020, November 25). Mars Fact Sheet – the NSSDCA – NASA. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact.html
- (2015, September 18). The Fact and Fiction of Martian Dust Storms – NASA. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/the-fact-and-fiction-of-martian-dust-storms
- (2019, December 19). In Depth | Venus – NASA Solar System Exploration. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/venus/in-depth/
- (2020, November 25). NSSDC – Venus Fact Sheet – the NSSDCA – NASA. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/venusfact.html
- Nola Taylor Redd. (2018, October 18). Venus’ Atmosphere: Composition, Climate and Weather | Space. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://www.space.com/18527-venus-atmosphere.html
- Elizabeth Howell. (2018, March 30). Gas Giants: Facts About the Outer Planets | Space. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://www.space.com/30372-gas-giants.html
- Nola Taylor Redd. (2018, February 28). What is Uranus Made Of? | Space. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://www.space.com/18706-uranus-composition.html
- Sarah Loff. (2017, August 7). Rains of Terror on Exoplanet HD 189733b | NASA. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/rains-of-terror-on-exoplanet-hd-189733b
- (n.d.). Exoplanet-catalog – Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond our Solar System TrES-2 b. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/exoplanet-catalog/1716/tres-2-b/
- (2011, August 22). 2011 August 22 – TrES 2b: Dark Planet – APOD. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110822.html
- (2020, November 10). How We Find and Characterize | Discovery … – NASA Exoplanets. Retrieved February 3, 2021, from https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/discovery/how-we-find-and-characterize/