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Yes, a tectonically inactive planet can retain a long-term atmosphere. You make the connection that a lack of plate tectonics on a planet indicates a "dead" core and thus said planet has no magnetosphere. As such, I'm going to interpret your question as, can a planet without a magnetosphere retain an atmosphere long-term? As proof, I offer up Venus....


36

Nitrogen, with a molecular mass of 28 atomic mass units, is too light to have remained in Mars's atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, with a molecular mass of 44 amu, could (and does) exist on Mars, but it is rather sparse. Venus's atmosphere appears to contain a small amount of nitrogen when viewed on a percentage basis. "Only" 3.5% of all of the gases in ...


35

Venus has a strong ionosphere that protects it against violent solar winds. So, even though Venus has no intrisic magnetic field, it has an effective, induced magnetic field due to the interaction between the solar winds and the atmosphere, that protects it against solar winds. Venus atmosphere is thick enough to have a consequent ionosphere, that would be ...


28

In an isothermal atmosphere, the exponential scale height of the atmosphere is $$ h \sim \frac{k_\mathrm B T}{\mu g},$$ where $g$ is the gravitational field, $\mu$ is the mean mass of a particle and $T$ is the temperature (in kelvin). i.e. The pressure/density of the atmosphere falls exponentially, with an e-folding height given by the above expression. I ...


25

There is a simple$^*$ way to know the total mass of the atmosphere: measuring the pressure it exerts on the surface, which necessarily integrate all of the atmosphere above ground level. If you take an atmospheric pressure of $1\cdot10^5$ Pa, it is equivalent to a force of $1\cdot10^5$ newton over one square meter. Multiply by the area of the planet in ...


22

The Moon's atmosphere is very thin compared to the Earth, so thin that it is usually said to have no atmosphere. The Moon's gravity is not strong enough to retain lighter elements, so they escape into space. Apollo 17 carried an instrument called the Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment (LACE). Oxygen is not listed as one of the elements it found on ...


22

The chemistry of Titan's atmosphere is complex, with reactions occurring between carbon dioxide, oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydroxl, and other compounds. This means that carbon dioxide production and destruction takes place through a variety of reactions (Samuelson et al. 1983), some spurred by ultraviolet light from the Sun (and hence photodissociation). In ...


21

There is an interesting article on the magnetosphere of Venus on the ESA Science and Technology site. You can find the article here and it will probably answer your question. The article states, like you did, that some planets, like Earth, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn, have magnetic fields internally induced by their iron core. These magnetic fields shield ...


21

Our atmosphere is only transparent to visible light, In most other wavelengths, some or all of the light is absorbed Image from Wikipedia, adapted from image by NASA Our eyes have evolved to take advantage of the transparency at these wavelengths. If we had evolved in an atmosphere with a very different mix of gases. One in which visible light was ...


14

In theory one should just be able to determine the difference between the spectra during the star's eclipse of the exoplanet (starlight alone) and the spectra of the star and exoplanet together, but in reality equipment is not precise enough for this. To remedy this problem, the analysis is integrated over many eclipses. Some other calibrations are made as ...


14

A number of brown dwarfs have had 'surface maps' created using the light from those stars. In 2013, observations of 2MASS J22282889–4310262, a brown dwarf 35 light years away, were published. These were made using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and were able to show changing light patterns and distinct layers of material at different altitudes in ...


13

Doing a bit of reading up on this, I might have an answer, though credit where credit is due, the answer isn't really mine: https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/3wsy99/why_is_neon_so_rare_on_earth/ When the planets coalesced, it's likely that there was very little ices/gas around the inner planets when they formed and the Earth's atmosphere and ...


13

There are different ways to model something. From what you're asking, there are two main types of modeling: forward modeling and inverse modeling. Forward Modeling In this type of modeling, you have a specific model that defines the "current" state of your system. In the case of exoplanet atmospheres, it'd likely be something that defines the molecular ...


13

3.5% of all atmosphere in Venus still accounts for more partial pressure of nitrogen than on Earth. Venus has ~90bar pressure at the surface, 3.5% of them are ~3.2 bar nitrogen. Earth has only 0.8 bar nitrogen. Even accounting for the Venus surface temperature (~700K vs ~300K on Earth), one still gets more nitrogen mass per volume. Mars: Most of the ...


12

You are right that it's surprising that Titan, being just a moon, has a thick atmosphere. Usually, the answer includes magnetism: Earth has an atmosphere because the liquid iron in the outer core produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field changes the paths of the particles in the solar wind, thus preserving the volatile gases intact. Mars did use to have ...


11

For a liquid, hydrostatic pressure is $\rho g h$ where $\rho$ is density (this is always the same for all water) g is gravitational acceleration and h is depth. The gravitational acceleration on Europa is 1.3 $\text{m/s}{}^2$ (compared with 9.8 $\text{m/s}{}^2$ on Earth). But on Europa there is 20km of ice floating on the water. As a rough estimate, the ...


11

This is supplementary to antispinward's excellent answer and provides additional sources and a visualization from the JAXA spacecraft Atasuki. It has been shamelessly borrowed from Would it be possible to "ride the wave" on Venus? The recently published paper in Nature Geoscience Atmospheric mountain wave generation on Venus and its influence on the solid ...


10

The loss of the Martian atmosphere can be mostly attributed to its mass. The reason why Earth still has an atmosphere made of lighter elements is because with larger mass comes larger escape velocity, which is the speed at which an atom's kinetic energy overcomes the gravitational potential energy of its planet. The distribution of speeds of most gasses can ...


10

There are other ways to lose atmosphere. For example Jean's Escape. If average velocity of a gas molecule exceeds escape velocity, the planet will lose atmosphere. Venus' atmopshere is mostly $CO_2$ which has a higher molecular weight than the $0_2$ and $N_2$ of our atmosphere. So, for a given temperature and pressure, the carbon dioxide molecules have a ...


10

Nasa has a atmospheric model of mars: $$0.699 *e^{-0.00009 h} $$ A naive application of this model, solving for a pressure of 101 kPa, gives a depth of -55 km. The Armstrong limit depth (at which water boils at body temperature) is -24km The model assumes constant temperature, and gravity (it doesn't correct for the fact that at 55 km below the surface ...


10

First, it's a great question. Mostly the answer is straight forward, so I can answer it, but it's still a great question. and I'll add a similar, but slightly more detailed picture to the one you posted. Source You're right that there is a clear difference between Earth's surface where liquid water can exist, evaporate, make clouds, rain and repeat. ...


10

Torricelli, the inventor of the Mercury Barometer (~1644) argued that the height of the column of mercury was governed by atmospheric pressure (the "weight of the atmosphere" as he would have put it). He asserted that the space above the mercury in his tube was a vacuum, a totally anti-Aristotlean concept at that time. To test this he enlisted the help of ...


10

Suppose the atmosphere has a density that decays exponentially with height. e.g. $$ \rho = \rho_0 \exp[-h/h_0]\ ,$$ where $\rho_0$ is the density at some surface and $h_0$ is a characteristic height scale on which the density decreases. If we integrate this funcion from $h=0$ to $h = \infty$, then this gives a finite result. $$ \int^{\infty}_0 \rho_0 \exp[-...


9

Same reason as the explosion at the Tunguska event years ago: Pressure, due to boiling water. Meteors usually cme into our atmosphere at incredible speeds. At these speeds, the meteor is highly affected by the viscosity of air and is heated by compression (and a little bit of friction). This starts boiling the ice present in the meteor, leading to a ...


9

why Argon specifically? Both helium and neon are pretty lightweight, tend to vaporize easily even at low temperatures, and are chemically inert. For all these reasons combined, they tend to not get trapped when planets are formed - and when they do get trapped they leak out easily. Argon is just heavy enough to not escape easily into space, so some ...


9

I'll give this one a shot. Correction is welcome. Upper atmosphere temperature. It's not just elements that give a planet color, but the temperature of elements. When we examine what a planet looks like, we're basically talking about reflected sunlight from the planet's surface or atmosphere. With Earth, its atmosphere is transparent enough that its ...


9

No, nothing on Europa could possibly be photosynthesizing as we know it. Jupiter doesn't emit light, and what it reflects from the sun is not enough, plus there's no significant amount of carbon dioxide there. However, the first life on Earth was not plants, it was chemotrophs. These bacteria gained their energy from the heat of hydrothermal vents, and if ...


8

See this diagram, Now, the slant appears to be the same for June and December Solstices, doesn't it? First thing, it is a wrong conception that Sun travels more "perpendicular" to horizon in the summers. It just reaches a higher point as you can see, not that the slant is more. Where does the disparity come in? Civil Sunrise begins when the Sun is 6° ...


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