Planetary Atmospheres

Planetary Atmospheres

Beautiful patterns in it's colorful clouds hint at the complexity of the atmosphere of the giant planet Jupiter.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Earth is not the only world with an atmosphere. Several planets - and even a few moons - in our solar system have atmospheres. Some have clouds, wind, rain and powerful storms. Recently scientists have also begun to get glimpses of atmospheres of planets around other stars.

All of the planets in our solar system have some sort of atmosphere, though the atmosphere of Mercury is extremely thin and is not very different from the vacuum of space. All four giant planets in our solar system - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - have very thick, deep atmospheres. The smaller, rocky planets - Earth, Venus and Mars - have much thinner atmospheres hovering above their solid surfaces. A few moons also have atmospheres, though most of them are quite thin. Saturn's moon Titan is an exception; air pressure at the surface of Titan is higher than on Earth! Of the five officially recognized dwarf planets, Pluto has a thin, seasonal atmosphere containing nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide; Ceres may have an extremely thin atmosphere of water vapor.

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