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Here are four different ways chemists use to show a molecule of carbon monoxide. In the colored molecule models, carbon is light gray and oxygen is red.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell.

Carbon Monoxide - CO

Carbon monoxide is kind of gas. It is poisonous. A molecule of carbon monoxide (CO) has one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. Earth's atmosphere has a small amount of carbon monoxide in it.

The carbon monoxide in air comes from nature and from things people do. Volcanoes and forest fires give off carbon monoxide. Most of the carbon monoxide people make comes from the engines of cars and trucks. Carbon monoxide is an important kind of air pollution.

When fuel burns, it usually makes carbon dioxide (CO2). Sometimes when fuel burns there isn't enough oxygen, or there is too much carbon. When this happens, the burning creates carbon monoxide, too.

Earth is not the only place we find carbon monoxide. It has been found in gaseous nebulae, in the atmospheres of other planets, and in the ices of comets.

Last modified February 8, 2006 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA