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The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
This is a drawing showing how atmospheres form.
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The Origin of an Atmosphere

There are four ideas for the origin of a planetary atmosphere. Those four ideas are 1. that the planet-elements of which a planet was made decomposed and released the atmosphere, 2. that the atmosphere was drawn to the planet from the gaseous cloud out of which everything came, 3. that comets hit the planet and brought molecules of air with them, 4. that volcanoes erupted and made an atmosphere from gases inside the planet.

Hypothesis #2, in which the original material, which Saturn drew out of the primordial nebula stayed, and forms the atmosphere on Saturn today.


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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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How a proto-planet sweeps up nearby material

As shown in this picture, while they were forming in the solar nebula, the nucleii of the planets-to-be (called protoplanets) drew material to themselves from the cloud of gas and dust around them. The...more

An Overview of Motions in Saturn's Atmosphere

The most important motions in the atmosphere are winds. The major winds in Saturn's atmosphere are the zonal winds which are composed of alternating belts and zones flowing in opposite directions. Belts...more

Saturn's Belts and Zones

The striped cloud bands on Saturn, like Jupiter, are divided into belts and zones. In a belt, the wind flows very strongly in one direction only. In a zone, the wind flows very strongly in exactly the...more

The position of Saturn when gas changed to ice

The position of the planets in the solar nebula greatly affected their 1. size and 2. composition. This is because of the effect of how cold it was in the nebula. 1. The nebula was a lot warmer close to...more

Saturn's Strange Hexagon

Astronomers have discovered a bizarre, hexagon-shaped feature in the clouds of Saturn near the planet's North Pole. The feature was first seen in images returned by the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s,...more

Saturn's Southern Polar Vortex

Saturn's South Pole is an extremely stormy and surprisingly warm region. A vast, hurricane-like storm centered on the South Pole dominates the area. Astonishingly, the pole is also warmer than any other...more

Discover Saturn

Like the inner planets and Jupiter, Saturn is clearly visible in the night sky. The ancient Greeks named the planet after the god of agriculture and time. It wasn't until 1655, however, that we knew Saturn...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF