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The Size of the Planet Matters




Mercury
(small)

Venus
(medium sized)

Jupiter
(very large)

Hydrogen (H) less than 1 hour days over the age of the Universe
Helium (He) roughly 1 day 100 times the age of the solar system over the age of the Universe
Oxygen (O) 800 million years over the age of the Universe over the age of the Universe

This table shows the time it takes, on average, for a few common atmospheric gases to escape the gravity of a planet. The table shows that as the planets get larger (more massive), it is harder for the gases to escape. The table shows that the average time for any gas to escape from Jupiter's gravity is much too long. The same is true for all the Giant planets. Therefore it is likely that all the gases in Saturn's atmosphere are probably the original gases swept up by the proto-Saturn.


Return to atmosphere

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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