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The Size of the Planet Matters




Mercury
(small)

Venus
(medium sized)

Jupiter
(very large)

Hydrogen (H) 1 hour days over the age of the Universe
Helium (He) 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

Scientists think that the original air of many earth-like planets drifted away, and the air they have today came out from inside the planet.

This table shows the time it takes for some of the molecules of the air to escape from a planet. The table shows that as the planets get bigger, it is harder for the molecules to escape.

The table shows that the average time for any molecules to escape from Jupiter's gravity is much too long. The same is true for all the Giant planets. Therefore probably all the molecules in Saturn's atmosphere are the same ones drawn to the planet when it was forming.


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