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Encyclopedia > Atmosphere of Mars
Mars from Hubble Space Telescope October 28, 2005 with sandstorm visible.
Carbon dioxide 95.32%
Nitrogen 2.7%
Argon 1.6%
Oxygen 0.13%
Carbon monoxide 0.07%
Water vapor 0.03%
Nitric oxide 0.013%
Neon 2.5 ppm
Krypton 300 ppb
Formaldehyde 130 ppb [1]
Xenon 80 ppb
Ozone 30 ppb
Methane 10.5 ppb

Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, has a very different atmosphere from that of Earth. There has been much interest in studying its composition since the recent detection of a small amount of methane, which may signal life on Mars. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (700x700, 34 KB) NASAs Hubble Space Telescope snapped this picture of Mars on October 28, within a day of its closest approach to Earth on the night of October 29. ... Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. ... General Name, symbol, number nitrogen, N, 7 Chemical series nonmetals Group, period, block 15, 2, p Appearance colorless gas Standard atomic weight 14. ... General Name, symbol, number argon, Ar, 18 Chemical series noble gases Group, period, block 18, 3, p Appearance colorless Standard atomic weight 39. ... General Name, symbol, number oxygen, O, 8 Chemical series nonmetals, chalcogens Group, period, block 16, 2, p Appearance colorless (gas) pale blue (liquid) Standard atomic weight 15. ... Carbon monoxide, with the chemical formula CO, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. ... Water vapor or water vapour (see spelling differences), also aqueous vapor, is the gas phase of water. ... R-phrases , , , , S-phrases , , , Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 Â°C, 100 kPa) Infobox disclaimer and references Nitric oxide or Nitrogen monoxide is a chemical compound with chemical formula NO. This gas is an important signaling molecule in the body of... For other uses, see Neon (disambiguation). ... Parts per million (ppm) is a measure of concentration that is used where low levels of concentration are significant. ... For other uses, see Krypton (disambiguation). ... This page refers to concentration in the chemical sense. ... The chemical compound formaldehyde (also known as methanal) is a gas with a pungent smell. ... General Name, Symbol, Number xenon, Xe, 54 Chemical series noble gases Group, Period, Block 18, 5, p Appearance colorless Standard atomic weight 131. ... For other uses, see Ozone (disambiguation). ... Methane is a chemical compound with the molecular formula CH4. ... Adjectives: Martian Atmosphere Surface pressure: 0. ... This article is about the astronomical term. ... Sol redirects here. ... Atmosphere is the general name for a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass. ... Air redirects here. ... Methane is a chemical compound with the molecular formula CH4. ... An electron microscope reveals bacteria-like structures in meteorite fragment ALH84001 For other uses of Life on Mars, see Life on Mars (disambiguation). ...


The atmosphere of Mars is relatively thin, and the atmospheric pressure on the surface varies from around 30 Pa (0.03 kPa) on Olympus Mons's peak to over 1155 Pa (1.155 kPa) in the depths of Hellas Planitia, with a mean surface level pressure of 600 Pa (0.6 kPa), compared to Earth's 101.3 kPa. However, the scale height of the atmosphere is about 11 km, somewhat higher than Earth's 6 km. The atmosphere on Mars consists of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, and contains traces of oxygen, water, and methane. The atmosphere is quite dusty, giving the Martian sky a tawny color when seen from the surface; data from the Mars Exploration Rovers indicates the suspended dust particles are roughly 1.5 micrometres across[1]. Atmosphere is the general name for a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass. ... Diurnal (daily) rhythm of air pressure in northern Germany (black curve is air pressure) Atmospheric pressure is the pressure at any point in the Earths atmosphere. ... The pascal (symbol: Pa) is the SI derived unit of pressure or stress (also: Youngs modulus and tensile strength). ... Olympus Mons (Latin, Mount Olympus) is the tallest known volcano and mountain in our solar system, located on the planet Mars at approximately . ... NASA image of Hellas Planitia Hellas Planitia, also known as the Hellas Impact Basin, is a roughly circular impact crater located in the southern hemisphere of the planet Mars. ... A scale height is a term often used in scientific contexts for a distance over which a quantity decreases by a factor of e. ... Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. ... General Name, symbol, number nitrogen, N, 7 Chemical series nonmetals Group, period, block 15, 2, p Appearance colorless gas Standard atomic weight 14. ... General Name, symbol, number argon, Ar, 18 Chemical series noble gases Group, period, block 18, 3, p Appearance colorless Standard atomic weight 39. ... General Name, symbol, number oxygen, O, 8 Chemical series nonmetals, chalcogens Group, period, block 16, 2, p Appearance colorless (gas) pale blue (liquid) Standard atomic weight 15. ... Impact from a water drop causes an upward rebound jet surrounded by circular capillary waves. ... Methane is a chemical compound with the molecular formula CH4. ... In heraldry, tenné or tawny is a stain, a rarely used tincture, an orangish brown colour. ... Artists Concept of Rover on Mars NASAs Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Mission (since 2003) is a unmanned Mars exploration mission that includes sending two Rovers (robots) to explore the Martian surface and geology. ... A micrometre (American spelling: micrometer, symbol µm) is an SI unit of length equal to one millionth of a metre, or about a tenth of the diameter of a droplet of mist or fog. ...

Contents

Structure

Mars' atmosphere is divided into layers.


Lower Atmosphere: This is a warm region affected by heat from airborne dust and from the ground.


Middle Atmosphere: Mars has a jetstream, and it flows in this region.


Upper Atmosphere, or Thermosphere: This region has very high temperatures thanks to heating from the Sun. Here, atmospheric gases start to separate from each other rather than forming an even mix, like in the lower atmospheric layers.


Exosphere: 200 kilometers and higher. This region is where the last wisps of atmosphere merge into space. There is no hard boundary so it is very difficult to tell where the atmosphere ends.



Carbon dioxide

The main component of the atmosphere of Mars is carbon dioxide. Since Mars is a much colder planet than Earth, the carbon dioxide can condense at the polar caps during the Martian winters, and will sublimate away in the Martian summers. Thus, the atmospheric pressure of Mars has significant annual variation. Sublimation has two separate meanings: In physics, sublimation is the change from solid to gas. ...


Argon

The atmosphere of Mars is considerably enriched in the noble gas argon compared to that atmosphere of any of the other planets. Unlike carbon dioxide, the argon content of the atmosphere does not condense, and hence the total amount of argon in the Mars atmosphere is constant. However, the concentration at any given location can change as carbon dioxide moves in and out of the atmosphere. Recent satellite data shows an increase in atmospheric argon over the southern pole in autumn, which dissipates the following spring. It is thought that this buildup is due to CO2condensing on the pole in winter, leading to argon and other gasses that do not condense becoming more concentrated, eventually comprising nearly 30% of the local atmosphere.[2].


Water

Mars' thin atmosphere, visible on the horizon in this low orbit photo.
Mars' thin atmosphere, visible on the horizon in this low orbit photo.

Other aspects of the Martian atmosphere vary significantly. In the winter months when the poles are in continual darkness, the surface gets so cold that as much as 25% of the entire atmosphere condenses out into thick slabs of CO2 ice (dry ice). When the poles are again exposed to sunlight the CO2 ice sublimes, creating enormous winds that sweep off the poles as fast as 250 mph (400 km/h). These seasonal actions transport large amounts of dust and water vapor giving rise to Earth-like frost and large cirrus clouds. These clouds of water-ice were photographed by the Opportunity rover in 2004.[3] Image File history File links Size of this preview: 534 × 600 pixel Image in higher resolution (1047 × 1176 pixel, file size: 114 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Atmosphere of Mars taken from low orbit. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 534 × 600 pixel Image in higher resolution (1047 × 1176 pixel, file size: 114 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Atmosphere of Mars taken from low orbit. ... Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. ... Sublimation of an element or substance is a conversion between the solid and the gas phases with no intermediate liquid stage. ... Frost on black pipes Frost is a solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The launch patch for Opportunity, featuring Duck Dodgers (Daffy Duck). ...


Trace Components: Methane

Trace amounts of methane, at the level of several parts per billion, were first reported in Mars' atmosphere by Michael J. Mumma (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center), whose team first detected Martian methane in 2003. [4] In March 2004 the Mars Express Orbiter[5] and ground based observations from Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope[6] also suggested the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere, with a concentration of about 10 ppb by volume[7]. The presence of methane on Mars is very intriguing, since as an unstable gas it indicates that there must be (or have been within the last few hundred years) a source of the gas on the planet. It is estimated that Mars must produce 150 ton/year of methane [2]. Volcanic activity, comet impacts, and the existence of life in the form of microorganisms such as methanogens are among possible but as yet unproven sources. The methane appears to occur in patches, which suggests that it is being rapidly broken down before it has time to become uniformly distributed in the atmosphere, and so it is presumably also continually being released to the atmosphere. Plans are now being made to look for other companion gases that may suggest which sources are most likely; in the Earth's oceans biological methane production tends to be accompanied by ethane, while volcanic methane is accompanied by sulfur dioxide. 2004 : January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December Deaths • 08 Abu Abbas • 20 Queen Juliana • 28 Peter Ustinov • 30 Alistair Cooke More March 2004 deaths Ongoing events EU Enlargement Exploration of Mars: Rovers Haiti Rebellion Israeli-Palestinian conflict Occupation of Iraq Same-sex marriage in... Oblique view of the Reull Vallis near the Hellas basin, rendered from data obtained by the Mars Express orbiters High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) The Mars Express Orbiter is part of the Mars Express program, a European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Mars. ... CFHT image of Eugenia and Petit-Prince CFHT in the morning. ... Methane is a chemical compound with the molecular formula CH4. ... This page refers to concentration in the chemical sense. ... For other uses, see Gas (disambiguation). ... This article is about volcanoes in geology. ... Comet Hale-Bopp Comet West For other uses, see Comet (disambiguation). ... A cluster of Escherichia coli bacteria magnified 10,000 times. ... Methanogens are archaea that produce methane as a metabolic byproduct in anoxic conditions. ... This article is about a chemical compound. ... Sulfur dioxide (or Sulphur dioxide) has the chemical formula SO2. ...


It was also recently shown that methane could be produced by a non-biological process involving water, carbon dioxide, and the mineral olivine, which is known to be common on Mars.[8] The required conditions for this reaction (i.e. temperature and pressure) don't exist on the surface, but likely exist within the crust. To prove this process is occurring, one could try detecting serpentine, a mineral by-product of the process. Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. ... For other uses, see Mineral (disambiguation). ... The mineral olivine (also called chrysolite and, when gem-quality, peridot) is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula (Mg,Fe)2SiO4. ... For other uses, see Serpentine (disambiguation). ...


The ESA found that the concentrations of methane in the martian atmosphere was not even, but rather that it coincided with the presence of water vapour. In the upper atmosphere these two gasses are uniformly distributed, but near the surface they concentrate in three equatorial regions, namely Arabia Terra, Elysium Planitia, and Arcadia Memnonia. Planetary scientist David H. Grinspoon (Southwest Research Institute) feels that the coincidence of water vapour and methane increases the chance of a biological source, but cautions that it is uncertain how life could have survived so long on a planet as inhospitable as Mars[4]. Ultimately, to prove an organic nature for the methane, a future probe or lander hosting a mass spectrometer will be needed, since the isotopic proportions of C12 to C14 can clearly distinguish between an inorganic and an organic (biologic - bacterial decay) origin of the methane [3]. Arabia Terra is large upland region in the north of Mars. ... Elysium Planitia is the second largest volcanic region on Mars, after Tharsis Montes. ... Memnonia quadrangle is a region of Mars that covers Latitude -35° to 35° and Longitute 210° to 150°. Mangala Valles is located in the upland region of Memnonia. ...


Uses of the Atmosphere of Mars

Main article: In-Situ Resource Utilization

The atmosphere of Mars is a resource of known composition which is available at any landing site on Mars. For this reason, it has been proposed that human exploration of Mars could use carbon dioxide from Martian atmosphere as feedstock to manufacture rocket fuel to use for the return mission. Mission studies which propose using the atmosphere in this way include the Mars Direct proposal of Robert Zubrin and the NASA Design reference mission study. Two major chemical pathways for utilization of the carbon dioxide are the Sabatier reaction, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide along with additional hydrogen to produce methane and oxygen, and electrolysis, using a zirconia solid oxide electrolyte to split the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide. In astronautics, In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is the way to describe the use the resources of the planetary body which is explored (Moon, Mars,...) to provide propellant, energy or consumables to the science payload or to the crew which has been deployed there. ... Artists conception of a human mission on the surface of Mars A human mission to Mars (sometimes, manned mission to Mars) refers to humans going to the planet Mars, including orbiting Mars, landing on the surface, or walking on the surface. ... Rocket fuel is a propellant that reacts with an oxidizing agent to produce thrust in a rocket. ... Mars Direct is a proposal for a relatively low-cost manned mission to Mars with current rocket technology. ... Zubrin giving a talk in 2005. ... Overview of the Reference Mission Version 3. ... The Sabatier process involves the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide at elevated temperatures and pressures in the presence of a nickel catalyst to produce methane and water. ... This article is about the chemical process. ... Zirconia (ZrO2) is a white crystalline oxide of zirconium. ...


References

  1. ^ Lemmon et al., "Atmospheric Imaging Results from the Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity"
  2. ^ Francois Forgot. Alien Weather at the Poles of Mars. Science. Retrieved on 2007-02-25.
  3. ^ Clouds - Dec. 13, 2004 NASA Press release. URL accessed March 17, 2006.
  4. ^ a b Michael J. Mumma. Mars Methane Boosts Chances for Life. Skytonight.com. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
  5. ^ V. Formisano, S. Atreya T. Encrenaz, N. Ignatiev, M. Giuranna (2004). "Detection of Methane in the Atmosphere of Mars". Science 306 (5702): 1758 - 1761. doi:10.1126/science.1101732. 
  6. ^ V. A. Krasnopolskya, J. P. Maillard, T. C. Owen (2004). "Detection of methane in the martian atmosphere: evidence for life?". Icarus 172 (2): 537-547. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2004.07.004. 
  7. ^ ESA Press release. Mars Express confirms methane in the Martian atmosphere. ESA. Retrieved on 2006-03-17.
  8. ^ Oze, C., M. Sharma (2005). "Have olivine, will gas: Serpentinization and the abiogenic production of methane on Mars". Geophys. Res. Lett. 32: L10203. doi:10.1029/2005GL022691. 

Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 56th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about the American space agency. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 54th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... This article is about the European Space Agency. ... This article is about the European Space Agency. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 76th day of the year (77th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ...

See also

Eridania Lake is a theorized ancient lake on Mars with a surface area of roughly 1. ... This is a list of areas of chaos terrain officially named by the International Astronomical Union on the planet Mars. ... Olympia Undae is a large dune field on the planet Mars, located next to the north polar region of Planum Boreum and covering from 100°E to 240°E. In 2006 rich gypsum deposits were detected there by the Mars Express orbiter, suggesting that the region had been wet at... Solis Lacus (85° W, 26° S) is a dark feature on Mars. ... A Martian meteorite is a meteorite, that has landed on Earth but is believed to have originated from Mars. ... Meteorite fragment ALH84001 ALH 84001 (Allan Hills 84001) is a meteorite found in Allan Hills, Antarctica in December 1984 by a team of US meteorite hunters from the ANSMET project. ... Thin section of Chassigny under cross-polarized light (JPL) Chassigny is a Mars meteorite that was seen to fall on October 3rd, 1815 at about 8:00 am in Chassigny, Haute-Marne, France[1][2]. Chassigny is the meteorite for which the Chassignites are named and gives rise to the... The Kaidun meteorite is a meteorite that fell on March 12, 1980 on a Soviet military base in Yemen. ... The Shergotty meteorite is the first example of the shergottite Mars meteorite family. ... The Nakhla meteorite, the first and eponymous example of a Nakhlite type meteorite of the SNC Group type of meteorites, fell to Earth on the 28th of June, 1911, at approximately 09:00 in the Nakhla region of Abu Hommos, Alexandria, Egypt. ... Computer-generated image of one of the two Mars Exploration Rovers which touched down on Mars in 2004. ... Computer-generated image of one of the two Mars Exploration Rovers which touched down on Mars in 2004. ... Mars Mars is the focus of much speculation and serious study about possible human colonization. ... Illustration of the Phobos spacecraft Image of Phobos taken by Phobos 2 spacecraft The Phobos program was an unmanned space mission consisting of two probes launched by the Soviet Union to study Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. ... The following is a list of surface features of Mars seen by the Spirit rover: // Apollo 1 Hills Columbia Hills Grissom Hill Husband Hill McCool Hill Bonneville (crater) Gusev crater Thira (crater) Adirondack (Mars) Home Plate (Mars) Pot of Gold (Mars) Larrys Lookout Sleepy Hollow (Mars) List of surface... The following is a list of surface features of Mars seen by the Opportunity rover: // Argo (crater) Eagle (crater) Emma Dean (crater) Endurance (crater) Erebus (crater) Fram (crater) Victoria (crater) Vostok (crater) Bounce Rock El Capitan Heat Shield Rock Last Chance Cape Verde (Mars) Meridiani Planum Terra Meridiani List of... HiRISE The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera is a camera onboard the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter. ... Artists conception of a human mission on the surface of Mars A human mission to Mars (sometimes, manned mission to Mars) refers to humans going to the planet Mars, including orbiting Mars, landing on the surface, or walking on the surface. ... A Mars landing is when a spacecraft lands on the surface of Mars. ... A Mars Rover is an unmanned land vehicle for exploration of the planet Mars. ... Artificial objects on Mars that are currently in use are the MER-A Spirit rover and the MER-B Opportunity rover. ... Artists conception of the process of terraforming Mars Since the origin of the idea of terraforming, or changing a planets environment to produce a world that is habitable by humans, one of the primary subjects of study for potential terraforming has been the planet Mars. ... There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ... Deimos transits the Sun, as seen by Mars Rover Opportunity on March 4, 2004 A transit of Deimos across the Sun as seen from Mars takes place when Deimos passes directly between the Sun and a point on the surface of Mars, obscuring a small part of the Suns... Phobos transits the Sun, as seen by Mars Rover Opportunity on March 10, 2004 A transit of Phobos across the Sun as seen from Mars takes place when Phobos passes directly between the Sun and a point on the surface of Mars, obscuring a large part of the Suns... Earth and Moon transiting the Sun in 2084, as seen from Mars Earth and Moon from Mars, as imaged by Mars Global Surveyor A transit of Earth across the Sun as seen from Mars takes place when the planet Earth passes directly between the Sun and Mars, obscuring a small... A transit of Mercury across the Sun as seen from Mars takes place when the planet Mercury passes directly between the Sun and Mars, obscuring a small part of the Suns disc for an observer on Mars. ... A transit of Venus across the Sun as seen from Mars takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Mars, obscuring a small part of the Suns disc for an observer on Mars. ... A Mars-crosser asteroid is an asteroid whose orbit crosses that of Mars. ... This article presents information and images about viewing astronomical phenomena from the planet Mars. ... The Darian Calendar is a system of time-keeping designed to serve the needs of any possible future human settlers on the planet Mars. ... The Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international interdisciplinary field research project being carried out near the Haughton impact crater on Canadas northern Devon Island. ... This article is about hypothetical native inhabitants of the planet Mars. ... Various schemes have been used or proposed to keep track of time and date on the planet Mars independently of Earth time and calendars. ... Fictional representations of Mars have been popular for over a century. ... For other uses, see Atmosphere (disambiguation). ... Venus, the second planet from the Sun, has an atmosphere very different from that of Earth. ... Air redirects here. ... This article is about the planet Saturns largest natural satellite. ... The atmosphere of Uranus, like that of Neptune, is markedly different from those of the larger gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 531 pixelsFull resolution (3027 × 2010 pixel, file size: 543 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Identification Mission: ISS013 Roll: E Frame: 54329 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS013 Country or Geographic Name: Features: EARTH LIMB, MOON, CLOUD TOPS Center... Mercurys primordial atmosphere dissipated shortly after the planets formation because of both the low level of gravity on the planet, the high temperature,and the effects of the solar wind. ... The atmosphere of the Moon is very tenuous and insignificant in comparison to that of the Earth. ...

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