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Are there any graphs that show the distribution of each element and molecule as a function of distance from the Sun?

And maybe even the time-evolution of each distribution over the solar system's lifetime?

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There are two questions here, one in the title and one in the body; I suggest that you combine your queries into the body of your question so that it can be read in its entirety. Right now, this is as risk of people answering either / or. – Grant Thomas Jul 24 '11 at 10:05
Yes, absolutely. <Smirk> – Andrew Aug 10 '11 at 19:19

3 Answers 3

What you're likely looking for is referred to by the heliophysics community as 'solar wind composition'.

You might be able to model it over longer periods, or greater regions, but for the most point, the data's collected by various spacecraft, so it's a point-in-space-and-time for the most part. (well, it's a path in space-time, but it's not like we've got 4-dimensional data with good coverage). You might get some measurements of variations over the solar cycle from spacecraft at L1, like from SOHO or ACE, or even some of the near-earth spacecraft, but all of these are going to be affected by the earth's magnetosphere.

Probably the best place to look for what instruments various heliophysics spacecraft have on them is the Virtual Space Physics Observatory. The data classification they're using breaks composition down into a few different categories, so using the restriction:

Measurement type contains ('Dust' OR 'Energetic Particles' OR 'Ion Composition' OR 'Neutral Gas' OR 'Thermal Plasma')

returns 393 datasets ... as you want graphs, add:

Resource type equals 'Display(Plot)'

Which returns 30 datasets ... stuff from Cluster, DMSP, GOES, IMP 8, SAMPEX, Ulysses, Voyager 1&2, IMAGE, Geotail, ACE, Doublestar, Wind, MPA, FAST and Genesis.

There may be more composition information that's inferred from spectrometry, but neither that nor the solar wind data is really stuff I know a lot about.


Now, given that you're specifically looking for images related to heliophysics data, another place you can try looking is if they've got it in iSWA (Integrated Space Weather Analysis) ... I took a quick look through, and I didn't see anything obvious, but they're adding new data pretty regularly, if it's of interest for space weather purposes.

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The current element distribution basically goes back to the origin of the solar system, and hasn't really changed since except for the losses of parts or all of the atmosphere of the inner planets, and migration of the outer planets early in the history of the solar system. The concentration of iron and similar elements is highest on Mercury, lower on Earth, and lower again on Mars. Venus is in between Mercury and the Earth. The lower concentrations of the lightest elements, hydrogen and helium, on the inner planets is presumably due to the heat of the sun, the solar wind, and radiation pressure all driving these atoms out to the outer solar system. The mean density of the asteroids, located beyond Mars, is significantly lower than that of Mars, continuing the trend of a lower proportion of iron and similar elements as we recede from the sun.

Jupiter and Saturn were originally located further from the Sun than Neptune and Uranus and so retained most of their hydrogen and helium, as well as accumulating hydrogen and helium driven off from the inner solar system. Uranus and Neptune lost a lot of hydrogen and helium, but also retained a lot.

Except for these modifications which depend basically on the atomic weights of the elements, the detailed tables of element abundances, which depends primarily on how they are built up in the cores of giant and supergiant stars, are expected to be the same on all the planets as well as on the sun.

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I haven't found any, so apart from warning about absence of evidence being construed as evidence of absence, I might suggest that you are actually looking for a table, rather than a graph? I don't think you'll find much besides chemical compositions of the Sun, planets, solar wind, and outer icy bodies. I don't think the overall chemical composition of any of those have changed much since formation besides fusion in the Sun, either.

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