The study of the composition or dynamics of the gaseous layers around planets.

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42
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8answers
17k views

Why does the atmosphere rotate along with the earth?

I was reading somewhere about a really cheap way of travelling: using balloons to get ourselves away from the surface of the earth. The idea held that because the earth rotates, we should be ...
31
votes
3answers
4k views

Why is the sky not purple?

I realise the question of why this sky is blue is considered reasonably often here, one way or another. You can take that knowledge as given. What I'm wondering is, given that the spectrum of ...
19
votes
2answers
775 views

Are the air particles in today's wind on earth (more or less) the same as the air 2/3 billion years ago?

So the air pressure on earth remains relatively constant, right? Is there air gained or lost through transitions of any sort? e.g. plumes going out into space, earth gaining new air particles with ...
17
votes
4answers
276 views

Why is lightning more rare during snow storms than rain storms?

Lightning and thunder during a snow storm is uncommon. As far as I know, more uncommon than during a typical rain storm. Why is this? I speculate it might be one, or both, of the following two ...
16
votes
3answers
446 views

Why don't more rocky planets/moons have appreciable atmospheres?

It seems obvious why mercury has no atmosphere, given its proximity to the sun--but yet Venus is also fairly close, and has an extremely dense atmosphere. Titan is a large moon with an atmosphere ...
15
votes
10answers
3k views

Why do space crafts take off with rockets instead of just ascending like an aircraft until they reach space?

I guess it's not a very educated question, but I never quite understood why spacecrafts have to shoot up and can't just reach space by simply continuing an upwards ascent like an airplane.
15
votes
1answer
350 views

Causes of hexagonal shape of Saturn's jet stream

NASA has just shown a more detailed picture of the hexagonal vortex/storm on Saturn: http://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-releases-images-saturns-hexagon-mega-storm-may-have-been-swirling-centuries-1496218 ...
15
votes
2answers
445 views

How deep is the Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot (GRS) is a very persistent storm system that's easily visible through a telescope on the surface of Jupiter. But what is the three-dimensional structure of the GRS, and how deep ...
14
votes
5answers
804 views

Can Helium Disappear from Earth?

Can Helium disappear? As we know Helium is lighter than air, so basically Helium fly off from Earth. Is it possible that in the future we will run out Helium?
13
votes
2answers
203 views

Why do clouds form in lumps?

What forces drive the water vapor to form the shapes every child draws? Why isn't water vapor forming an uniform mist layer consistently (which it some times does)? I have two general ideas how this ...
12
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1answer
4k views

Did Felix Baumgartner produce a sonic boom during his jump?

I really got to thinking about this. The speed of sound is measured at 761.2 MPH at sea level. But how does this number change as air density decreases? The lack of air density is what allowed his ...
12
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1answer
2k views

From how high could have Felix Baumgartner jumped without disintegrating like a shooting star?

Today Felix Baumgartner jumped from 39 kilometres high and reached the earth safely. Just considering friction, from how high can a human jump? I expect that from a certain height, he would have ...
11
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4answers
3k views

Why can't CO2 mix back with the liquid after a soda bottle has been shaken?

If you shake a soda bottle before opening it, and then open it, you get the fizz. That is the compressed CO2 releasing to the atmosphere which is at comparatively low pressure value. Two questions ...
10
votes
5answers
20k views

Why does the road look like it's wet on hot days?

Often, I'll be driving down the road on a summer day, and as I look ahead toward the horizon, I notice that the road looks like there's a puddle of water on it, or that it was somehow wet. Of course, ...
10
votes
2answers
138 views

Why is Jupiter so sharply defined?

In photographs of Jupiter, the limb seems extremely definite. Being a gas giant, my naive self thinks that the atmosphere should have a more gradual cut off, creating a hazy effect similar to that on ...
10
votes
2answers
310 views

How are the northern lights produced?

Although I've never seen it myself, I hear the northern lights are a sight to be seen! I know they're related to the Earth's magnetic field but I don't know much more about them. What is the physical ...
10
votes
2answers
456 views

Energy from man-made tornadoes

Peter Thiel just paid $300,000 to Canadian inventor Louis Michaud who is working to construct useful "man-made tornadoes" or "atmospheric vortex engines" which could be components of future power ...
10
votes
2answers
306 views

Is this a weather phenomenon or an instrumental artifact?

The radar image of the midwest provided by Weatherunderground at 10:30 PM Central time, May 8 2011 has odd patterns. Are these patterns real? Perhaps caused by large scale convection over cities? Or ...
10
votes
1answer
128 views

What is the current physical theory of what causes the 'Morning Glory' roll cloud over Northern Australia?

The Morning Glory roll cloud (pictured below): from this Wikipedia page, which briefly describes the landform and meteorological causes, but states The Morning Glory cloud is not clearly ...
9
votes
1answer
357 views

What causes a ring-like image around light of the moon?

I just encountered an interesting image in sky. As you can see in following images there was a ring-like image around light of the moon. I don't know if it was clouds but it was looking like it is far ...
8
votes
3answers
346 views

Extended sound of thunder

Why does the sound of thunder last several seconds even when lightning lasts for only fraction of a second?
8
votes
3answers
654 views

How is it that the Earth's atmosphere is not “blown away”?

The Earth moves at a high rate of speed around the Sun, and the solar system is moving quickly around the Milky Way. How is it that the Earth's atmosphere is not “blown away”?
8
votes
2answers
473 views

Why doesn't the percentage of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere diminish significantly with altitude?

According to numerous sources online, the percentage of oxygen is approximately the same at sea level and 10,000 meters. Since oxygen is heavier than nitrogen, shouldn't the percentage of oxygen ...
8
votes
4answers
500 views

Can a small change in the Earth temperature give rise to large-scale climate changes?

Earth's atmosphere is a chaotic system. In such systems arbitrarily small changes the conditions can give rise to very large effects. There are many rumors about the physical and large scale ...
8
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there an upper frequency limit to ultrasound?

Wikipedia has this diagram of the acoustic frequency spectrum: Is there an upper limit to the frequencies you can transmit through the air? Are they absorbed more and more at higher frequencies, ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What would happen if the polar ice caps of Mars melted?

My dad told me that Mars' polar ice caps are made of H2O and CO2. If they melt, would it add an atmosphere to Mars and allow life?
8
votes
1answer
69 views

Do we have 2 minutes of extra morning?

my physics teacher told me about the refraction and its applications one of them was 2 minutes of early sunrise and after she explained this effect she concluded that days are 2 minutes longer than ...
7
votes
3answers
738 views

Calculating Atmospheric Pressure on an Imaginary Planet

I am planning a series of science fiction novels that take place on an imaginary binary planet system. Both planets have a lower surface gravity than the Earth and one has slightly more mass than the ...
7
votes
3answers
592 views

Can low-gravity planets sustain a breathable atmosphere?

If astronauts could deliver a large quantity of breathable air to somewhere with lower gravity, such as Earth's moon, would the air form an atmosphere, or would it float away and disappear? Is there a ...
7
votes
2answers
283 views

Why is getting a tan in the evening less likely than getting a tan in the morning?

When I was young I read one book in which is written that you get more tan on the morning than on evening even light angle from Sun to Earth is the same. Don't remember exact reason, I think because ...
7
votes
2answers
527 views

Is the total mass of Earth's atmosphere essentially constant in time?

Per a few questions and comments on this site such as Huge buildings affect earth's rotation? I wonder, is the mass of the Earth's atmosphere roughly constant? We're burning an incredible amount ...
7
votes
2answers
874 views

What determines the apparent radius of the rainbow?

Let's say I know how to compute the apparent radius of a rainbow from the viewpoint of the observer: take a photo of the scene, measure the distance to a known reference object, and its dimensions. ...
7
votes
1answer
82 views

'Hole in the clouds' in the Sarychev Peak eruption

One of my favourite ever pictures taken from space is a picture of the 2009 eruption of Sarychev Peak (Ostrov Matua island, Japan) taken by an ISS astronaut during a lucky fly-over. Image Source: ...
7
votes
2answers
360 views

How does humidity affect the path of a bullet?

Background Last night, I was reading the FM 23-10 (The U.S. army official field manual for sniper training), and I've noticed that they're potentially teaching snipers incorrect information. ...
7
votes
4answers
8k views

How does carbon dioxide or water vapour absorb thermal infra red radiation from the sun?

We are all told at school water vapour and carbon dioxide are the top two greenhouse gases, and that they absorb thermal infra red radiation, trap heat and warm up the Earth. My question is how do ...
6
votes
6answers
3k views

How come gas molecules don't settle down?

If the earth's gravity exerts a net downward gravitational force on all air molecules, how come the molecules don't eventually lose their momentum and all settle down? How is the atmosphere is still ...
6
votes
5answers
863 views

What would ACTUALLY happen to a person jettisoned into space?

[insert obligatory statement of my lack of knowledge in physics] Alright, so we have all seen the movies where someone gets blasted out of the airlock on their starship, or their suit decompresses ...
6
votes
2answers
48 views

Why do the terrestrial planets have many of the same gases in their atmospheres?

While the gases are present in very different abundances, and the atmospheres have very different pressures, Earth, Mars and Venus all have a similar cast of gases: nitrogen, argon, CO2, others in ...
6
votes
2answers
218 views

Is it possible to use a balloon to float so high in the atmosphere that you can be gravitationally pulled towards a satellite?

A recent joke on the comedy panel show 8 out of 10 cats prompted this question. I'm pretty sure the answer's no, but hopefully someone can surprise me. If you put a person in a balloon, such that ...
6
votes
2answers
212 views

What is the physical origin of scintillation?

The twinkling of stars, or scintillation, occurs because the optical path length of the atmosphere varies in both space and time due to turbulence. This means that when the wavefront from a distant ...
6
votes
2answers
319 views

Is apparent horizon curvature lesser due to refraction of light in the atmosphere?

I have encountered this claim while searching for sources answering " Can we see the curvature of earth from the top of world's tallest building? ". Wikipedia article on horizon claims (with no ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Does the moon affect the Earth's climate?

So, this morning I was talking to a friend about astronomical observations, and he told me that lately there has only been good weather when there was a full moon in the sky, which was a shame. I ...
6
votes
1answer
567 views

What does the Rayleigh Phase Function tell us

I am working on some radiative transfer equations, and struggling as I'm fairly new to this field. I have read about the Rayleigh Phase Function which is: $P(\theta) = \frac{3}{4}(1 + cos^2 \theta)$ ...
6
votes
1answer
188 views

Is this a Fata Morgana?

I took this photo. Above the horizon there is a thick layer that looks like a cloud, but it surely isn't. Is this a Fata Morgana? What do you think? EDIT: I think the more appropriate name is ...
6
votes
1answer
163 views

Atmospheric Circulation

What is the simplest simulatable model giving our rotating earth its 3 circulation cells (Hadley, Ferrel, Polar)? The model should also show 1 circulation cell if the earth's rotation were stopped (or ...
6
votes
1answer
43 views

Refraction and scattered light for NLCs

For helping with judging NLC candidates (are they NLC or not) I have a set of formulas to calculate the minimum altitude (in km) of the candidate given an observed altitude (in degrees) of the ...
6
votes
0answers
122 views

Diffusion of gases in the atmosphere

Suppose that the atmosphere is composed of 21% $O_2$ and 78% $Kr$ (instead of $N_2$). Since the density of $Kr$ is greater than the density of $O_2$, the lower atmosphere (where we live) should be ...
5
votes
4answers
5k views

Why less temperature at high altitude

Why there is always cold at high altitudes. e.g. at peak of mountains. Also as we go high from see level, temperature starts decreasing, so why is it.
5
votes
5answers
52 views

Which current big Earth-based telescopes are equipped with adaptive optics?

I know only that the VLT is equipped with adaptive optics (AO) to bypass atmospheric distortion. Is it the only one, or have other telescopes been build with AO in the optical and infrared spectrum?
5
votes
3answers
648 views

Why is Titan able to maintain an atmosphere, and not Luna?

I just read stability of hypothetical lunar atmosphere. From the correct answer, i understand, the low escape velocity from Luna is part of the reason it is unable to retain an atmosphere. Titan ...