The study of the composition or dynamics of the gaseous layers around planets, often applied to questions on Earth's atmosphere but can be applicable to all planets & moons in the solar system.

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106
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11answers
20k views

Is the butterfly effect real?

Is the butterfly effect real? It is a well known statement that a butterfly can, by flapping her wings in a slightly different way, cause a hurricane somewhere else in the world that wouldn't occur if ...
65
votes
8answers
46k 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 ...
46
votes
3answers
19k 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 ...
41
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2answers
2k views

Are there tides in the atmosphere?

Analogous to the tides of Earths oceans, do the Moon and Sun cause our atmosphere to bulge in what could be described as a low and high tide?
40
votes
5answers
14k views

Why is the sky never green? It can be blue or orange, and green is in between!

I, like everybody I suppose, have read the explanations why the colour of the sky is blue: ... the two most common types of matter present in the atmosphere are gaseous nitrogen and oxygen. ...
37
votes
9answers
12k views

Why can't we see gases?

I am not sure what causes gas molecules to be invisible.This question may look silly but I really want to know the story behind it.
32
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2answers
5k views

Why is the sun brighter in Australia compared to parts of Asia?

Background: I've lived in Philippines for several years, and visited other parts of Asia occasionally (Singapore, Indonesia, Hongkong). I just moved to Western Australia a few months ago and I ...
28
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3answers
5k views

Why doesn't rain fall down in streams (as opposed to drops)

Why is it that raindrops don't collide and 'stick together' on their descent to Earth, arriving in streams rather than separate drops?
27
votes
4answers
4k views

Why does the sky change color? Why the sky is blue during the day, red during sunrise/set and black during the night?

Why does the sky change color? Why the sky is blue during the day, red during sunrise/set and black during the night?
27
votes
2answers
1k views

Why doesn't Earth's atmosphere form bands due to different rotational speeds?

If the Earth's atmosphere is rotating at the same speed as Earth, then the atmosphere must be rotating much faster at the equator than at the poles. If you spin a ball covered in oil, it will form ...
26
votes
1answer
2k views

Using nuclear devices to terraform Mars: Elon Musk's nuclear proposal? [closed]

Elon Musk has recently suggested Using nuclear devices to terraform Mars. In the past, comet related ideas were mooted, but Musk seems, to me anyway, to be a man in a hurry and perhaps his idea has ...
26
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3answers
3k views

Why do the storms of Jupiter have long life unlike that of Earth?

Recently I saw How the Universe Works. In one of the episodes, concerning Jupiter, they told that the storms on Jupiter can survive many, many, times longer than those on Earth. What is the reason ...
24
votes
1answer
735 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 ...
22
votes
10answers
7k 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.
21
votes
3answers
909 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 ...
21
votes
1answer
1k views

Can rain evaporate?

Are there any atmospheric condition under which a visible raindrop can fail to hit the ground by evaporating first? I imagine this would require a large vertical temperature difference, and possibly ...
21
votes
4answers
725 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
6k 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?
18
votes
3answers
885 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

If I shout at the sky, will some molecules reach escape velocity?

Will the sound waves, as they move higher and through less dense air, conserve energy to the point where some molecules of the rarified atmosphere attain escape velocity?
18
votes
2answers
973 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
4k views

Why doesn't the evening/morning sun feel much hotter on your face?

I understand that places on the Earth's surface get hotter in summer, and in the middle of the day rather than morning or evening, because the surface of the Earth is presented 'face-on' to the Sun at ...
17
votes
7answers
3k views

How big are clouds? [closed]

How big are clouds? When I look up into the sky I have no frame of reference, so I don't know if they are 200 feet or 2 miles across. When I am in a plane looking out at a cloud, I try to use the wing ...
16
votes
8answers
4k views

How do stars from far away affect Earth?

I know that we obviously get light (or we wouldn't be able to see them), but are there any other ways that they affect Earth and maybe just our solar system in general?
16
votes
4answers
3k views

Why can't I see the blue color scattered by the lower atmosphere of the earth?

I understand that the blue colour of the sky is because of the scattering of blue light by molecules in earth's atmosphere. The scattering appears to be happening from molecules that are far above in ...
16
votes
2answers
8k 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, ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Does a man on the moon experience day?

Does a man on the moon (or any other similar body) experience daytime like we do? By daytime I mean looking upward and seeing a bright "sky," not dark space. If not, then what is the reason behind ...
15
votes
4answers
9k views

How Earth protected from the gamma rays generated by Sun?

Sun is generating energy by nuclear fusion. And nuclear fusion will emit energy in the form of gamma rays. Normally earth's ozone filtering the Ultraviolet radiation. And magnetic fields of earth ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does my infrared thermometer say the sky is at -2 °C?

I just got myself an infrared thermometer. I wouldn't have been able to predict what temperature it would give me when pointing at the sky, but it turned out to be -2 °C the first time I measured, and ...
15
votes
1answer
5k 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 ...
15
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4answers
6k views

Why can't CO$_2$ 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 ...
14
votes
5answers
72k 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, ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

How much do we float in atmosphere?

The atmosphere is a fluid and we have volume, therefore we displace some of it and some buoyancy force must exist. How strong is it? How much does it affect gravitational acceleration on the surface ...
14
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7answers
2k views

How to keep a helium balloon between 1 to 5 meters above ground? (without it being tied)

I understand that helium balloons rise because their density is less than air, so they can rise up to a point where the air surrounding it has the same weight as the balloon. I was thinking to fill it ...
14
votes
2answers
492 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
357 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
720 views

Does anyone know the mechanism behind this double helix cloud formation?

This looks like m=2 swirling instability mode of the axisymmetric jet, but how could an axisymmetric jet form up in the sky like that?
13
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1answer
3k 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
232 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
384 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 ...
11
votes
5answers
29k 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 sea level, temperature starts decreasing. Why is it?
11
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3answers
4k views

If I were standing on the surface of the sun, how far could I see?

Assuming it would be possible to handle the intense heat... Is the surface even? If not, would average surface elevation be an appropriate definition of "surface"?Does the sun have an atmosphere that ...
11
votes
2answers
615 views

Would fog impair echolocation abilities?

I was driving down a major highway today and the fog was thick enough I could barely see 40 ft in front of me. I then wondered if I had had some other form of perception could I have perceived my ...
11
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
430 views

What is the safe distance to a supernova explosion?

In other words, what stars near the Sun may have an impact on the Solar system equilibrium or the Earth life if they become supernova ? Is SN 1987 A too far ?
11
votes
2answers
608 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
332 views

What causes the sharp borderline at the bottom of northern lights?

The northern lights are caused by cosmic charged particles interacting with the earth's upper atmoshphere. The particles can be trapped by the Lorentz force, so that we can see them where the magnetic ...
11
votes
5answers
5k 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. ...
10
votes
3answers
489 views

Extended sound of thunder

Why does the sound of thunder last several seconds even when lightning lasts for only fraction of a second?
10
votes
1answer
557 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 ...