Io's Atmosphere Is Decimated Daily

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Io's Atmosphere Is Decimated Daily

In case the towering sulfur eruptions, rock tides, and lakes of molten lava weren't enough to keep you away, Jupiter's moon Io now has another reason humans probably shouldn't visit: its atmosphere is constantly being destroyed and rebuilt. According to a 2016 article in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Jupiter's massive shadow is to blame. Every time Io passes behind Jupiter, its surface temperature drops and its sulfur-dioxide-rich atmosphere begins to collapse and eventually freeze into a thin layer of frost on the moon's surface. But like a sunbather beneath the world's largest cloud, Io soon begins to thaw out and warm up again as it passes out of Jupiter's shadow. That warming makes the frost re-sublimate, or turn back into gas, and the atmosphere rebuilds. Learn more about Jupiter's strange moons with the videos below.

The Hole In The Ozone Layer May Be Healing

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The Hole In The Ozone Layer May Be Healing

In the mid-1980s, scientists began to notice that the ozone layer above Antarctica was thinning dramatically. In 1986, we had a reason: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), gases that were used in a wide range of products, from aerosol cans to air conditioners. CFC molecules contain chlorine and bromine, which interact with the polar chill and springtime sunlight of Antarctica to eat away at the protective ozone layer and allow harmful ultraviolet radiation to reach the Earth. Luckily, governments throughout the world came to an agreement on this problem, and banned the use of CFCs worldwide through the Montreal Protocol in 1987. Today, it appears that the ban is working: Professor Susan Solomon, the same scientist to discover the role of CFCs in ozone depletion, worked with a research team to take precise measurements of ozone levels between 2000 and 2015. They found that the hole has shrunk by approximately 4.5 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles), an area roughly the size of India. Professor Solomon predicts that we could see a full recovery of the ozone layer by the year 2060. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

How To Analyze The Atmosphere Of Another Planet

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How To Analyze The Atmosphere Of Another Planet

Studying the atmospheres of exoplanets is an essential step to finding another habitable world. Fortunately, we don't even have to travel through space to do it! Because different gases absorb or scatter light in different ways, astronomers can identify the spectral "fingerprints" of these gases by looking at light. Light that has passed through or bounced off of another planet's atmosphere can therefore tell us about what's in that atmosphere, and whether a lifeform with a respiratory system like ours could survive in it.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Scientists can study the air on other planets by looking at the light that bounces off or shines through their atmospheres. 0:28

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    Many exoplanets have been discovered because they pass in front of their parent star, creating a dip in the overall intensity of the star's light. 1:18

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    The "fingerprints" of different gases can be difficult to locate and analyze in the atmospheres of exoplanets due to a variety of factors. 1:40

Stars Have Atmospheres, Too!

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Stars Have Atmospheres, Too!

Like planets, stars have atmospheres that consist of gases. In fact, any body in space with enough mass to generate the necessary gravitational pull will have an atmosphere. The atmosphere of our sun has three layers: the photosophere, the chromosphere, and the corona. The photosphere is where solar flares happen, and where the sun's energy becomes light. The chromosphere cannot typically be seen against the photosphere's brightness in the background, but you can catch a glimpse of it during a total solar eclipse, when it appears as a red rim around the sun. The corona is likewise only visible during a total solar eclipse, and looks like pearly plumes and loops of gas.

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Key Facts to Know

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    If you approached the sun in a regulation EVA spacesuit, other types of radiation would kill you before the heat would. 0:21

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    Most spacesuits are designed to withstand temperatures up to about 400 Kelvin. 1:49

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    A spaceship approaching the sun could withstand higher temperatures than a person in a spacesuit, but it would also absorb more heat. 2:26

This Is Where Earth Ends And Space Begins

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This Is Where Earth Ends And Space Begins

There has been much debate in the scientific community about where exactly space begins. Today, the Kármán Line recognized that boundary-it sits at 100 kilometers (62 miles) above sea level. The line is named after Theodore von Kármán, a Hungarian-American engineer and physicist. However, any NASA test pilot or astronaut who crosses an altitude of roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) is awarded their astronaut wings.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Space is defined by the point at which Earth's atmosphere ends, and the vacuum of space takes over. 0:13

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    Any NASA test pilot or astronaut who crosses an altitude of roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) is awarded their astronaut wings. 0:38

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    The Earth's outer atmosphere, known as the exosphere, extends to an altitude of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles). 1:48