If you’ve ever wanted a handy infographic to break down the atmospheres of all the planets in our solar system, because science, your wish has been granted. Andy Brunning, a chemistry teacher from the UK who creates infographics on his blog Compound Interest has just released a stunning one about the planets’ atmospheric structures and their different effects.
Brunning focuses on the four terrestrial planets and four gas giants that make up our solar system. The Earth is of course the most familiar and is therefore the benchmark planet. At sea level, our nitrogen and oxygen-filled atmosphere weighs in at, well, one atmosphere.
Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has an atmosphere about one trillion times thinner than Earth’s. And being so close to then Sun and smaller — Mercury has only about 38 percent the gravity of Earth — the planet has a hard time holding on to what little atmosphere it does have. This isn’t at all like Venus, which has an atmospheric pressure about 92 times what we feel at sea level on Earth. Its atmosphere is also composed mainly of toxic carbon dioxide featuring clouds of sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid. This is, again, very different from our other neighbor, Mars. Mars’ atmosphere is also largely composed of carbon dioxide but is significantly thinner than the Earth’s; the atmospheric pressure there is about 0.006 times what we feel at sea level.
Things change when you get to the gas giants. Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System actually has an atmospheric composition similar to the Sun, and with a pressure more than a thousand times greater than what we feel on Earth. Hydrogen can actually exist as a liquid here, conducting electricity and generating the planet’s massive electromagnetic field. Saturn is similar with an atmosphere more than a thousand times heavier than the Earth’s composed largely of ammonia ice and clouds of ammonia hydrosulfide.
The ice giants are similar to the gas giants with atmospheres more than a thousand times as heavy as the Earth’s. Uranus’ atmosphere is also composed largely of hydrogen and helium. It has a high concentration of methane, too, which absorbs red light from the Sun and makes the planet look blue. Neptune is also composed largely of hydrogen and methane, though it’s thought that there’s something else in the atmosphere that accounts for its deeper blue hue.
It’s pretty great that in one simple infographic Brunning manages to capture the incredible variety of the worlds that make up our planetary neighborhood. You can download high-res versions of this infographic, as well as one about Pluto and one about Saturn’s moon Titan, at Compound Interest.
IMAGE: Compound Interest