Planetary Atmospheres

Titan's Haze

Titan’s haze, shown here in a limb photo taken from the Cassini spacecraft, may be a good analog for hazes surrounding the early Earth. If so, the fractal particles in the haze would have provided an ultraviolet shield to protect life on early Earth from harmful ultraviolet solar radiation. (Courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

LASP scientists study the atmospheres of planets in our solar system in part to better understand each planet, and in part to better understand Earth’s atmosphere. The Gas Giants, Mars, Venus, Pluto, and various moons and comets all have atmospheres that we are interested in studying. Scientists in LASP study the atmospheres of each of the solar system planets, as well as those of some exo-planets. We are also studying the atmosphere of the early Earth, which is strange enough to seem like another planet.

One example of our work in planetary atmospheres is the study of Mars. Studies indicate that the Martian atmosphere has changed greatly over time, from a thicker atmosphere to the thin atmosphere we see now. What happened to the Martian atmosphere? Why did it change so dramatically? These are questions we hope to help address through the LASP-led NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).

Additional planetary atmospheres projects at LASP include:

  • Global climate models for Mars and Titan
  • Studies of the Climate and Chemistry of the early Earth’s Atmosphere
  • Cassini observations of the atmospheres of Titan and Saturn
  • Investigations of the atmosphere of Venus and planning for new spacecraft missions
  • Investigations of the atmosphere of Pluto