The understanding of Mars’s atmosphere remains a mystery. However, there is plenty of bizarre weather that occurs on the planet. Mars is farther from the Sun than Earth is, and the air on Mars is extremely thin. In the daytime, summer temperatures only get up to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature at night can drop to almost negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The cause of this drastic swing from warm to cold is that the air on Mars is mostly made up of carbon dioxide.
In comparison to Earth, the air on Mars is extremely thin. In fact, it is so thin that the heat from the daytime Sun escapes into space at night. Also, the thin air can kick up a huge dust storm. The massive dust storms can encompass the entire planet over a few days. Despite many hopes of astronomers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Mars is not an inhabitable planet. The dust storms have been known to last for weeks or months. Smaller wind patterns also work to kick up dust devils, also known as desert tornadoes. Mars also has poles that are covered in ice caps, which creates intense snowstorms. While the snow on Earth is made of frozen water, the snow on Mars is made from frozen carbon dioxide, also referred to as dry ice.
18. Uranus’s unique rotating axis creates an unusual pattern of seasons over its long year.
As the coldest planet in the solar system, Uranus reaches temperatures of -371 degrees Fahrenheit. That is partially due to its severe tilt with its north pole facing the sun. While the north pole faces the sun, the other pole is in an extended period of darkness. Uranus might appear like a planet with minimal activity on the outside, but it has an extreme weather system in reality. A telescope from Earth has spotted massive hurricanes brewing on Uranus. Due to its extreme tilt, seasonal variations are intense when the planet’s dark side comes out of its 40 plus year slumber. The frozen atmosphere heats up dramatically, causing violent storms.
Interestingly, Uranus is still warmer at its equator than the poles, even though the poles receive direct sunlight with a low sun angle. Unlike other gas planets, Uranus does not radiate more heat than it gets. That indicates the world may have a cold interior due to its lack of an internal heat source. In the summer and winter, parts of the planet see nothing but daytime or nighttime for the whole season, approximately 21 years. In the spring and fall, Uranus goes through the full day-to-night cycle every 17 hours. The planet’s tilt has long been questioned. However, scientists theorize that it occurred due to a massive collision.
17. The rain on Venus is almost entirely sulfuric acid.
The sulfuric acid on Venus is extremely corrosive. Venus holds the record for the hottest surface in comparison to all other planets. That is due to its super-thick atmosphere that is composed mostly of carbon dioxide. The thick atmosphere and clouds of sulfuric acid act as a greenhouse and trap more of the sun’s radiation, allowing it to reach incredibly high temperatures. The clouds on Venus are about the same pressure and temperature as those on Earth but are largely made from concentrated sulfuric acid. The extreme sulfuric rain weather pattern is so intense that it can erode items almost instantly and produce severe flesh burns in an instant.
There is minimal water in the atmosphere because the surface temperature is so high that the rain evaporates before hitting the ground. If Venus ever had oceans, they would have long since evaporated. No evidence remains on the surface. It is now covered with lava flows and huge faults and fractures. The east and west winds at the height of the clouds on Venus rotate once around the planet roughly every four days. The super-rotation phenomenon is best explained by complicated interactions with wave-like features feeding momentum into the large super-rotating jet. The runaway greenhouse effect means that temperatures are over 460 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead.
16. Jupiter’s moon, Europa, has a surface that is mostly water ice.
While it is known that the surface of Europa is made of mostly ice, they also have strong evidence to suggest that there is an ocean of liquid water or slushy ice beneath the icy crust. The ground-based telescopes on Earth, along with a spacecraft and space telescope, have enhanced their confidence for a Europan ocean. Scientists believe that Europa’s ice shell is between 10 and 15 miles thick and floating on a sea 40 to 100 miles deep. Although Europa is only a quarter of Earth’s diameter, its ocean may contain twice as much water as all of Earth’s oceans combined. The vast and deep sea is thought to be one of the most promising places to look for life beyond Earth.
As recently as last year, a research team led by NASA communicated that they had detected water vapor for the first time about Europa’s surface. Long, linear fractures crisscross Europa’s water and ice surface. Based on a small number of visible craters, the moon’s surface appears to be no more than 40 to 90 million years old. While that may seem extremely old, it is relatively youthful in geologic terms. Along the many fractures is a reddish-brown material containing salts and sulfur compounds mixed with water ice and modified by radiation. Europa orbits Jupiter every three-and-a-half days and is locked by gravity to Jupiter. Although the moon is covered in ice, Europa has mild seasons in comparison to other planets.
15. The blue color of this “blue alien planet” likely comes from molten glass rain.
The super-hot glass rain is just one of the consequences of the closeness between the gas giant alien planet and its sun. The proximity causes daytime temperatures to rise as high as 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. The blue alien planet, also referred to as HD189733b, has an outer atmosphere that is far larger than one might expect. Although the blue color can appear unique and intriguing, this planet is anything but that. According to NASA, the blue gas giant has a terrible wind that is seven times the speed of sound. The wind speeds can blow up to 5,400 miles per hour and whip potential travelers in a sickening spiral around the planet.
The alien world rains glass sideways in the howling winds. This terrifying experience would cut anything in its path. Earth appears blue because the oceans absorb red and green wavelengths more strongly than the blue ones. In turn, it reflects the blue hues of the sky. The cobalt blue color doesn’t come from the reflection of a tropical ocean. Instead, it comes from a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere that contains high clouds laced with silicate particles, which scatter blue light. It presented a favorable case for these kinds of measurements as it belongs to a class of planets known as hot Jupiters. This group of massive planets is similar in size to the gas giants in the Solar System, but instead, lie close to their parent stars.
14. Jupiter’s east and west jets have created the planet’s banded appearance.
Wind speeds on Jupiter can reach incredible speeds, with the swirling clouds giving the planet its beautiful appearance. The high, white clouds consist of ammonia crystals, while the darker ones are water-ice clouds that are deeper. Covered by various chemicals, the clouds are brought up from the deeper atmosphere and react with the sunlight. A combination of white and colored spots appears within the jet pattern. The result is storms that can persist for many years. The banded structure created from the jet streams breaks down near the poles, where the impeccable pattern of vortices has recently been revealed by NASA spacecraft. Whereas the jet streams on Earth can vary with only one or two, on average, in each hemisphere, Jupiter can have at least 30. Reaching speeds up to 300 miles per hour, the 30 jet streams rip across the planet in opposite directions.
Jupiter also rotates differentially, meaning that the equator moves at a different speed compared to the poles. The planet’s jet streams can reach approximately 3,000 km down. The differentially rotating jet-stream layer contains about one percent of the planet’s total mass. Below the jet stream layer, the world appears to turn more like a solid ball. Jupiter’s weather layer, which is the part where sunlight is absorbed and clouds form, is only about 100 km deep. However, the atmospheric flows below the familiar light zones, and the dark belts go 30 times deeper. That supports the long-standing theory that Jupiter’s interior contains jet streams that form a series of nested cylinders.
13. Neptune has the strongest winds in the solar system, with speeds exceeding 1,100 miles per hour.
Details from NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft made the first and only close-up observations of Neptune. The detailed images showed bright, white clouds and two storms that were ravaging the planet’s atmosphere. Neptune is a gas giant that is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. Methane gas makes up only one or two percent of the atmosphere. On Earth, the sun’s energy is what drives the winds. However, Neptune is about 30 times farther away from the sun than we are. The gap between Neptune and its parent star is a shocking two billion miles wide. With that information, you might assume that the planet should have weak or nonexistent winds. However, the opposite is that reality reflects on the mysterious composition of this truly alien planet.
The significant components of Neptune are heavier elements. Beneath a sparse outer layer of helium, hydrogen, and methane, Neptune has a thick mantle. This layer is loaded with slushy ice and a combination of ammonia and methane. Neptune, similar to Jupiter and Saturn, emits more energy than it receives from the sun. Even with that taken into consideration, Neptune is considered the solar system’s coldest planet. In addition to its incredible winds, Neptune is home to many storms that appear in darker regions. The storms, such as the Great Dark Spot, can grow larger than planet Earth. They can also last years to a decade.
12. Massive dust tornadoes can quickly take over the entire planet of Mars.
Dust devils on Mars form in the same way that they do in deserts on Earth. You need intense surface heating so that the ground can get hotter than the air above it. The heated, less-dense air close to the ground rises and punches the layer of cooler, dense air above. The result is rising plumes of hot air and falling plumes of cool air that circulate vertically in convection cells. If a horizontal wind gust happens to blow through, the convection cells are then turned on their sides and begin spinning horizontally. That forms vertical columns and starts a dust devil. The hot air that rises through the center of the column powers over the whirling air fast enough to pick up sand. The sand that lays on the ground then dislodges the flour-fine dust, and the column of hot air rising transmits that dust all around.
Once the horizontal winds begin pushing the dust devil across the ground, you will want to watch out! Actual dust devils have been photographed from orbit. The dust devils gain their charge from grains of sand and dust rubbing together in the whirlwind. When specific materials rub together, one material gives up some of its electrons to the other material. Since the rising central column of hot air that powers the dust devil carries the negatively-charged dust upward and leaves the heavier positively-charged sand swirling near the base, the charges get separated, creating an electric field. The dust devils are so large that they have been said to be responsible for throwing so much dust into the Martian atmosphere that it might be carrying negative charges high up into the atmosphere as well.
11. Scientists have discovered a cold region on Venus that can turn carbon dioxide into ice or snow.
The surface of Venus can get extremely hot. However, the conditions at an extremely high altitude have different climates and weather patterns. There has been revealed to be a very frigid layer that has a temperature of negative 283 degrees Fahrenheit. The unexpected cold layer is far colder than any part of Earth’s atmosphere, even though Venus is much closer to the sun. The discovery was uncovered by studying light from the sun as it passed through the atmosphere, revealing the concentration of carbon dioxide gas molecules at various altitudes along the terminator. The terminator is the dividing line between the night and day sides of the planet. With their extensive knowledge about the concentration of carbon dioxide and information on atmospheric pressure at each height, scientists could calculate the corresponding temperatures.
Since the temperatures at some of the heights go below the freezing temperatures of carbon dioxide, which is the main constituent of the atmosphere, carbon dioxide ice might form. The formation of carbon dioxide ice could result in the construction of clouds of ice or snow particles. The information also showed that the cold layer above the terminator is situated between two warm layers. The temperature profiles on the day and night sides are incredibly different, but because the terminator is caught in the middle, it is impacted by both sides. The night side might play a more significant role at one altitude and the dayside at other altitudes. This situation is unique to Venus.
10. Mars is a small, barren planet with a thin atmosphere composed of 95 percent carbon dioxide.
The atmosphere on Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth’s. Without a thermal blanket, Mars is unable to retain any heat energy. On average, the temperature on Mars is roughly negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, the temperatures can get down to minus 195 degrees Fahrenheit near the poles. However, on a summer day, the temperatures might get up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the temperature can drop down to a shocking minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Frost forms on the rocks at night. However, as dawn approaches and the air gets warmer, the frost turns to vapor. There is a shocking 100 percent humidity until it evaporates.
The high humidity can make Mars more habitable if the water condenses to form short-term puddles in the early morning hours. The moisture levels of Mars is tied to temperature fluctuations. At night the relative humidity levels can rise to 80 to 100 percent, with the air sometimes reaching atmospheric saturation. However, the daytime air is far drier due to the water temperatures. Similar to Earth, Mars has four seasons because the planet tilts on its axis. The seasons do vary in length because of the planet’s orbit around the sun. In the northern hemisphere, spring is the longest season at seven months. Summer and fall are both around six months, and winter is a mere four months long. During a Martian summer, the polar ice cap, composed mainly of carbon dioxide ice, shrinks and may disappear altogether. When winter comes, the ice cap grows back. There may even be some liquid water trapped beneath the carbon dioxide ice sheets.
9. Corot-7b is hot enough to melt rock and pebbles rain into the lakes of molten lava below.
The unusual rocky world was the first planet that was found orbiting around the start Corot-7. The Corot-7b is less than twice the size of Earth and only five times its mass. This object’s only atmosphere is produced from vapor from hot molten silicates in a lava lake or lava ocean. The star-facing side has a temperature of about 4,220 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to vaporize rocks. The global average temperature of Earth is only 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The side in perpetual shadow is incredibly chilly at negative 369 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sodium, potassium, silicon monoxide, and oxygen make up most of the atmosphere. However, there are also smaller amounts of other elements found in silicate rock. That includes magnesium, aluminum, calcium, and iron. Oxygen is the most abundant element in stone, but you end up producing more oxygen when you vaporize rock. The peculiar atmosphere has its singular weather. As you go higher, the atmosphere gets cooler. Eventually, you will become saturated with different rock types in the same way you get saturated with water in Earth’s atmosphere. However, instead of a water cloud forming and then raining water droplets, there is a rock cloud that forms, and it starts to rain little pebbles of different types of rock. Even more interestingly, the kind of rock condensing out of the cloud depends on the altitude.
8. Triton, Neptune’s bizarre moon, have active ice volcanoes that spew frozen nitrogen and methane.
Triton’s surface is full of large and small volcanos that regularly erupt in the solar system. Triton’s icy surface’s first detailed images said that cryogenic volcanism, which occurs at super cold temperatures, is the most reasonable explanation for the dark plumes. The active ice volcanoes are said to be as high as 20 miles. The discovery of the ice volcanoes is shocking because Triton was believed to be a dead moon. Triton is so cold that its volcanic activity is driven by fluid ice and compounds such as nitrogen, changing from a solid to a liquid to a gas. The moon’s volcanism is exceptionally similar to that on Earth except that it is icy.
The volcanoes on Triton appear to be a gentler version of the volcanoes on Earth. The frozen nitrogen and methane that spew out of Triton’s volcanoes are caught in the moon’s light winds and are gently deposited in a path up to 45 miles away from the vents – which can be up to two miles in diameter. The gas quickly refreezes as crystals that likely form a mushroom cloud that is caught in Triton’s thin atmosphere and deposited downwind. The atmospheric haze that the spacecraft discovered above Triton may have been produced by volcanic eruptions. The driving force behind Triton’s volcanoes appears to be nitrogen. If the temperature below the surface of Triton warms up by less than 20 degrees, the liquid nitrogen explodes into a gas that erupts through the surface with volcanic force.
7. Wolf 1061c is tidally locked and has one side in permanent sunlight, and the other stuck in darkness.
The newly discovered planet, Wolf 1061c, sits alongside two other worlds. It is one of the nearest stars to the sun. It is said to be rocky, similar to Mars. Wolf 1061c has a mass that is slightly over four times the mass of Earth and orbits its star every 18 days. Wolf 1061c is too hot for life, but the Wolf 1061c star is much cooler than our sun. Due to the planet being tidally locked, one side will always be facing the star. This positioning changes the circumstances on the surface of the planet substantially. It leads to one extremely hot side and one very cold side. Scientists have discovered that the hot side’s heat is circulating to the cold side due to the high winds that travel between them. In between those two extreme sides is a narrow band with a surprisingly pleasant climate.
Of all the alien worlds, Wolf 1061c is the only one that is potentially habitable. When scientists are searching for planets that could sustain life, they are essentially looking for a planet with nearly identical properties to Earth. In short, the conditions would have to be just right. The planet cannot be too far or too close to its parent star. If it is too close, it would be too hot. If it is too far away, then it may be too cold, and water would freeze. Wolf 1061c’s orbit changes at a much faster rate, which means that the climate there could be quite chaotic. It could cause the frequency of the planet freezing over or heating up to be quite severe.
6. Jupiter is a stormy planet that is best known for its Great Red Spot.
The Great Red Spot has been present in Jupiter’s atmosphere for more than 300 years. It is now known that the Great Red Spot is a storm that is spinning like a cyclone. Unlike a low-pressure hurricane, the Red Spot rotates in a counterclockwise direction in the southern hemisphere, showing a high-pressure system. The winds inside this storm reach speeds of 270 miles per hour. The Red Spot is the largest known storm in the solar system. It is almost twice the size of the entire Earth. The long lifetime of the Red Spot is likely because Jupiter is a mainly gaseous planet. It possibly has liquid layers but lacks a solid surface, which would dissipate the storm’s energy. However, the Red Spot does change its shape, size, and color, sometimes dramatically.
Like Earth, Jupiter’s storms tend to form closer to the equator and then drift toward the poles. Since Jupiter has no land, there is much less friction because there is nothing to rub against. There’s just more gas underneath the clouds. Jupiter also has heat leftover from its formation comparable to the heat it gets from the sun. The temperature difference between its equator and its poles are not as great as on Earth. A geometric arrangement of storms would form if the storms were surrounded by a ring of winds turning in the opposite direction from the spinning storms. The presence of these anticyclonic rings causes the storms to repel each other rather than merge.
5. One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, has been said to have a saltwater ocean.
Researchers have identified that sodium chloride, the stuff in table salt, exists on Europa’s surface. Europa’s surface is covered in a 62-mile saltwater ocean enclosed in a layer of ice. Since the exterior is essentially formed with frozen seawater, the discovery suggests that Europa’s hidden sea is drenched in table salt. That is an essential piece in understanding the possibilities for life in the alien world. To analyze Europa’s composition, astronomers study the light emanating from its surface, splitting into a rainbow-like spectrum. However, as you already know, ordinary table salt is white and gives off a featureless spectrum. For years, astronomers have also argued that another type of salt, magnesium sulfate, was present on Europa’s surface. Europa’s seas could ultimately prove to be too salty for life as we know it to exist there.
A more equitable mixture of water and salt could allow life to thrive there, especially if the ocean is as active as our own. The water gets pulled into the seafloor around the hydrothermal vents. Then, it is jettisoned back out from the vents themselves on Earth. In the process, magnesium is captured within the rocks, whereas sodium and chlorine escape. Europa’s table-salt surface could suggest that the moon’s seawater is cycled similarly and even point towards hydrothermal vents. If this is true and an accurate representation of the ocean’s composition, then Europa’s ocean would be more similar to what we see on Earth. However, scientists could not quite say what the quantities of salt are beneath the ice.
4. Auroras from neutron stars are created on planets, including Draugr.
PSR 1257+12 was first discovered in 1992. It is a pulsar that is located 2,300 lightyears away from the sun. The pulsar contains a planetary system with three known extrasolar planets. The planet Draugr gets its name from a monstrous undead creature from mythology. It is one of three small, rocky planets. When a massive star explodes, its core forms a neutron star, an Earth-sized object with ridiculously high density. However, scientists don’t expect planets around giant stars to sustain stellar explosions. Nor do they expect them to keep orbiting the newly formed neutron stars. However, three worlds are doing just that around the neutron star, PSR B1257+12.
The neutron stars emit a lot of harmful radiation, including x-rays and gamma rays severely damaging to life on Earth. The three planets going around the neutron star, Ergo, are consistently bathed in radiation. The planets are considered to be as lifeless as planets can be. Planets that are around neutron stars might be a pretty sight from a distance. The neutron star’s radiation can create dazzling auroras on the worlds, similar to Earth and Jupiter. The discovery of planets around a pulsar was unexpected, considering that a pulsar could host planetary companions.
3. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, although it is not the closest planet to the sun.
The interior of Venus is made of a metallic iron core that is roughly 2,400 miles wide. Its molten rocky mantle is approximately 1,200 miles thick. Although Venus is not the planet closest to the sun, its dense atmosphere traps heat in a runaway version of the greenhouse effect that warms Earth. As a result, temperatures on Venus reach 880 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than hot enough to melt lead. Any spacecraft that has landed on the planet only lasted a few hours before being destroyed. Venus’s atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid and only trace amounts of water.
The surface of Venus is arid. Ultraviolet rays from the sun evaporate water quickly, keeping the planet in a prolonged molten state. There is no liquid water on its surface today because the scorching heat created by its ozone-filled atmosphere would cause the water just to boil away. Venus is brighter than any other planet or even any star in the night sky because of its highly reflective clouds and closeness to our planet. However, Venus takes 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis, which is the slowest of any major planets. Unusual stripes in the upper clouds of Venus are referred to as ultraviolet absorbers because they strongly absorb light in the blue and ultraviolet wavelengths. They are soaking up a tremendous amount of energy. Roughly two-thirds of Venus’s surface is covered by flat, smooth plains marred by thousands of volcanoes.
2. Scientists have found a layered mix of ice and sand that represent the last traces of long-lost polar ice caps on Mars.
Remnants of ancient ice sheets have been found buried a mile beneath Mars’ North Pole. The team found layers of sand and ice that were as much as 90 percent water in some places. If melted, the newly discovered ice would be equal to a global layer of water around Mars that is at least five feet deep, which could be one of the largest water reservoirs on the planet. The layers of ice is a record of past climate on Mars in much the same way that tree rings are a record of past climate on Earth. They suspect the layers formed when ice accumulated at the poles during past ice ages on Mars.
Each time the planet warmed, a remnant of the ice caps became covered by sand, which protected the ice from solar radiation and prevented it from dissipating into the atmosphere. Shockingly, the total volume of water locked up in these buried polar deposits is roughly the same as all the water known to exist in glaciers and buried ice layers at lower latitudes on Mars. Studying this unique weather pattern and record of past polar glaciation could help determine whether Mars was ever habitable. Understanding how much water was available globally versus what is trapped in the poles is vital if you’re going to have liquid water on Mars. There can be all the right conditions for life, but if most of the water is locked up at the poles, it becomes challenging to have suitable amounts of liquid near the equator.
1. Saturn has a unique weather pattern of psychedelic clouds that are driven by internal heating.
Saturn rotates extremely fast but takes a little over 29 years to make one revolution around the sun. It is hard to determine the number of moons revolving around Saturn because it is difficult to distinguish between tiny moons and the numerous ice chunks composing Saturn’s smaller ringlets. As one of the four gas giants, Saturn’s atmosphere is similar to that of Jupiter’s. The atmosphere is mostly composed of hydrogen with lesser amounts of helium and even smaller methane and ammonia quantities.
Discovered by Voyage in 1981, the cloud pattern at Saturn’s north pole continues to amaze scientists. The lower-altitude hexagon may influence what happens above. Saturn’s cloud levels host the majority of the planet’s weather, including the pre-existing north polar hexagon. Scientists have identified that the points of the hexagon rotate around its center at almost the same rate Saturn rotates on its axis. Besides, a jet stream air current flows eastward at up to 220 miles per hour. Roughly seven years ago, an image of the storm was taken to demonstrate its unusual composition. Nothing like the hexagon has been seen in any other world. It is about 20,000 miles wide and approximately 60 miles down into Saturn’s atmosphere.