121-ch3-07 - Evolution of the Atmosphere Where did the...

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Evolution of the Atmosphere Where did the earth’s atmosphere come from? How did the earth’s atmosphere evolve to the present state? How do we know our ‘story’ is correct?
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Where did our atmosphere come from? What? Isn’t the atmosphere here all the time? Our atmosphere – abundant free oxygen--is a rarity. Large amount of liquid water ( oceans) on the surface—another unique feature in the solar system. Our present atmosphere is not a primordial atmosphere but rather a secondary atmosphere. Some solar system folks are airless, some are nothing but air.
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By studying the relative abundances of various chemical elements – earth is very deficient of certain elements such as hydrogen and helium as compared to other parts of the solar system. About 4.6 billion years ago, there was a “solar nebula” with a diameter about 10 light years (ly) consisting mainly of hydrogen and helium. Due to possibly a supernova explosion nearby, the nebula started to contract. The supernova ejected pieces of heavy materials (such as nickel and iron) that reached the solar nebula and caused contractions of the gases around these heavy cores. How do we know that our atmosphere is not primordial?
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Life Cycle of a Massive Star
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Crab Nebula (in Taurus ) – a supernova exploded in 1054 AD
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Formation of a proto-planetary system Source: zebu.uoregon.edu/~soper/ StarBirth/makestarsB.html A C D B
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dosxx.colorado.edu/.../ 11.Formation.html
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Gomez’s Hamburger a possible proto-planetary nebula NASA
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This drawing shows how forming planets drew gas to themselves.
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Primordial atmosphere – Where did it go? When the earth (and other planets) formed, it must have been solidified and surrounded by a primordial atmosphere (mainly H 2 , He). This primordial atmospheres of the inner planets were was probably wiped out completely during the stage when the sun evolved to the stage of a T-Tauri star.
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