Meteoroids Change Atmospheres of Earth, Mars, Venus
Similarities in the upper atmospheres of the three planets may be due to meteoroids’ shedding heavy elements as they pass through
Image: 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower + ISS passage Credit: Martin Wallgren
Meteoroids streaking through the atmospheres of planets such as Earth, Mars and Venus can change these worlds’ air, in ways that researchers are just now beginning to understand.
Most planetary atmospheres are made up of simple, low-mass elements and compounds such as carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen. But when a debris particle, or meteoroid, passes through, it can shed heavier, more exotic elements such as magnesium, silicon and iron.
Such elements can have a significant impact on the circulation and dynamics of winds in the atmosphere, researchers say.
“That opens up a whole new network of chemical pathways not usually there,” said Paul Withers of Boston University.