Exoplanetary Atmospheres and How to Understand Them

Six stories that examine atmospheres, both here on Earth and on exoplanets.

Artist impression of a volcanic exoplanet, with gas clouds rising from vents of lava. In the background is a three-quarter moon and two flaring meteors.
IMAGE: The early atmospheres of rocky planets are thought to form mostly from gases released from the surface of the planet as a result of the intense heating during the accretion of planetary building blocks and later volcanic activity early in the planet’s development. CREDIT: Dan Durda/Southwest Research Institute

Let’s start with Earth, where a team of scientists from baked meteorites at 1200 degrees Celsius and then sampled the resulting gases produced using a mass spectrometer. Overall, water was predominant, followed by large amounts of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and then smaller…