|Why isnt there any oxygen in the universe and the
planets around us?
|Question Date: 2000-10-17|
The Earth's atmosphere is 77% nitrogen, 21%
oxygen, with traces of argon, carbon dioxide and
water. There was probably a very much larger
amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere
when the Earth was first formed, but it has since
been almost all incorporated into carbonate rocks
and to a lesser extent dissolved into the oceans
and consumed by living plants. Plate tectonics and
biological processes now maintain a continual flow
of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to these
various "sinks" and back again.
amount of carbon dioxide resident in the
atmosphere at any time is extremely important to
the maintenance of the Earth's surface temperature
via the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect
raises the average surface temperature about 35
degrees C above what it would otherwise be(from a
frigid -21 C to a comfortable +14 C); without it
the oceans would freeze and life as we know it
would be impossible.
The presence of free
oxygen is quite remarkable from a chemical point
Oxygen is a very reactive gas and
under "normal" circumstances would quickly combine
with other elements. The oxygen in Earth's
atmosphere is produced and maintained by
biological processes. Without life there would be
no free oxygen.
Atmosphere. Whether or not
a planet has an atmosphere depends on many things:
the mass of the planet, the distance of the planet
from the Sun, the amount of volcanism that has
occurred on the planet, etc.
shield a planet from meteor and comet impacts,
erode the surface, shield the surface from harmful
light like ultraviolet light, trap heat, and
moderate temperature, as well as provide gases
that plants and animals can breathe.
for example, like the Earth, will have internal
heat sources, and temperatures will be increasing
with depth. Water is so common on planetary bodies
that it seems almost certain it will be present in
large quantity also on Mars, and there must then
be a depth range in which it is liquid. If the
surface temperature has decreased over geologic
times, the depth range of liquid water would have
moved a little lower. The surface itself and a
thin layer below are cold, so that any water
coming up from deeper levels would generally not
spill over the surface, but freeze in the rocks.
Very little would reach the surface; in contrast
to the circumstances on the Earth, where a surface
temperature above the freezing point of water
allowed all the ocean water to come up and spill
over the surface. Small amounts of water vapor
have indeed been detected in the Martian
The surface materials will have
had a very different chemical history on the Earth
as on Mars; but below the surface there will be
somewhat similar materials on the two bodies, as
represented by a mix of the meteorites, the
leftover debris of planetary
Similar out gassing processes
seem to have occurred on many other planetary
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune
have hydrocarbons in their massive atmospheres.
Titan, a satellite of Saturn, has a substantial
atmosphere in which the hydrocarbons methane and
ethane seem to play a role similar to that of
water on Earth, forming clouds and probably rain,
and as with water here, there must be evaporation
from lakes or oceans on Titan to resupply the
clouds. In addition to methane and ethane, a
number of other hydrocarbon molecules are
identified spectroscopically, and they are quite
similar to the range of molecules in terrestrial
There is plenty of oxygen in the universe
actually. On this planet oxygen occurs as a
diatomic (2) molecule (O2: Chemical structure) and
IT originates as a byproduct of photosynthesis.
Certain kinds of bacteria, protists (algae) and
green plants use sunlight to make tissue and store
chemical energy. They also use water to get the
hydrogen they need and oxygen is a waste product
so they dump it to the atmosphere...lucky for
On earth, the oxygen of the
atmosphere is due to LIFE ON EARTH. However on the
other planets of the solar system, if they have
life at all, oxygen is not abundant enough to
create an oxygen-rich atmosphere like ours...but
it is still there!
I think there is plenty of oxygen out there, away
Oxygen just tends to react with
other chemicals and get locked up
substances that aren't very useful to oxygen
breathers like us.
Plant life here on Earth
does a very good job of keeping oxygen in
atmosphere for us and turning oxygen, carbon,
hydrogen into substances we can
Actually, scientists have discovered that oxygen
exists on other planets in our solar system.
Several years ago, that Hubble telescope detected
evidence of molecular oxygen in the atmosphere of
Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. The temperature
on Europa is extremely cold, and there is actually
some ice on the surface. Water is composed of
hydrogen and oxygen, so there is oxygen any place
that there is water, however, the oxygen may not
necessarily be in its molecular form. However, on
Europa, the ice on the surface is hit by sunlight,
dust, and other particles to form water vapor,
which, through a series of reactions, breaks down
to form molecular hydrogen and oxygen. The
atmosphere on Europa is very thin and a balance is
formed between oxygen that escapes into space with
new oxygen that forms from the ice.
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