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The curious case of Earth’s leaking atmosphere

07 July 2016

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Earth's atmosphere is leaking. Every day, around 90 tonnes of material escapes from our planet's upper atmosphere and streams out into space. Although missions such as ESA's Cluster fleet have long been investigating this leakage, there are still many open questions. How and why is Earth losing its atmosphere – and how is this relevant in our hunt for life elsewhere in the Universe?

Given the expanse of our atmosphere, 90 tonnes per day amounts to a small leak. Earth's atmosphere weighs in at around five quadrillion (5 × 1015) tonnes, so we are in no danger of running out any time soon. However, understanding Earth's atmosphere, and how it escapes to space, is key to understanding the atmospheres of other planets, and could be crucial in our hunt for habitable planets and extraterrestrial life.

Source: ESA

Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab - Where does Earth's leaking atmosphere go?

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