Is Earth unique in its fairly clear atmosphere?

  • So, we have surface pictures from two alien planets, Venus (captured by the Venera 13), and Mars (captured by the rover).

    Both of these pictures appear to be very dusty. For Venus we see strong storms; that makes sense. However, the Martian air also appears very dusty. Is Earth relatively unique in its clear atmosphere?

    Martian Landscape


    Venusian Landscape


    Titan Landscape

    Titan (Thanks LocalFluff!)

    And a third one! Titan, moon of Saturn! You can pretty easily find online images of its surface both from the landings site of Huygens, the lander which Cassini brought, and during its descent. So you could compare visibility from any altitude for Titan. Titan's atmosphere is less than twice as thick than that of Earth, I gather. But much less clear. I have no answer to your question. I just want to compound it a bit.

    Isn't the second Venus image "artistic"? Do you have a source for it? Because I'm doubtful that formation was actually captured by any instrument. I think you've been fooled by a fraudster! Watch out, so you don't do it again!

    @localfluff The second one was from the Russian venera 13, launched in 1982.

    The earth is pretty dusty, too...

    Very nice images, and probably somewhat realistic scenaria too. But it should be clearly pointed out that they are artists' impressions. The camera of Venera 13 pointed down on the ground and never imaged the horizon.

    @Sidney: No horizon in Venera imagery. No floating dust, either, for what it's worth.

  • James K

    James K Correct answer

    7 years ago

    Our atmosphere is only transparent to visible light, In most other wavelengths, some or all of the light is absorbed

    Image from wikipedia
    Image from Wikipedia, adapted from image by NASA

    Our eyes have evolved to take advantage of the transparency at these wavelengths. If we had evolved in an atmosphere with a very different mix of gases. One in which visible light was absorbed, we would have evolved eyes that see different wavelengths.

    There is a notable "window" at about $10\mu m$ in the diagram above. And you might wonder if any animal has evolved to see in this window. However, our own bodies emit thermal radiation at about $10\mu m$, eyes wouldn't work as they would be swamped by their own glow. However this window is used by thermal imaging devices.

    A very nice answer. I might add, more intuitively and anything else that Earth's rain keeps it's soil moist and helps keep large dust clouds from forming, though they still do happen from time to time in dry locations. Trees and plants obviously help keep the Earth from being "dusty" too. A planet with liquid water and water rain that reaches the surface is interesting to us for many reasons. Earth is the only one like that in our solar-system. Venus has sulfuric acid rain, but it doesn't reach it's surface.

    Not really clear how this answers the question. Has the OP been edited?

    @RobJeffries I think this answers the question very clearly, what's the issue?

    It could be spelt out more explicitly that our eyes have not evolved for the purpose of seeing through the low opacity part of the spectrum for other worlds, whatever that night be. What would be interesting is whether the absorption spectrum plots for worlds other than Earth are available.

    One should mention that the only reason why we call those specific wavelengths "visible light" and the others "invisible" is because our eyes have evolved to see in that spectrum. IOW: "visible light" is not a property of the light, it's a property of our vision. Had we evolved on a different planet with a different atmosphere and a different absorption spectrum, our eyes would be sensitive to different wavelengths, and we would call *that* spectrum "visible".

    @Nit The question very clearly asks about the amount of dust in the atmosphere, not its chemical composition.

    Please add a source attribution far thot image.

    @DavidRicherby Personally I wouldn't say so. As I read it, the question asks why the pictures _appear_ to be very dusty. This doesn't necessarily mean that the phenomenon has anything to do with actual dust. Of course, you can interpret the question differently.

    @Nit Dust absorption is *grey* and it is what is responsible for most of the absorption on Mars. Therefore it wouldn't matter what wavelengths our eyes are tuned to. The "absorption" you can see in those pictures is of an entirely different nature to that presented in the picture in this answer.

    @RobJeffries If the answer is wrong why don't you write one that addresses that issue? As someone who isn't familiar with the topic, this answer sounds like a good explanation of the issue.

    I thought Rob's answer was good... @gerrit, source attribution added

    @Nit I don't say the answer is wrong, there are no inaccuracies contained therein. Perhaps you hadn't noticed that I have answered the question...

    @RobJeffries I've seen your answer but it doesn't address the concerns you bring out here.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM