Earth’s Atmosphere: ‘We’ve got a leak’

Our atmosphere is escaping into outer space, but how long until we run out?

Our atmosphere is vital for life on our planet to survive. However, some processes can knock atmospheric gases out from our protective bubble and into space. It is estimated that around 180 kilograms of hydrogen and three kilograms of helium are lost from Earth’s atmosphere every minute.

Solar radiation is the main contributing factor to the loss of our planet’s thin blue line. This process is not unique to Earth; you only have to look at Mars’ barren surface to see the effects of dramatic atmospheric loss. Thankfully, it’s going to take another 3 billion years before we become the next Red Planet, so there is no immediate panic.

Escape artists

How does some of our atmosphere end up taking a one-way trip into space?

This article was originally published in How It Works issue 114

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