In planetary, earth sciences or astronomy an atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding a planet or other material body of sufficient mass that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere is more likely to be retained if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low.


The top of Earth's atmosphere. image: wikipedia/ISS

Earth's atmosphere, which contains oxygen used by most organisms for respiration and carbon dioxide used by plants, algae and cyanobacteria for photosynthesis, also protects living organisms from genetic damage by solar ultraviolet radiation. Its current composition is the product of billions of years of biochemical modification of the paleoatmosphere by living organisms.

Atmosphere of stars

The term stellar atmosphere describes the outer region of a star, and typically includes the portion starting from the opaque photosphere outwards. Stars with sufficiently low temperatures may form compound molecules in their outer atmosphere.

Origin of the word

New Latin atmosphaera, created in the 17th century from Greek ἀτμός [atmos] "vapor" and σφαῖρα [sphaira] "sphere”) 


Other uses

1 Atmosphere is a measurement of air pressure

The term atmosphere is also used in literature to describe the emotional state of characters or sense of a place.