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Earths Atmosphere & Space

AS4100 Astrofisika Pengamatan

Prodi Astronomi 2007/2008
B. Dermawan
Physical & Chemical Structure
Constituents of the Atmosphere
1. Water vapor
Mixing ratio (or fractional content)
mass of H 2 O per m 3 g
mass of air per m 3 kg
Lna et al. 1996

Lna et al. 1996

Physical & Chemical Structure
The quantity of precipitable water above altitude z0:

( z 0 ) N H O dz
N H 2O is the number of molecules per unit volume

For normal pressure P0 and temperature T0:

N H 2O [m 3 ] 4.3 10 25 r ( z)
P0 T0

hH 2O [cm] 0 [ g cm ] r ( z )e
3 H
dz Column of precipitable water

The scale height of water vapor is considerably less than

that of dry air H ( ~3 km)
Physical & Chemical Structure
2. Ozone
Vertical distribution: depends on the latitude and the season
Integrated quantity in the whole atmosphere: 0.24 0.38 cm
STP (Standard Temperature and Pressure)
Maximum concentration occurs at about 16 km (highest ~80
km). It absorbs mainly in the ultraviolet
Detection of perturbations due to human activity (industrial
products: fluorocarbons)
Physical & Chemical Structure
3. Carbondioxide
Important source of infrared absorption. It absorbs mainly in
the mid-infrared
Vertical distribution is similar to those of O2 and N2
Mixing ratio is independent of altitude
Physical & Chemical Structure
4. Ions
Increasingly ionised above 60 km (because of the Suns UV

O 2 h O 2* e O 2 h O O e
O 2 * an excited state of O2
Recombinations and radiative or collisional de-excitation occur,
and hence the electron density is not constant at a given altitude
Ionospheric layers:
D (height: 60 km; Ne: 103 cm-3), E (100; 105), F (150-300; 2106),
up to 2000 km Ne ~104 cm-3
Absorption of Radiation
Total: transmission window can be defined at a given altitude
Partial: the objects spectra will be modified by telluric
absorption bands

Atomic and Molecular Transitions

Cause absorption at discrete wavelengths
Pure rotational (eg. H2O, CO2, O3)
Rotational-vibrational (eg. CO2, NO, CO)
Electronic (moleculars: eg. CH4, CO, H2O, O2, O3, radicals;
atomic: eg. O, N)
Absorption of Radiation

Optical depth i ( , z 0 ) ri ( z ) 0 ( z ) i ( ) dz
I ( z0 ) 1
Attenuation of EM radiation by the atm. I 0 ( )
i i ( , z 0 )

Bradt 2004
Absorption of Radiation
mm (pure rotational H2O & O2)
IR & sub-mm (rotational & vibrational H2O & O2)
Near UV (continuum O2)
Far UV (continuum N2)
< 10 nm (molecular ionisation is complete & the
absorption coefficient is effectively constant)

Observation domains
Ground-based: visible, near IR ( < 25 m), mm ( > 0.35 m), cm
Space: all the rest including ray, X-ray, UV, and IR
Balloons (ray, X-ray, near UV; alt. 30-40 km), aircraft (IR & sub-
mm; alt. 12 km) or on the polar ice caps of the Antarctic plateau
Absorption of Radiation
Telluric Bands Lna et al. 1996

Precise knowledge of the

atmospheric absorption
band is required to obtain
a true spectral line
Absorption of Radiation
Ionospheric plasma

; p Hz Nee2
n 1
1 8.97 10 3

4 0 m

The F-layer causes total reflection = 23.5 m for which n = 0

The ionosphere is thus generally transparent to both cm and
mm wavelengths
Atmospheric Emission
Fluorescent Emission (Airglow)

Recombination of electrons with ions,

which have been produced by daytime
reactions of photochemical dissociation,
leads to the emission of photons geocorona

Emission (a continuum & lines) may occur

up to several hours after excitation
Main sources: O I, Na I, O2, OH, and H

Stable Auroral Red
Atmospheric Emission
Thermal emission
The atmosphere can be considered as a gas in LTE up to an
altitude of 40-60 km
A simple approx. of the intensity ( z ) B
(T )

Lna et al. 1996

Differential measurement techniques

To eliminate sky background radiation (fluorescent or thermal origin)
Scattering of Radiation
Atmospheric scattering

- The molecules which make up
the air: decreases with
- Aerosols: depends on winds,
climate, type of ground,
volcanic activity, industrial
pollution, etc.

Lna et al. 1996

Scattering of Radiation
Molecular scattering in the visible and near IR is Rayleigh
scattering which has cross-section 8 3 (n 2 1) 2
R ( )
3 N 2 4
Rayleigh scattering is not isotropic and actually the cross-section
is a function of the angle between the directions of the incident
and scattered radiation

Aerosol scattering: the particles are bigger than molecules

Mie theory: the total effective cross-section a 2 (Qscat Qabs )
If a >> , Qs = Qa = 1 is twice the geometrical cross-section
If a > , Qs and Qa have a complicated dependence. For water
droplets or dust grains (silicates) Qs 1, hence the scattered
intensity varies as 1
Scattering of Radiation
Daylight observation from the ground
Lna et al. 1996

There is a wavelength beyond

which thermal emission exceeds
daytime scattering emissions, and
hence in this range the brightness
of the sky is largely independent
of the day-night cycle
Terrestrial Observing Sites
It is essential to choose the best possible site whatever logistic
difficulties it may involve

Visible, IR, and mm observatories

Absence of cloud: tropical
and desert regions, the least
cloud regions (10 to 35 N
& 0-10 S to 35-40 S) but
fluctuate over different
Lna et al. 1996
Terrestrial Observing Sites
Photometric quality: stability of atmospheric transparency in
the visible (six consecutive hours of clear sky)
Infrared and millimeter transparency: minimisation of the
height of precipitable water (favors polar and dry tropical
Image quality: variation in temperature, and hence in the
refraction index on the air, perturb the phase of EM
wavefronts. Histogram of its intensity over time must also
be taken into consideration
Terrestrial Observing Sites
Centimeter radio astronomy and beyond
Avoid radiofrequency interference, the latitude with a view to
covering as much as possible of the two celestial hemispheres,
the horizontal surface area available for setting up interferometers
Man-made pollution and interference
Light pollution in the visible, radiofrequency interference, heat
sources (nuclear power stations) modify microclimates,
vibrations, industrial aerosols, and the risk of an over-
exploitation of space
The Antarctic
Low temp., dry atmosphere, highest transmission (of IR, sub-
mm, mm), weak corresponding emissivity, much reduced
turbulence, weak vertical temp. gradient
Observation from Space
The launchers: orbit & mass of equipment
The energy supply: maneuverability & data transmission capacity
The various protection systems: fend off particles,
micrometeorites guaranteeing whatever lifetime is required
The quality control & reliability studies: test the system as a whole

Observations from atmospheric platforms (aeroplanes at 10-20

km, stratospheric balloons at 20-40 km, and rockets up to 300
km) have been included under the denomination of space
Observation from Space
The advantages
Overcome three main causes: absorption of radiation,
turbulence, and interfering emissions
However, some interference remains:
Upper atmosphere, solar wind, and zodiacal dust cloud scatter
the light from the Sun and emits their own thermal radiation;
The flux of particles coming from the Sun or diffusing through
the Galaxy can interfere with detectors on board a space
overcome by suitable choice of orbit
Observation from Space
Sources of perturbation
1. The zodiacal nebula: distribution of dust grains in orbit
around the Sun, very close to the ecliptic (inclination ~3)

Lna et al. 1996

Jack Newton,

Observation from Space
2. High energy particles & photons
a. Diffuse cosmic background: mainly of superposition of
emissions with different redshifts (in the X- & -rays regions)

Lna et al. 1996

b. Solar wind: hydrogen
plasma ejected from the
Sun which travels at high
speeds along the field line
of the heliosphere. Varies
with solar activity
Observation from Space
c. Radiation belts: modified trajectories of charged particles by
the lines of force of the Earths magnetic field (van Allen belts)
Lna et al. 1996
Observation from Space
d. Cosmic rays: enter the solar system
and interact with the heliosphere
which opposes their penetration
The flux of cosmic rays in the
neighborhood of the Earth is
maximum when solar activity is
minimum ( solar modulation)
e. Background from interaction with
surrounding matter: highly
complex spectrum containing
many de-excitation lines
superposed upon a continuous
emission. Limits the sensitivity of Lna et al. 1996
the experiment
Observation from Space
Choice of orbits

Low equatorial orbits (300 500 km): communication is easy and

repairs are possible. Lifetime is reduced. The Earth blocks 2 sr
of the f.o.v, very quick changes between night and day leading to
breaks in visibility of the studied source about once per hour
High circular orbits (6000 100,000 km): pointing is easier, obs.
periods are long, reduced the Earths blocking of the f.o.v, weak
interference (scattering, radiofrequency, thermal emission).
Launch energy and for communication are greater (higher cost)
Highly elliptical orbits: less power to launch and transmitting data
when passes close to the Earth, spends most of its time far from
the Earth and its associated interference emissions
Observation from Space
The best orbits for astronomy: either very distant (avoiding
radiation belts), or else close circular equatorial orbits
(avoiding the South Atlantic Anomaly and protected from
cosmic rays by the magnetosphere. However, rather
inaccessible from the larger launch pads, no interest from the
economic and military point of views, and other problems).
Distant circular orbits (>60,000 km) or eccentric orbits
(apogee ~200,000 km) are the best compromise
The Lagrange points: a local minimum of gravitational potential
The Moon as an Astronomical Site
A long night allows long integration periods on a single source
The lunar surface is stable, much lower seismic activity than that of
the Earth
The absolute instantaneous position of the Moon is known to a very
high degree accuracy
The ground temp. varies widely between day and night (90 to 400 K)
The weak gravity on the Moon makes it is possible to build large
structures which are both rigid and light
The permanently hidden face of the Moon is entirely free of man-
made radiofrequency interference (strongly favor for radio telescope)
Disadvantages: higher cost, the continual solar wind and cosmic rays
bombardments, the intense solar radiation in the extreme UV and X-
ray regions, the incessant impacts of micrometeorites