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Author Topic: A Question About Ozone  (Read 1738 times)

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Offline ParadoxTopic starter

A Question About Ozone
« on: September 28, 2008, 02:51:37 PM »
I intend to do my own research on this matter, but for the sake of tapping into the vast knowledge of our Elliquian membership base--

What could cause a planet's ozone layer to thin, weaken, and even become entirely depleted?

On a smaller (but nonetheless critical) level, what could split the bonds of an O3 molecule?
« Last Edit: September 28, 2008, 02:55:35 PM by Paradox »

Offline Storiwyr

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2008, 02:58:50 PM »
It doesn't take much, to be honest. Ozone is quite unstable. Sometimes it seems like it'll react with just about anything, and if you have too much of it, it'll just decay right down to oxygen all by itself.

While it is not the be all and end all of academic knowledge, wikipedia has a looooooong list of reactions that ozone will undergo.

Offline ParadoxTopic starter

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2008, 03:00:22 PM »
Thanks; I'll have to check that out. I'm attempting to formulate a reason as to why an Earth-like planet would have undergone a massive and fairly sudden depletion of its ozone layer, thus subjecting the denizens of that world to the harmful radiation of its star.

Offline Sherona

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2008, 03:38:32 PM »
One such theory, Para, is a Solar Flair. If a star, like say our sun, gives off a super burst of Solar flares directly at the Earth, then it could very well burn away our ozone....of course that would also kill living things on teh surface but yeah...

Offline ParadoxTopic starter

Re: A Question About Ozone (and Astronomy)
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2008, 03:52:29 PM »
Okay thanks Sherona.

So let's say that the planets in this system are arranged as follows.


O                O                              o                        o

Theoretically, would it be possible for a solar flare from the sun (orange) to vaporize the ozone and inhabitants of the green planet, weaken in intensity as it travels, thus only vaporizing the ozone layer of the blue planet but leaving its inhabitants untouched, then weakening further to the point where it leaves the purple planet entirely unmolested?

(like so:)

O      >>>>          O                  >>>                       o             ~~           o

Offline Storiwyr

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2008, 03:52:59 PM »
One such theory, Para, is a Solar Flair. If a star, like say our sun, gives off a super burst of Solar flares directly at the Earth, then it could very well burn away our ozone....of course that would also kill living things on teh surface but yeah...

Is that by .... whatsit ... deflagration? Like it triggers mass conversion of Ozone to diatomic oxygen?

Offline Sherona

Re: A Question About Ozone (and Astronomy)
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2008, 03:58:17 PM »
Okay thanks Sherona.

So let's say that the planets in this system are arranged as follows.


O                O                              o                        o

Theoretically, would it be possible for a solar flare from the sun (orange) to vaporize the ozone and inhabitants of the green planet, weaken in intensity as it travels, thus only vaporizing the ozone layer of the blue planet but leaving its inhabitants untouched, then weakening further to the point where it leaves the purple planet entirely unmolested?

(like so:)

O      >>>>          O                  >>>                       o             ~~           o

Honestly Para, any inhabitants of a planet without an ozone layer would probably rather the fried instantly. they would be exposed to space radiation, the ozone filters out all sorts of radiation from not only our sun but stars and what not. the weather would be vastly effected the effects would be devastating and inhabitable for more then a few geological moments.

But yes the planets would absorb the radiation, and actually probably the flair wouldn't even make it through depending on if it was just a glancing blow or direct 'hit'.

And Stori, I think it is called Deflagration yes, but i have to go look up my sources to be 100% sure.

Offline ParadoxTopic starter

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2008, 04:07:01 PM »
Well I'm kind of going for something along the lines of:

The first planet was pretty much burnt to a crisp.

The second planet had a good portion of its ozone layer burned away, but enough of it remained to allow certain planets and animals to grow after an indeterminate amount of time, with other lifeforms existing beneath the waves (as life did on Earth before our own ozone layer formed as a byproduct of the massive amount of photosynthetic reactions of the developing autotrophs in the oceans) and beneath the ground.

The third planet ended up with a nice tan.

Offline Oniya

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2008, 07:40:41 AM »
You're also assuming that the planets are in conjunction at the time of the flare.  If the star is relatively stable, and the massive flare is triggered by something catastrophic (large mass falling into the star?), then the flare could conceivably miss the green and purple planets entirely, and only hit the blue one, just by virtue of the blue one being 45 degrees further along on its orbit.

Offline ParadoxTopic starter

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2008, 11:36:28 AM »
Good point. That would be an excellent reason as to why the green planet suffered such a cataclysm while the rest of the system was left relatively unscathed.

Offline Oniya

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2008, 12:22:07 PM »
The blue one could have also been hit more glancingly - just enough to deplete, but not eliminate the ozone layer.  If the purple planet was at the other end of its orbit, it might not even know the flare occurred. 

Offline Canuckian

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2008, 03:04:16 PM »
It doesn't really have to be an external effect.  Most ozone depletion is due to some other chemical reacting with the diatomic O2 in the upper atmosphere, preventing it from reforming into O3.

Ozone is continually created and destroyed up there, that's how it absorbs the UV radiation.  O3 gets hit with an energetic UV ray, splits into O2 and monoatomic Oxygen, which then reforms into O3.  The problem is if stuff gets up there that bonds with the diatomic O2 and turns it into something else, say CO2.  That's how the majority of ozone is depleted.

So with your theory, perhaps a major volcanic eruption took place, which injected material into the atmosphere.  Or a comet composed of a reactory material smashed into the planet.

Offline Porphyre

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2008, 09:42:18 PM »
You may want to look at the magnetospheres of the planets, rather than the ozone layers, as that's what (afaik) provides us with the majority of our protection from solar radiation. If a planet had a different composition, like a different core, a blast of solar wind might make it through and give them more than just a pretty show of northern lights, while leaving other planets unmolested.

Offline Oniya

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2008, 09:54:51 PM »
Both could cause planetary catastrophe.

Absence of a magnetosphere leaves a planet vulnerable to atmospheric stripping - one of the reasons that Mars has such a thin atmosphere is that it has a much weaker magnetosphere than earth.

Absence of the ozone layer would allow more ultraviolet light in, which would fry everyone crispy - or at the very least, sterilize everything (in all likelihood).

Offline OldSchoolGamer

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2008, 01:38:07 AM »
You're also assuming that the planets are in conjunction at the time of the flare.  If the star is relatively stable, and the massive flare is triggered by something catastrophic (large mass falling into the star?), then the flare could conceivably miss the green and purple planets entirely, and only hit the blue one, just by virtue of the blue one being 45 degrees further along on its orbit.

Actually, the odds of even two planets being exactly in a row are miniscule.  Bear in mind that in our solar system, the planets do not orbit along a single plane.  The orbits of the planets are themselves slightly off the "disk" of the ecliptic (more than slightly in the case of Pluto, which is one of the reasons it was a ripe target for demotion).  Consider Earth and Venus.  When Earth, Venus and Sol are in a straight line, we can see the disk of Venus cross the sun.  This is known as a transit of Venus, and is a rare event, occurring approximately twice every 125 years, with each event lasting up to eight hours.  16 hours in 125 years is about 0.00072% odds of just two planets being lined up at the time of a solar flare.

Offline Oniya

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2008, 11:47:45 AM »
Exactly in a row, not particularly likely, but conjunctions aren't all that uncommon.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(astronomy_and_astrology)#Notable_conjunctions

Depending on the size and shape of the flare (since they aren't necessarily straight lines either), it could conceivably hit more than one planet.

Offline OldSchoolGamer

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2008, 04:38:53 PM »
Exactly in a row, not particularly likely, but conjunctions aren't all that uncommon.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(astronomy_and_astrology)#Notable_conjunctions

Depending on the size and shape of the flare (since they aren't necessarily straight lines either), it could conceivably hit more than one planet.

Oh, a flare could hit more than one planet.  While the energy output of a solar flare is directional, it's not as highly directional as, say, a laser or the stream from a garden hose.  But the idea advanced a few posts back was that planets might line up to the point that a flare would hit, say, Venus, and be attenuated by its interaction with Venus and thus have diminished effect on Earth, which in turn would end up almost completely sparing Mars from any effect.  And that scenario would require several planets to be in an almost-straight line, which, as already illustrated, is exceedingly rare.

Offline Mathim

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2008, 05:23:01 PM »
Isn't the hole over Australia? What I want to know is why there of all places...

And just out of curiosity, are the people posting here under the impression that this is how the world's going to end? I always thought we'd all end up killing ourselves and each other...

Offline OldSchoolGamer

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2008, 08:32:23 PM »
Isn't the hole over Australia? What I want to know is why there of all places...

And just out of curiosity, are the people posting here under the impression that this is how the world's going to end? I always thought we'd all end up killing ourselves and each other...

Antarctica, actually, because temperatures there are cold enough to form ice crystals at sensitive levels in the upper atmosphere, which play host to the ozone-destroying chemical reactions.

The ozone hole isn't going to be the end of the world...the sharp reduction in CFCs seems to have arrested its growth.  As far as solar flares...well, ultimately it is the Sun that will destroy the Earth, once the Sun moves off the main sequence, swells into a red giant, and fries the biosphere and then boils off the oceans.  But before then, solar flares don't pose a risk for extinction-level events, just bollixing satellites and other electronics.

Offline Oniya

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2008, 08:47:11 PM »
I was under the impression that this was a bit of unofficial research Paradox was doing into a science fiction or science fantasy scenario, probably for some piece of writing.

But I've been wrong before.  ;)

Offline Sherona

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2008, 08:56:35 PM »
Thats what I thought as well Oniya :)

Offline OldSchoolGamer

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2008, 10:57:52 PM »
Thats what I thought as well Oniya :)

Well, in that case, his solar system can be his own personal billiards table...line 'em up and knock 'em down.   ;)

Offline Oniya

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Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2008, 11:16:39 PM »
Well, in that case, his solar system can be his own personal billiards table...line 'em up and knock 'em down.   ;)

Many years ago, I had a free-ware gravity simulator where you could input a number of bodies and their characteristics.  In a fit of silliness, I set up a system of seven equally-sized planets orbiting a central body in the same orbit - theoretically stable, if completely artificial.  (I'd done 2 and 4 with successful results.)  However, with the roundoff error in converting 1/7 to decimal, things went wonky really quickly (as I'd anticipated).  Yes, billiard balls.

Offline ParadoxTopic starter

Re: A Question About Ozone
« Reply #23 on: October 05, 2008, 12:53:55 PM »
Keep in mind that I was using a two-dimensional monitor to illustrate my point. Those planets were not all lined up precisely. I was trying to show distance, not exact position. The point was: as a solar flare travels, it loses energy. The farther it travels, the more energy it loses...the basic law of entropy as energy diffuses from its area of highest concentration to progressively lesser concentrations. Taking time and distance into consideration together, by the time it had traveled the distance to that last planet, it would have lost so much energy to effectively render it harmless. That's what I was going for, at least.