Cold trap (astronomy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In astronomy, a cold trap is a close to the surface layer of the atmosphere that is substantially colder than both the deeper and higher layers. It is called a trap because it keeps ascending gases with high melting points in by freezing them to a solid which then drops back to the planet surface. The most important gas to be kept in that way, on the Earth, is water vapor, which without the presence of a cold trap in the atmosphere (which for the earth resides at about 20 kilometers height) would gradually escape or dissociate into space, making life impossible. Some astronomers believe that the lack of a cold trap is why the planets Venus and Mars both lost most of their liquid water early in their histories.[citation needed]