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The Atmosphere Code is a UWP code to represent the breathing environment encountered on a world.

  • It represents the mixture of gases and other elements that may be present on a sufficiently sized world or moon.
  • Varying types of atmospheres require the use of protective clothing or masks. [1]
  • Very small worlds, planetoids, asteroids, and other small objects almost never have an atmosphere unless artificially modified using advanced technology.
  • Tent Worlds are an example of a world ordinarily too small to contain an atmosphere, but artificially and technologically modified to possess an atmosphere using paraterraforming.

Description / Specifications

Few worlds will be found where a single chemical makes up the entire atmosphere. Most atmospheres have a complex gas mix which will include a variety of specific elements, some in great amounts, while others are barely detectable. Atmospheric mixes include active and inert gases. On Earth, oxygen (02) is active, but forms less than 25% of the total atmosphere around us. Three times as much is nitrogen (N2), plus a few trace elements such as argon. These inert gases are not usually required by animal at plant life, and take no part in the chemical reactions essential for life (except for nitrogen, a special case). They are, nonetheless, part of the atmosphere. In this AAB article, when we refer to a specific gas such as methane making up an atmosphere, we are referring to the active element, which may make up only a fraction of the total atmospheric mix. [2]

World Atmosphere Classification Codes Table

As a generality, small worlds are unable to maintain a sufficient gravity to maintain an atmosphere and tend to have thinner or trace atmospheres while larger worlds grow increasingly dense. Corrosive and insidious worlds tend to be at extreme ends of the tolerable temperature spectrum.

Atmospheric Code Descriptions
Code Specific Description General Description Pressure (ATM) Remarks
0 Vacuum Vacuum < 0.001 Vacuum requires a vacc suit. The atmosphere has a pressure of less than 0.001 atmospheres, which requires the use of a vacc suit.
1 (Trace) Vacuum 0.001-0.09 The atmosphere has a pressure of less than 0.1 atmospheres, which requires the use of a vacc suit.
2 (Very Thin / Tainted) Vacuum 0.10-0.42 Very Thin tainted requires a filter respirator combination
3 (Very Thin) Vacuum 0.10-0.42 Very Thin requires a respirator. The atmosphere has a pressure of 0.1 to 0.42 atmospheres, which requires the use of a respirator to ensure sufficient oxygen.
4 (Thin / Tainted) Thin 0.43-0.70 Tainted requires a filter mask. The atmosphere contains an unusual taint such as such as disease, a hazardous gas mix, pollutants, or sulfur compounds which requires the use of a filter mask.
5 Thin Thin 0.43-0.70 No survival gear required. The atmosphere has a pressure of 0 43 to 0.70 atmospheres. The atmosphere is a standard oxygen/nitrogen mix, which is breathable without assistance.
6 Standard Standard 0.71-1.49 No survival gear required. The atmosphere has a pressure of 0.71 to 1.49 atmospheres. The atmosphere is a standard oxygen/nitrogen mix, which is breathable without assistance.
7 (Standard / Tainted) Standard 0.71-1.49 Tainted requires a filter mask.
8 Dense Dense 1.50-2.49 No survival gear required. The atmosphere has a pressure of 1.50 to 2.49 atmospheres The atmosphere is a standard oxygen/nitrogen mix, which is breathable without assistance.
9 (Dense / Tainted) Dense 1.50-2.49 Tainted requires a filter mask.
A (10) Exotic Exotic , Conventional varies An unusual gas mix which requires the use of oxygen tanks, but protective suits are not needed.
B (11) (Corrosive) Exotic , Conventional varies A concentrated gas mix or unusual temperature creates a corrosive environment, which requires the use of a Hostile environment suit or vacc suit.
C (12) (Insidious) Exotic, Conventional varies The atmosphere is similar to a corrosive atmosphere, but extreme conditions cause the corrosive effects to defeat any protective measures in 2 to 12 hours.
D (13) (Dense, high) Exotic, Unusual 2.5 or greater [3] Typically no survival gear required under many conditions. Pressure at or below sea level is too great to support life but is breathable at higher altitudes.
E (14) (Ellipsoid) Exotic, Unusual 0.5 or less [4] Typically no survival gear required under many conditions. The world’s surface is ellipsoidal, not spherical. Because the atmosphere remains spherical, surface atmospheric pressure ranges from very high at the middle to very low at the ends. Breathable bands may exist at some point within the range of pressure.
F (15) (Thin, low) Exotic, Unusual varies Typically no survival gear required under some conditions. The Ellipsoid World is large and massive, with a thin atmosphere which settles to the lowest levels of the terrain. The atmosphere is unbreathable at most altitudes except the very low ones (as in depressions or deep valleys).

- NOTE: In MgT and T5, Atm type E is "Thin, Low", and Atm type F is "Unusual", which includes (but is not limited to) Ellipsoidal atmospheres.

Protective Measures Based on Atmosphere

The various atmosphere types require specific personal equipment for survival and protection. [5]

Basic Atmosphere Types

Combinations of the below atmospheres may exist and are not comprehensively listed:

  1. Corrosive Atmosphere
  2. Dense Atmosphere
  3. Ellipsoid Atmosphere
  4. Exotic Atmosphere
  5. High Pressure Atmosphere
  6. High Temperature Atmosphere
  7. Insidious Atmosphere
  8. Low Pressure Atmosphere
  9. Low Temperature Atmosphere
  10. Standard Atmosphere (Tolerable pressure, temperature, constituent gases, etc. for conventional lifeforms)
  11. Tainted Atmosphere
  12. Thin Atmosphere
  13. Trace Atmosphere
  14. Unusual Atmosphere
  15. Vacuum (Interstellar Medium)
  16. Very Thin Atmosphere

UWP & Atmospheres

The third digit in the UWP identifies the type of atmosphere that the world has. As a rule, only larger worlds have a gravitational field large enough to hold on to an atmosphere, but there certainly are exceptions. An atmosphere is essentially a layer of gas or gasses that cloak the surface of the planet and there are a number of reasons why a world may or may not be lucky enough to have one. As we have already mentioned, a big world has the muscle to keep its atmosphere and the bigger the world, in all likelihood the denser (or thicker) the atmosphere will be. Conversely, moons and small planets with relatively low surface gravities will generally have only trace atmospheres, if they have anything at all. [6]

Other factors also come into play. A world sitting close to the main star might have its atmosphere stripped away by the destructive energy of the star's solar wind sweeping past. The only chance a planet has of retaining its layer of gasses in this situation, is if it also benefits from a molten core that is producing a protective magnetosphere. Compare the Earth, whose atmosphere is shielded by its magnetosphere, with Mars. The red planet has a trace or very thin atmosphere that was considerably thicker in ancient times, but as the planet cooled it first lost its magnetosphere and then its atmosphere. [7]

Yet there are exceptions; in the depths of the solar system, the moon Titan orbits the ringed planet Saturn. Titan is cold, far from the sun and seismically inactive. It has no magnetosphere and with a surface gravity of only 0.14 G should not be able to retain an atmosphere - yet it has a dense atmosphere that is 1.45 times thicker than that of Earth's! Ganymede and Callisto, comparable-sized moons of Jupiter, are of a similar composition but do not have atmospheres. One theory suggests that Titan, being farther from the sun than the moons of Jupiter, was colder during its formation. Gasses were trapped in the ice at those low temperatures and later made their way into Titan's atmosphere. [8]

History & Background / Dossier

All industrial societies must gain an expanded understanding of atmospheres, air pressure, atmospheric constituents, gas behavior, industrial pollutants, and other factors in order to build a successful, modern interstellar starfaring society of TL:10-12 or greater. The UWP is one of the external expressions of those expectations about atmospheric understandings within Charted Space.

Techno-Environmental Limits

The typical sophont species needs to invent various kinds of protective equipment in order to colonize atmospheres to which it is not native.

Techno-Environmental Limits
5, 6 or 8 TL-0 No survival equipment required.
4, 7 or 9 TL-3 Tainted atmospheres require filters.
2 or 3 TL-5 Very thin atmospheres require compressors.
13 (D) or 14 (E) TL-5 Unusual atmospheres require a variety of protective equipment.
0 or 1 TL-8 Trace or vacuum atmospheres require a vacc suit and oxygen tanks.
10 (A) TL-8 Unbreathable atmospheres require oxygen tanks.
15 (F) TL-8 Unusual atmospheres such as ellipsoids require equipment under selected conditions.
11 (B) TL-9 Corrosive atmospheres require a variety of capable protective equipment.
12 (C) TL-10 Insidious atmospheres require a variety of heavy-duty protective equipment.

Atmospheric Equipment

Some selected equipment used in nonstandard environments with nonstandard and unusual atmospheres include:

  1. Air Tanks
  2. Atmosphere Tester
  3. Atmospheric Survival Suit
  4. Ball, Rescue
  5. Base, Advanced [9]
  6. Battle Dress
  7. Beacon, Emergency
  8. Body Pressure Suit
  9. Cabin, Prefabricated
  10. Combat Environment Suit
  11. Combination Filter Mask-Respirator [9]
  12. Compressor
  13. Extended Life Support Sytem [10]
  14. Filter Mask [9]
  15. Filter Respirator Combination
  16. Filter Suit
  17. Gauge, Depth
  18. Gauge, Tank Pressure
  19. Hazard Suit
  20. Hostile Environment Suit
  21. Locator, Inertial
  22. Mask, Face
  23. Mask, Filter
  24. Mask, Protective
  25. Oxygen Rebreather
  26. Oxygen Tanks [9]
  27. Pre-Fabricated Cabin [9]
  28. Respirator [9]
  29. Regulator
  30. "Sniffer" Bioscanner
  31. Suit Air Conditioner
  32. Suit, Protective [9]
  33. Suit, Protective, Heavy
  34. Survival Bubble
  35. Tent, Pressure [9]
  36. Vacc Suit [9] [11]

References and Contributors

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