Question 7 - Reading and Writing Practice Test for the PSAT/NMSQT Exam

Which answer best describes the function of the underlined sentence in the passage provided?

When sunlight reflects from the atmospheres of the giant planets, the atmospheric gases leave their “fingerprints” in the spectrum of light. Spectroscopic observations of the jovian planets began in the nineteenth century, but for a long time, astronomers were not able to interpret the spectra they observed. As late as the \(1930\)s, the most prominent features photographed in these spectra remained unidentified. Then better spectra revealed the presence of molecules of methane \((CH_4)\) and ammonia \((NH_3)\) in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn.

At first astronomers thought that methane and ammonia might be the main constituents of these atmospheres, but now we know that hydrogen and helium are actually the dominant gases. The confusion arose because neither hydrogen nor helium possesses easily detected spectral features in the visible spectrum. It was not until the Voyager spacecraft measured the far-infrared spectra of Jupiter and Saturn that a reliable abundance for the elusive helium could be found.

The compositions of the two atmospheres are generally similar, except that on Saturn there is less helium as the result of the precipitation of helium that contributes to Saturn’s internal energy source. The most precise measurements of composition were made on Jupiter by the Galileo entry probe in \(1995\); as a result, we know the abundances of some elements in the jovian atmosphere even better than we know those in the Sun.

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