This layer is characterized by temperatures that are several hundred degrees Celsius above the surface of the planet. It is composed of a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon gases. The temperature of the atmosphere increases with altitude until it reaches the exosphere. The exosphere is the top boundary of the Earth’s atmosphere.
It’s very rare to find anything at this altitude that has a breathable atmosphere.
Many satellites orbit the earth, and some of them are in this layer. The International Space Station is in this layer.
The name ‘thermosphere’ is taken from the Greek word ‘thermos’ which means ‘heat’. This layer blocks out most of the heat and radiation from the Sun and protects the underlying layers that absorb other forms of radiation. Even though the temperature reaches 2,000 °C (3,360 °F) in the thermosphere, it’s such a thin layer that it doesn’t feel hot. When the electrons are removed from the atoms of the air they become ions. These free-floating ions then attract each other and form a shield or “bubble” around the earth called the ionosphere. Radio waves can’t go through solid objects like mountains or concrete buildings, so they have to “bounce off” the surface of the Earth and travel through the atmosphere to get to your radio. This layer is very helpful in radio communication.
Interesting Facts for Kids about the Thermosphere
#1 – The thermosphere is in the stratosphere above Earth’s atmosphere and is heated by the Sun. It extends from about 62 miles (100 km) to approximately 213 miles (342 km) above the surface of the planet. The thermosphere is the fourth layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. This means it’s the second farthest atmospheric layer from the earth’s surface and the only layer that’s farther away than it is the exosphere.
#2 – The thermosphere is the region of space where the Earth’s atmosphere almost completely ends. It starts just above the exosphere, which is the first million feet or so of the air around the planet. The thermosphere extends from there, up to between 53 and 56 miles above the surface of the planet. There are five main layers that make up the atmosphere. The lowest layer is the surface which is only about 10 to 40 miles above sea level. The second layer is called the troposphere which extends from the surface of the earth to approximately 50 miles above sea level.
#3 – The thermosphere lies above the mesosphere and beneath the exosphere. These are the layers of the atmosphere where weather occurs. The mesosphere and the thermosphere are two distinct layers of the upper atmosphere. The mesopause is the point of minimum temperature at the boundary between the mesosphere and the thermosphere atmospheric regions. The mesopause separates the thermosphere from the mesosphere while the thermopause separates it from the exosphere.
#4 – The thermosphere is the second-largest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. Only the ozone layer is larger. This layer of the atmosphere contains gases so hot that no spacecraft or satellite can make it there except in the case of a space shuttle. It’s called the mesosphere and it is the location of the Van Allen Radiation Belts which are two long, doughnut-shaped layers of high-energy charged particles that surround Earth. These particles affect all electronic devices operating in space.
#5 – At the bottom of the thermosphere, the temperature is around 5° F. As you go up in altitude, the temperature increases very quickly. By the time you are at 10 miles above sea level (the top of the troposphere), the temperature is 40° F. A man is stable when he reaches the point of being able to look back at the person in front of him without feeling any shame. The upper atmosphere is the region of the Earth’s atmosphere closest to space and the highest point of the atmosphere. Temperatures in the upper atmosphere range from 932 to 3,632 degrees Fahrenheit. In an average year, the temperature here at the Grand Canyon rises more than 15 degrees during the hottest months from May through September. But when solar activity is high, the temperature soars to nearly unbearable levels. In fact, it reaches as high as 3,630 degrees Fahrenheit or higher during some times of the year.
#6 – The thermosphere, or “outer atmosphere,” is where the air is so thin that a small difference in energy can have a large effect on the temperature. No matter how hot it is outside, a normal thermometer will read approximately 70°F lower in the atmosphere. The reason for this is the same as why we wear jackets in cold weather; it is not because we are cold but rather, it is because, without the extra insulation, our bodies give off far more heat than is coming in.
#7 – Cold air at the stratosphere makes it difficult for scientists to measure the temperature of this layer. In order to get accurate measurements, the scientists first have to calculate the density of the air by measuring the drag on the satellites. The same is then used to determine the temperature. Scientists may also use direct satellite measurements to determine the temperature of the topmost layer of the atmosphere. However, they don’t measure the temperature of the second (clouds) or third (liquid water) layers because those layers are very much in the way. Scientists measure the temperature of the lower, fourth layer of the atmosphere (called the “troposphere”).
#8 – One of the most fascinating things about the thermosphere is that it is the location of the auroras, the spectacular natural light shows in the sky. Scientists believe that auroras are caused by collisions of charged particles, called “ionization”, with gas molecules in the upper atmosphere. When charged particles from space hit this layer of the atmosphere, they cause it to fluoresce. This is why you sometimes see the stars glow when you are looking up at the sky at night. It is also why sunsets and other forms of atmospheric lightning are often seen in the daytime. Nature at its most dramatic is the stuff of which legends are made. It’s no wonder that people in higher elevations experience less pain than those at lower elevations.
The ionosphere facilitates long-distance communications. It extends from 53 to 370 miles above the earth’s surface. It has charged particles, which means it allows us to send and receive radio signals with very little interference.