25 Facts About Earth’s Atmosphere That Are Truly Majestic

Our atmosphere is one of the most protective and important parts of our planet. Responsible for sheltering us from the harsh conditions of outer space, such as solar radiation and space debris, the atmosphere is a complex structure. Though we may not give it due credit in our daily lives, the world’s attention was turned to its layers in 2013 when veteran skydiver Felix Baumgartner took a capsule up to the highest levels of the stratosphere – about 120,000 feet above the Earth’s surface – and jumped. His record-shattering free fall spawned a new wave of interest in space travel and atmospheric science (and a bit of notoriety for his sponsor, too).

In this list, we highlight facts about our atmosphere which aren’t well-known but should be for how important they are to our understanding of the world around us. We discuss how the ozone layer was formed; how deserts form in the middle latitudes; how the northern and southern lights brighten the sky with their glow; and what causes the white streaks sometimes left by planes shooting through our atmosphere. Be the smartest person at your next party with these 25 Facts About The Earth’s Atmosphere That Are Truly Majestic.

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Our atmosphere has five primary layers which make life possible. The first, the troposphere, extends from sea level to about 11 miles (17 kms) up at the Equator. Most of our weather happens here due to the mixture of warm air rising and falling to form clouds and wind.

Troposphere from airplaneSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia
19

The next layer is the stratosphere, reaching up to around 30 miles (50 kms) above equatorial sea level. Herein lies the ozone layer, which protects us from dangerous ultraviolet rays. Though it is higher than the troposphere, it can actually be warmer due to the energy absorbed from solar rays.

StratosphereSource: National Geographic, Image: YouTube

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The mesosphere is the middle layer, extending to 52 miles (85 kms) above the planet's surface where temperatures hover around -180°F (-120°C). Most of the meteors which enter our atmosphere burn up in the mesosphere.

perseid meteor shower 2015Source: National Geographic, Image: Jeffrey Sullivan via Flickr
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Considered the first part of outer space due to its thinness and the area covered (around 430 miles or 690 kilometers above the Equator), the ionosphere is where most of our satellites, including the International Space Station, are parked.

StratorsphereSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

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The exosphere is the fifth and final layer of our atmosphere, which gets weaker and weaker as it extends away from Earth until it merges with interplanetary space. The fascinating part is that this layer can grow and shrink impressively. When the sun is calm and not compressing the layer with its solar storms, the top of the exosphere can extend from its low-point of 620 miles (1,000 kms) all the way up to 6,214 miles (10,000 kms) away from the planet's surface.

Layers_of_the_atmosphereSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikimedia

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