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Thermosphere Facts: Lesson for Kids

Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Tammie Mihet

Tammie has taught elementary school for 14 yrs. and holds an MA in Instructional Technology

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college Physics, Natural science, Earth science, and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree.

The Earth's atmosphere is not just one big sphere of air--according to scientists, it's made up of five distinct layers. In this lesson, you will gain greater knowledge of the fourth layer of Earth's atmosphere: the thermosphere. Updated: 11/06/2021

What Is the Atmosphere?

Imagine making a five-layer cake. As you add on the layers, you make each one different from the rest: chocolate, vanilla, carrot, red velvet, and maybe even lemon. Each layer has its own distinct flavor, and piled high together, they make a beautiful, multicolored cake!

Think of the atmosphere as that cake. Earth's atmosphere, or the gases that surround the Earth, can be divided into five layers. Like your cake, each layer of the Earth's atmosphere is distinct and different. The five layers of the Earth's atmosphere starting at the Earth's surface and moving up are:

  • Troposphere
  • Stratosphere
  • Mesosphere
  • Thermosphere
  • Exosphere

In this lesson, we're going to spend some time getting to know the fourth layer of the Earth's atmosphere: the thermosphere.

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  • 0:04 What Is the Atmosphere?
  • 0:57 The Thermosphere
  • 1:36 Northern & Southern Lights
  • 2:29 Orbiting Earth
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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The Thermosphere

As solar radiation (energy from the sun) travels from the sun to the Earth, it passes through the exosphere and enters the thermosphere. You can think of the thermosphere as a solar radiation sponge, because it absorbs the sun's radiation as it passes through. So the thermosphere is very hot. It can reach more than 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit! Even at night it's usually about 1,000 degrees.

This heat is what gives the thermosphere its name: thermos is Greek for ''heat.'' Absorbing all that heat from the sun also makes the thermosphere expand, or become bigger.

Northern & Southern Lights

During certain times of the year toward the Northern and Southern poles, the Earth's atmosphere puts on a brilliant light show! The sky fills with patches of dazzling colors like ribbons of light. It's a beautiful sight to behold! We call these light shows auroras, or more specifically, the Northern Lights and the Southern Lights.

Northern Lights or Aurora borealis
Northern Lights

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Additional Activities

The Thermosphere: True or False Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge of the layer of the Earth's atmosphere called the thermosphere.

Directions

Determine whether the following statements are true or false. To do this, print or copy this page on a blank paper and underline or circle the answer.

True | False 1. The thermosphere is directly above the exosphere and directly below the mesosphere.

True | False 2. Elevated temperatures in the fourth layer of the atmosphere are due to sunlight absorption.

True | False 3. The Southern lights come from the collisions of the molecules in the thermosphere.

True | False 4. The International Space Station and some airplanes are located in the thermosphere.

True | False 5. In the thermosphere, the air moves like tides and waves in the sea.

True | False 6. The International Space Station is always at risk of colliding with space debris.

True | False 7. Molecules of helium, ammonia, and oxygen make up the air in the stratosphere.

True | False 8. The exosphere is considered as the thickest layer of the atmosphere.

True | False 9. Air expands when heated and contracts as it cools down.

True | False 10. Cosmic collisions usually occur near the equator, leading to the so-called auroras.


Answer Key

  1. False, because the correct statement is: The thermosphere is directly above the mesosphere and directly below the exosphere.
  2. True
  3. True
  4. False, because the correct statement is: only The International Space Station is located in the thermosphere.
  5. True
  6. True
  7. False, because the correct statement is: Molecules of helium, nitrogen, and oxygen make up the air in the thermosphere.
  8. False, because the correct statement is: The thermosphere is considered as the thickest layer of the atmosphere.
  9. True
  10. False, because the correct statement is: Cosmic collisions usually occur near the poles, leading to the so-called auroras.

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