Photo courtesy of Jyrki Manninen
Scientists call the ionosphere an extension of the thermosphere
. So technically, the ionosphere is not another atmospheric layer. The ionosphere represents less than 0.1% of the total mass of the Earth's atmosphere. Even though it is such a small part, it is extremely important!
The upper atmosphere is ionized by solar radiation. That means the Sun's energy is so strong at this level, that it breaks apart molecules. So there ends up being electrons floating around and molecules which have lost or gained electrons. When the Sun is active, more and more ionization happens!
Different regions of the ionosphere make long distance radio communication possible by reflecting the radio waves back to Earth. It is also home to auroras.
Temperatures in the ionosphere just keep getting hotter as you go up!
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