Earth’s like more common clouds we see

Earth’s atmosphere has five layers with the mesosphere being the third layer. Come learn about the mesosphere, why it’s important, why it’s hard to study, and some other cool facts about this important part of the atmosphere.

What is the Mesosphere?

You are sitting outside late at night under a blanket, waiting. Tonight, there will be a big meteor shower and you don’t want to miss the light show. Suddenly, you see a streak across the sky, followed by another and another! It’s like watching nature put on a fireworks display! But those flying rocks lighting up the sky aren’t hitting the Earth after their fall because they are burning up in the mesosphere!

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Layers of the atmosphere
Layers of the atmosphere as seen from the space shuttle
Layers of the atmosphere as seen from the space shuttle

Mysterious Mesosphere

You might think scientists know everything about our atmosphere, but the mesosphere is a hard layer to explore. You can’t send a weather balloon up to investigate because it can’t fly that high.

Even jets can’t go that high!Satellites and the International Space Station orbit the Earth in the layer above the mesosphere. Because they are too high up, they can’t examine it and collect data.One way scientists get information about this mysterious layer is by sending up sounding rockets. These are rockets that take quick flights and then return to Earth, kind of like a toy rocket you might launch that comes right back down.Sounding rockets usually stay up for about 5 to 20 minutes, go up into the mesosphere and gather information so we can learn more about it.

Mesosphere Facts

Although we don’t know everything, we do know some cool facts about this layer of atmosphere that protects the Earth.Special clouds called noctilucent (pronounced nock-tuh-LOO-sent) clouds form in the mesosphere. They are very high up, thin, and don’t affect the weather or rain on your picnic. Scientists suspect they are made of ice crystals, just like more common clouds we see floating by every day.

Noctilucent clouds
Lightning is a flash of light produced
  • When very close to the ground, almost like
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  • Cirrus – it is everywhere in the
  • Do get thicker, the clouds turn darker in
  • This the sun’s ultraviolet radiation – the stuff
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