Shop Windows to the Universe

Check out the fun Earth science related bumper stickers in our online store! Express yourself!

Ionosphere Constituents

The various regions of the ionosphere have higher concentrations of charged particles (ions) than do other parts of the thermosphere, which consists mostly of electrically neutral atoms and molecules. These ions are created when energetic photons from the Sun collide with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, knocking electrons out of the atoms and molecules in a process called photoionization. The composition of the ionosphere, in terms of elements and compounds, reflects the composition of the neutral atmosphere from which it is generated.

The graph below shows the density of seven important constituents of the ionosphere (ionized forms of six gases plus free electrons). Click on the check boxes at the bottom of the graph to hide or show individual curves. (If you don't see the graph, you may need to install the latest version of the Flash player onto your computer.)

Graph courtesy the COMET and HAO programs at UCAR/NCAR.

Last modified November 30, 2005 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Thermosphere

The thermosphere is the fourth layer of the Earth's atmosphere. It is found above the mesosphere. The air is really thin that high up. The temperature changes with the solar activity. If the sun is active,...more

Photon

Text for this level has not been written yet. Please see the "Intermediate" text for this page if you want to learn about this topic. To get to the "Intermediate" text, click on the blue "Intermediate"...more

Element (Chemical Element)

An element (also called a "chemical element") is a substance made up entirely of atoms having the same atomic number; that is, all of the atoms have the same number of protons. Hydrogen, helium, oxygen,...more

Rainbows

Rainbows appear in the sky when there is bright sunlight and rain. Sunlight is known as visible or white light and is actually a mixture of colors. The sun's rays pass through millions of raindrops. A...more

The Four Seasons

It takes the Earth one year to travel around the sun one time. During this year, there are four seasons: summer, autumn, winter, and spring. Each season depends on the amount of sunlight reaching the...more

Research Aircraft

Scientists sometimes travel in airplanes that carry weather instruments in order to gather data about the atmosphere. These research aircraft bring air from the outside into the plane so scientists can...more

Anemometer

An anemometer is a weather instrument used to measure the wind (it can also be called a wind gauge). These instruments can be used in a backyard weather station or on a well-equipped scientific research...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF