Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
Here are four different ways chemists use to show a molecule of methane. In the colored molecule models, carbon is light gray and hydrogen is white.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell.

Methane - CH4

Methane is a kind of gas. There is a small amount of methane in the air you breathe. A methane molecule has carbon and hydrogen atoms in it.

Methane is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps make Earth warm. But if there was too much methane, that could make our planet too warm.

Where does the methane in Earth's atmosphere come from? Cow burps, for one place! Farming rice also puts methane into the air. Some methane also comes from garbage dumps. Termites make lots of methane, too. Swamps also make methane.

Methane can burn. It is used as a fuel. It is one of the main gases in natural gas. The heat in your home might be from natural gas. Methane is called a hydrocarbon because it has hydrogen and carbon atoms in it.

Last modified February 8, 2006 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes books on science education, ranging from evolution, classroom research, and the need for science and math literacy!

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

Molecules

Most things around us are made of groups of atoms connected together into packages called molecules. Molecules are made from atoms of one or more elements. Some molecules are made of only one type of...more

Earth's Greenhouse Gases

Only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases. But they have a huge effect on climate. There are several different types of greenhouse gases, but they all have something in...more

Air Pollution Sources

Air pollution comes from many sources. Some natural sources affect air quality. Volcanoes produce sulfur, chlorine, and ash. Wildfires make smoke and carbon monoxide. Cattle and other animals release methane...more

Hydrocarbons

There is a group of chemicals called hydrocarbons. The molecules of hydrocarbons are made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Most kinds of fuel have hydrocarbons in them. Hydrocarbons store energy. Coal, oil,...more

Methane Is Being Released Much Faster Than Previously Thought from the Arctic Ocean

Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, have studied a section of the sea floor of the Arctic Ocean called the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. The results of...more

The Atmosphere of Triton

Triton is the largest moon of Neptune. It isn't quite as big as Earth's Moon. The surface of Triton is very, very cold. It is colder than the surface of any other planet or moon in our Solar System. It...more

Atmospheric Chemistry of Earth's Troposphere

When you think of chemistry, do you think about mixing colored liquids in test tubes and maybe making an explosion... or at least a nice puff of smoke? Did you know that a lot of chemistry happens in Earth's...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA