Shop Windows to the Universe

The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
This view of Earth's horizon as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean was taken on 21 July 2003 by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA Human Space Flight Collection

Atmospheric Science Literacy - Essential Principle 1

Earth has a thin atmosphere that sustains life.

Fundamental Concept 1.1
Earth's atmosphere is a mixture of gases with small, but important, quantities of liquid and solid particles.

Fundamental Concept 1.2
The atmosphere has mass, is bound to Earth by gravity, and exerts pressure which is greater near Earth's surface and decreases with altitude.

Fundamental Concept 1.3
The atmosphere, which is very thin relative to Earth's radius, varies vertically in layers which differ in composition, density, and temperature. The lowest 8-16 km of the atmosphere - the troposphere - contains most of Earth's weather systems.

Fundamental Concept 1.4
Earth's atmosphere sustains and protects living things. Its composition has changed over time, as it has been influenced by life and by geological and geochemical processes. Through photosynthesis, plants produce the oxygen in the atmosphere that makes life possible.

Fundamental Concept 1.5
Other bodies in the Solar System also have atmospheres. Their composition and motions vary considerably from those of Earth's atmosphere due to planetary size, place in the Solar System, speed of rotation, and other planetary processes.

Last modified July 29, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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

Solid

Solid is one of the four common states of matter. The three others are gas, liquid, and plasma. There are also some other exotic states of matter that have been discovered in recent years. Unlike liquids...more

What is mass?

Would it be more difficult to pull an elephant or a mouse? If you pulled each animal with the same amount of force, the elephant would respond less to pulling, even if he didnít pull back at all. Thatís...more

Chemical Composition of Earth's Atmosphere

Earth's atmosphere consists of about 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, and a mixture of small amounts of numerous other ingredients. Some of the minor constituents do, however, have big impacts. For example, greenhouse...more

Density Definition Page

Density is a measure of how much mass is contained in a given unit volume (density = mass/volume). It is usually expressed in kg/m^3, so you would say that a cube 2 meters on each side with a mass of 16...more

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is the name of the process by which autotrophs (self-feeders) convert water, carbon dioxide, and solar energy into sugars and oxygen. It is a complex chemical process by which plants and...more

Oxygen

Oxygen is a chemical element with an atomic number of 8 (it has eight protons in its nucleus). Oxygen forms a chemical compound (O2) of two atoms which is a colorless gas at normal temperatures and pressures....more

Atmospheric Science Literacy Framework

Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts of Atmospheric Science The atmosphere is a dynamically circulating mixture of gases that surrounds the Earth. It becomes thinner until it gradually reaches...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