Earth's Atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere is a mixture of gases that surrounds our home planet. Besides providing us with something to breathe, the atmosphere helps make life on Earth possible in several ways.
Layers of Earth's Atmosphere
Layers of Earth's atmosphere: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere.
A photo of a double rainbow over the clouds

The colors we see in the sky come from sunlight that is scattered by molecules in the atmosphere. This process is called Rayleigh scattering. Nitrogen and oxygen make up most of the molecules in our atmosphere, but any gas or aerosol suspended in the air will scatter rays of sunlight into separate wavelengths of light.

Sondes are instrument packages that measure temperature, wind, humidity and pressure. Sondes are launched on balloons and dropped from aircraft.
diagram from NASA showing the location of stratospheric ozone and surface-level ozone
The ozone layer, in the stratosphere, is where about 90% of the ozone in the Earth system is found. But ozone makes up only one to ten out of every million molecules in the ozone layer. There isn't much of it, but ozone is powerful, able to block the most harmful radiation.
Weather Balloons
Weather balloons carry instruments high in the atmosphere to measure wind, temperature, and humidity.
History of Discovery of the Atmosphere
This web series tells the story of the lengths people went to in order to explore the atmosphere and the technologies they used to get high in the sky and make measurements. You'll learn about people who climbed mountains carrying an enormous barometers and people who passed out from freezing temperatures and and lack of oxygen as they took measurements of the air several miles high.
Atmosphere Image Gallery

Photos, diagrams, and other images related to the atmosphere, including atmospheric chemistry.

Atmosphere Videos

Videos about aspects of the atmosphere and the tools and techniques used to study it.

atmosphere games and simulations
Test your knowledge with one of our games or gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere through a simulation.
Atmosphere Activities
Revised description: Have students explore how the atmosphere changes with altitude in terms of air temperature, pressure, and atmospheric phenomena and learn the physics of air pressure.