AskDefine | Define thermosphere

Dictionary Definition

thermosphere n : the atmospheric layer between the mesosphere and the exosphere

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. layer of the Earth's atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and directly below the exosphere


  • French: thermosphère

Extensive Definition

The thermosphere is the layer of the earth's atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and directly below the exosphere. Within this layer, ultraviolet radiation causes ionization.
The thermosphere, named from the Greek θερμός (thermos) for heat, begins about 80 km above the earth. At these high altitudes, the residual atmospheric gases sort into strata according to molecular mass (see turbosphere). Thermospheric temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation by the small amount of residual oxygen still present. Temperatures are highly dependent on solar activity, and can rise to 15,000°C. Radiation causes the atmosphere particles in this layer to become electrically charged (see ionosphere), enabling radio waves to bounce off and be received beyond the horizon. At the exosphere, beginning at 500 to 2,000 km above the earth's surface, the atmosphere mixes into space.
The few particles of gas in this area can reach 2,500°C (4532°F) during the day. Even though the temperature is so high, one would not feel warm in the thermosphere, because it is so near vacuum that there is not enough contact with the few atoms of gas to transfer much heat. A normal thermometer would read significantly below 0°C.
The upper region of this atmospheric layer is called the ionosphere.
The dynamics of the lower thermosphere (below about 120 km) are dominated by atmospheric tide, which is driven, in part, by the very significant diurnal heating. The atmospheric tide dissipates above this level since molecular concentrations do not support the coherent motion needed for fluid flow.
The International Space Station has a stable orbit within the upper part of the thermosphere, between 320 and 380 kilometres. The auroras also occur in the thermosphere.
thermosphere in Bulgarian: Термосфера
thermosphere in Catalan: Termosfera
thermosphere in Czech: Termosféra
thermosphere in Danish: Termosfære
thermosphere in German: Thermosphäre
thermosphere in Modern Greek (1453-): Θερμόσφαιρα
thermosphere in Spanish: Termosfera
thermosphere in French: Thermosphère
thermosphere in Korean: 열권
thermosphere in Italian: Termosfera
thermosphere in Hebrew: תרמוספירה
thermosphere in Hungarian: Termoszféra
thermosphere in Malay (macrolanguage): Termosfera
thermosphere in Dutch: Thermosfeer
thermosphere in Japanese: 熱圏
thermosphere in Norwegian: Termosfæren
thermosphere in Norwegian Nynorsk: Termosfæren
thermosphere in Polish: Termosfera
thermosphere in Portuguese: Termosfera
thermosphere in Russian: Термосфера
thermosphere in Slovak: Termosféra
thermosphere in Swedish: Termosfär
thermosphere in Thai: เทอร์โมสเฟียร์
thermosphere in Turkish: Termosfer
thermosphere in Chinese: 热成层
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