What is an atmosphere? Atmosphere is defined as the gaseous envelope or blanket surrounding a plant. The study of the Earth’s atmosphere, termed meteorology, goes back thousands of years. Here are some of the things scientists have discovered about Earth’s atmosphere over the years:

  1. Present evidence suggests that no other planet has the exact mixture of gases or the heat and water conditions necessary to sustain life as we know it. In fact, Steven Hawking, a well-known physicist, believes that the chance of a planet developing an atmosphere like Earth’s are less than a million to one.
  2. The gases that make up the atmosphere and the systems which impact the atmosphere are vital to our lives. Atmospheric changes occur all the time, and if we alter or change our atmosphere too greatly it may impact our environment, drastically changing our lives.

This unit attempts to answer a number of questions regarding our atmosphere and its properties. For example, what is the composition of the atmosphere? What is air made of? At what point do we leave the atmosphere and enter outer space? Why is the atmosphere thicker in some locations and thinner in others? How is the air in the atmosphere heated or cooled? What factors control temperature differences over the globe? What causes seasons? How do atmospheric conditions affect humans? How do humans affect the atmosphere? How unique is the earth’s atmosphere? Could humans live on other planets in differing atmospheres?

The activities within this unit will help you answer the above questions and more! In our first activity you will learn what the atmosphere is made of and how it is heated:

On to Atmospheric Gases


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