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Ionosphere

Ionosphere

The ionosphere is a layer of the earth's atmosphere that is weakly ionized, and thus conducts electricity . It is located approximately in the same region as the top half of the mesosphere and the entire thermosphere in the upper atmosphere, from about 40 mi (60 km), continuing upward to the magnetosphere.

In the ionosphere, the molecules and atoms in the air are ionized mostly by the Sun's ultraviolet, x-ray, and corpuscular radiation, and partially by cosmic rays, resulting in ions and free electrons. The ionization process depends on many factors such as the Sun's activity (e.g., sunspot cycles), time (e.g., seasonal or daily changes), or geographical location (different at polar regions, mid-latitudes or equatorial zones).

The ionosphere can be further divided into sub-regions according to their free electron density profile that indicates the degree of ionization, and these sub-regions are called the D, E, and F layers. The D layer is located lowest among them, and it does not have an exact starting point. It absorbs high-frequency radio waves, and exists mainly during the day. It weakens, then gradually even disappears at night, allowing radio waves to penetrate into a higher level of the ionosphere, where these waves are reflected back to Earth, then bounce again back into the ionosphere. This explains why AM radio signals from distant stations can easily be picked up at night, even from hundreds of miles. Above the D layer, the E layer (or Kennelly-Heaviside layer) can be found, which historically was the first one that was discovered. After sunset, it usually starts to weaken and by night, it also disappears. The E layer absorbs x rays, and it has its peak at about 65 mi (105 km). The F layer (or Appleton layer) can be found above the E layer, above 93 mi (150 km), and it has the highest concentration of charged particles. Although its structure changes during the day, the F layer is a relatively constant layer, where extreme ultra-violet radiation is absorbed. It has two parts: the lower F1 layer, and the higher and more electron-dense F2 layer.

The free electrons in the ionosphere allow good propagation of electromagnetic waves, and excellent radio communication. The ionosphere is also the home for the aurora, a light display mostly in the night sky of the polar areas, caused by excited and light-emitting particles entering the upper atmosphere.

See also Atmospheric composition and structure; Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australialis

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ionosphere

ionosphere (īŏn´əsfēr), series of concentric ionized layers forming part of the upper atmosphere of the earth from around 30 to 50 mi (50 to 80 km) to 250 to 370 mi (400 to 600 km) where it merges with the magnetosphere, the region of the Van Allen radiation belts. The degree of ionization and the heights of the ionized layers fluctuate on a daily and a seasonal basis and show latitudinal variations as well. Causes for other variations in characteristics may include changes in the amount of ultraviolet radiation received from the sun and effects of the earth's magnetic field. Ionization of nitrogen and oxygen molecules from X-rays and ultraviolet radiation from the sun produces a layer of charged particles which allows radio waves to be reflected around the world. Such activity makes possible long-distance wireless communication. The layers comprising the ionosphere are the D layer, E layer, and F layer (divided into F-1 and F-2). The lower layers have the lowest concentration of charged particles and reflect low frequency waves. The middle layers are called the Kennelly-Heaviside layers (named after Oliver Heaviside in England and A. E. Kennelly in the United States who independently discovered the existence and effects of the ionosphere); while the Appleton, or highest layer, has the highest concentration of charged particles due to the low density of gases.

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ionosphere

ionosphere The part of the atmosphere that lies above about 80 km altitude, with the highest concentrations of ions and free electrons. The most intense concentration is at 100–300 km altitude. Long-distance radio communications use waves that are reflected by certain regions of the ionosphere where there are particular concentrations of ions and free electrons. This allows radio waves to be transmitted around the curved surface of the Earth. Communications satellites make it easier to transmit higher-frequency waves (e.g. television transmissions) around the Earth, but reflection from the ionosphere continues to be used for radio transmissions, being cheaper.

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ionosphere

i·on·o·sphere / īˈänəˌsfi(ə)r/ • n. the layer of the earth's atmosphere that contains a high concentration of ions and free electrons and is able to reflect radio waves. It lies above the mesosphere and extends from about 50 to 600 miles (80 to 1,000 km) above the earth's surface. ∎  a similar region above the surface of another planet. DERIVATIVES: i·on·o·spher·ic / īˌänəˈsfi(ə)rik; -ˈsfer-/ adj.

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"ionosphere." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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ionosphere

ionosphere Wide region of ions in the atmosphere. It extends from about 60km (37mi) above the Earth's surface to the limits of the atmosphere in the Van Allen radiation belts. Radio waves are deflected in the ionosphere, which makes possible long-distance radio communication.

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ionosphere

ionosphere The part of the atmosphere that lies above about 80 km altitude, with the highest concentrations of ions and free electrons. The most intense concentration is at 100–300 km altitude.

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"ionosphere." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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ionosphere

ionosphere XX. f. ION + -O- + SPHERE.

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"ionosphere." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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ionosphere

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