The atmosphere is much more extensive than we thought. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Open Space Project
A new study has revealed that our planet's atmosphere extends further in to space than was previously believed.
It turns out that the furthermost reaches of the atmosphere - a region known as the 'geocorona' which is comprised of a thin cloud of hydrogen atoms - extends a whopping 390,000 miles out in to space.
It stretches so far out in fact that it even encompasses the orbit of the moon.
The discovery was made thanks to a new analysis of data recorded by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) which launched in 1995 to study the sun and space weather.
"The moon flies through Earth's atmosphere," said study lead author Igor Baliukin. "We were not aware of it until we dusted off observations made over two decades ago by the SOHO spacecraft."
The existence of the geocorona is certainly nothing new - the astronauts on NASA's Apollo 16 mission even managed to photograph it from the lunar surface all the way back in 1972.
What's surprising is just how far it extends out in to space.
"At that time, the astronauts on the lunar surface did not know that they were actually embedded in the outskirts of the geocorona," said study co-author Jean-Loup Bertaux.
Source: Space.com | Comments (3)