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Atmospheric effects become noticeable during atmospheric reentry of spacecraft at an altitude of around 120 km (75 mi).Several layers can be distinguished in the atmosphere, based on characteristics such as temperature and composition.In general, air pressure and density decrease with altitude in the atmosphere.However, temperature has a more complicated profile with altitude, and may remain relatively constant or even increase with altitude in some regions (see the temperature section, below).Excluding the exosphere, the atmosphere has four primary layers, which are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere.

The lower part of the thermosphere, from 80 to 550 kilometres (50 to 342 mi) above Earth's surface, contains the ionosphere.Layers drawn to scale, objects within the layers are not to scale.Aurorae shown here at the bottom of the thermosphere can actually form at any altitude in this atmospheric layer.Thus, the exosphere no longer behaves like a gas, and the particles constantly escape into space.These free-moving particles follow ballistic trajectories and may migrate in and out of the magnetosphere or the solar wind.

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