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a picture of the atmosphere taken from a space shuttle

A NASA astronaut captured this dramatic photograph of earth's atmosphere.

Photo courtesy of NASA/JSC Digital Image Collection


NASA’s TOMS (total ozone mapping spectrometer) detects dust streaming from Northern China to the United States (red is highest concentration; green is lowest).
Image by Colin Seftor (Raytheon) and Christina Hsu (UMBC)

This temporary exhibit was on display at the National Museum of Natural History until November 2006. The exhibit content was adapted to create an exciting new virtual exhibition that offers a complex exploration of Earth's atmosphere. Visit the virtual exhibition and explore our atmosphere!

What’s colorless, tasteless, and (mostly) odorless? Surrounds and protects us throughout our lives? Makes Earth habitable? Is so fragile that it needs our care and protection? OUR ATMOSPHERE! Earth's atmosphere is vital to our planet - but most people know very little about it. It is where shooting stars blaze, where the ozone layer protects all life and where weather forms.

Earth's atmosphere has been changing since Earth began. Once living things evolved the ability to carry out photosynthesis, perhaps 2.7 billion years ago, they began to remake the atmosphere. Ever since then, life and Earth’s atmosphere have waltzed together. As far as we know, the relationship is unique to our planet. The Change is in the Air exhibit explores the deep history, chemistry, and importance of earth's atmosphere in an engaging new way!

Visitors can explore the invisible envelope that surrounds us to see how our ever-changing atmosphere transports substances around the globe, protects life from destruction, and supports millions of chemical reactions. The dynamic exhibit includes an interactive station where visitors can play with the chemistry in the atmosphere and see how slight changes in atmospheric chemistry can affect our planet. Take a tour through the galaxy exploring each planet and then zoom into the Natural History Museum. See objects from the Museum's collections, a model of NASA's AURA satellite, and a Magic Planet globe interactive.

The Change is in the Air exhibit is part of the Forces of Change Program at the National Museum of Natural History. It was made possible by a generous grant from the Aura Satellite Mission, Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

 Sarah Mims

Teenager Sarah Mims made an important discovery while doing a science fair project to see if spores of fungi could travel on air-borne dust.
Photograph (c) Sarah Mims

Meteorite fragment

This meteorite fragment meteorite landed in Murchison, Australia, in 1969. It contained many amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
Photo Chip Clark

Eruption of Mount Pinatubo

Satellite view of the plume of smoke and ash from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Phillipines.
Photo courtesy of NASA/JSC Digital Image Collection

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