The mesosphere is important, in part, because it is the layer in which most asteroids burn up. Additionally, while scientists have yet to study the phenomenon in detail, strange clouds and lightening occur in the mesosphere. Called “noctilucent clouds” and “sprites,” respectively, these weather events occur at much higher altitudes than typical weather events do.
The mesosphere lies between the stratosphere and the thermosphere. It is one of the least studied layers of the Earth’s atmosphere because it lies above the level at which airplanes travel and below the level at which satellites orbit. The primary method by which scientists study the mesosphere is using rockets that are specifically designed to study this area, called “sounding rockets.”
The temperature of the mesosphere falls with increasing altitude. The coldest temperatures within Earth’s atmosphere occur at the upper boundary of the mesosphere. Temperatures at this altitude average about minus 130 F.
Air movement within the mesosphere normally occurs in conjunction with the movements of the air masses below the layer. At this level, the air still contains a mixture of elements and gases, but above the upper limits of the mesosphere, the atoms become too spread out to have frequent contact with each other.