The ionosphere is the part of the atmosphere that is ionized by solar radiation.
It plays an important part in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere.
It has practical importance because, among other functions, it influences radio propagation to distant places on the Earth.
The lowest part of the Earth's atmosphere is called the troposphere and it extends from the surface up to about 10 km (6 miles).
The atmosphere above 10 km is called the stratosphere, followed by the mesosphere.
It is in the stratosphere that incoming solar radiation creates the ozone layer.
At heights of above 80 km (50 miles), in the thermosphere, the atmosphere is so thin that free electrons can exist for short periods of time before they are captured by a nearby positive ion.
The number of these free electrons is sufficient to affect radio propagation.
This portion of the atmosphere is ionized and contains a plasma which is referred to as the ionosphere.
In a plasma, the negative free electrons and the positive ions are attracted to each other by the electromagnetic force, but they are too energetic to stay fixed together in an electrically neutral molecule.
The ionosphere has irregular patches of ionization.