The ozone layer is composed of ozone gas and oxygen gas. In what is called the ozone-oxygen cycle, ozone gas forms naturally in the stratosphere when UV light strikes oxygen gas:
- Stage I: When UV light strikes a molecule of oxygen gas, the short-wavelength light breaks down the molecule bond into two oxygen atoms, generating heat. This results in absorption of the short-wavelength UV light.
- Stage II: Each of the two oxygen atoms attaches to two oxygen gas molecules, forming two ozone molecules [source: Fahey].
- Stage III: The UV rays break down the ozone molecule into an oxygen gas molecule and an oxygen atom, during which the remaining UV radiation is absorbed.
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