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Earth is our home planet, the only place in the universe where we know for sure that life exists. Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago from a swirling cloud of gas and dust that created our entire solar system, including our star, the sun. Scientists hypothesize that this gas and dust collapsed into the disk, with different parts of the disk merging into each of the planets in the solar system.
Earth Is Also Known As
The Sun is located near one of the small partial arms of the Milky Way called Orion’s Arm, or Orion’s Spur, located between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms of our spiral galaxy. (Image credit: NASA) (opens in new tab)
What Makes Earth Unique?
Our planet is located in a small corner of the Milky Way galaxy, 25,000 light years from the galactic center, according to NASA (opens in a new tab). The solar system is located in a smaller arm called Orion’s Spur, which branches off from Sagittarius, one of the galaxy’s two main spiral arms.
Earth’s circumference is 40,075 kilometers, making it the largest rocky planet in the solar system, according to sister site Live Science Space.com (opens in a new tab). Our planet orbits 93 million miles (opens in a new tab) (150,000 km) from the sun, giving it the right temperature for persistent liquid water on the surface; is the only known body that orbits in this so-called Goldilocks Zone.
The Earth is made up of many elements, the main ones being oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, aluminum and nickel, according to Caltech’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (opens in a new tab). Our planet’s crust is a thin outer layer, made up mostly of silicate and basaltic rocks, that extends an average of 30 km below the planet’s surface, according to the US Geological Survey (opens in a new tab) (USGS) . The mantle is the next layer down, extending about 2,900 km below the Earth’s surface. A common misconception is that all mantle rock melts into magma; in fact, most of it has a highly viscous form that is so dense that it takes millions of years for its motion to become apparent. At the center of the Earth is a nickel-iron core that is liquid on the outside, up to 2,250 km, but is crushed by incredible pressures into solid form at lower depths, according to the USGS.
The country has several huge landforms. The largest continent, sometimes called Afro-Eurasia (although it is more commonly divided into Africa, Europe, and Asia), has a total area of 32.8 million square miles (84.95 million square kilometers), according to the Encyclopedia of World Geography. (opens in a new tab). North and South America together make up 16.43 million square miles (42.55 million square kilometers), according to the online encyclopedia Nations Online (opens in a new tab), while the frozen continent of Antarctica has 5, 41 million square miles (14 million square kilometers). . The area of Australia is 2.97 million square miles (7.66 million square kilometers), according to the Australian government (opens in a new tab).
Curious Kids: If The Earth Is Spinning All The Time, Why Don’t Things Move Around?
Processes beneath the Earth’s crust cause these continents to move over geological periods. Geologists have discovered subterranean continents buried deep beneath the surface, and although no one knows how or when they formed, they may be as old as the Earth itself.
Our planet’s atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, 0.9% argon, and 0.04% carbon dioxide, plus traces of other gases, according to NASA. Most human activity takes place in the lowest atmospheric layer, the troposphere, which extends 8 to 14.5 km above our heads, says NASA (opens in a new tab). Above is the stratosphere, where clouds and weather balloons fly, reaching up to 50 km. Then comes the mesosphere, which extends up to 85 km above sea level (this is where meteors burn), and the thermosphere, which reaches far into space, at least 600 km high.
Human activity has a huge impact on the climate and weather patterns of the Earth’s atmosphere. By adding excess carbon dioxide, which traps infrared radiation from the sun, human industry warms our planet with global warming. In 2021, the United Nations announced that parts of the Arctic reached a new temperature record in June 2020: 100 F (38 C) in the Siberian city of Verkhoyansk.
The Earth is tilted on its axis by 23.4 degrees, which means that sunlight falls unevenly on the planet’s surface throughout the year, creating seasonal variations across much of the planet. But regions experience different variations in sunlight, so the Earth’s surface is often divided into three main climate zones: the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions, which begin above or below 66 degrees north or south latitude; medium temperate zones, between 23 and 66 degrees north or south latitude; and the tropical regions, between the Tropic of Cancer, at 23 degrees north latitude, and the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23 degrees south latitude, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (opens in a new tab).
Interesting Facts About Earth
The highest point above sea level is the summit of Mount Everest, at 29,032 feet (8,849 meters), according to Britannica (opens in a new tab)). The crescent-shaped trench at the bottom of the western Pacific Ocean known as the Mariana Trench is the deepest point on our planet, extending to 10,984 m (36,037 ft).
The Nile is the longest river in the world, winding 4,132 miles (6,650 km) through northeastern Africa. Lake Baikal in Russia is the largest and deepest freshwater lake, holding 5,521 cubic miles of water (23,013 cubic km), a volume roughly equal to the five Great Lakes of North America combined.
Earth is unique because it is the only place in the known universe that harbors life. Some of the oldest evidence of microbial life suggests it was already widespread on our planet 3.95 billion years ago, Live Science reported. How exactly these microscopic creatures arrived remains a mystery, although experts have proposed many theories.
Scientists estimate that there are as many as 1 billion species on our planet, occupying niches that extend from the upper atmosphere to the depths below the rocky surface. Strange and complex biospheres exist around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor and in nearly every rock and crevice explored, Live Science previously reported. Whether this means organisms exist elsewhere in the solar system or beyond remains an open question, but the diversity of life on Earth has given scientists hope that life can exist in extreme environments throughout the universe.
The Mythical Planet Known As Nibiru As It Hurtles Toward Earth Stock Photo
Adam Mann is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience, specializing in astronomy and physics stories. He holds a degree in astrophysics from UC Berkeley. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Nature, Science and many other places. He lives in Oakland, California, where he enjoys cycling. When you make purchases through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.
An image of the Earth in the form of a blue marble emphasizes the fragility of the planet and the beauty of the Earth (Image credit: NASA)
Earth, our home, is the third planet from the sun. While scientists continue to search for signs of life beyond Earth, our home planet remains the only place in the universe where we have already identified living organisms.
Earth is the fifth largest planet in the solar system. It is smaller than the four gas giants – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – but larger than three other rocky planets, Mercury, Mars and Venus.
Was Ancient Earth A Different Color?
The Earth has a diameter of about 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) and is mostly round because gravity generally pulls matter into a ball. But the rotation of our home planet causes it to be squashed at the poles and swollen at the equator, making Earth’s true shape a “flattened spheroid.”
Our planet is unique for many reasons, but its available water and oxygen are two main characteristics. Water covers approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface, and most of that water is found in our planet’s oceans. About a fifth of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of oxygen produced by plants.
When the Earth orbits the Sun, the planet simultaneously rotates around an imaginary line called an axis that passes through the core, from the North Pole to the South Pole. The Earth takes 23.934 hours to complete a rotation on its axis and 365.26 days to complete an orbit around the Sun; our days and years on Earth are defined by these rotations.
The axis of rotation of the Earth is inclined in relation to the plane of the ecliptic, the imaginary surface that crosses the orbit of the planet around the Sun. This means that the northern and southern hemispheres will sometimes point towards or away from the sun, depending on the time of year, and this changes the amount of light the hemispheres receive, causing a shift.
Earth’s Axial Tilt
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