You’ve lived on Planet Earth all your life, but how much do you really know about the ground underneath your feet? You probably have lots of interesting facts all about Earth rattling around your brain already, but here are 10 more interesting facts about Earth that you may, or may not know.
Plate tectonics keep the planet comfortable
Earth is the only planet in the Solar System with plate tectonics. The outer crust of the Earth is broken up into regions known as tectonic plates. These are floating on top of the magma interior of the Earth and can move against one another. When two plates collide, one plate can go underneath another.
|Moon over the Earth
This process is very important. When microscopic plants in the ocean die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean. Over long periods of time, the remnants of this life, rich in carbon, are carried back into the interior of the Earth and recycled. This pulls carbon out of the atmosphere, which makes sure we don’t get a runaway greenhouse effect, like what happened on Venus.
Without the plate tectonics, there’d be no way to recycle this carbon, and the Earth would overheat.
Earth is almost a sphere
The Earth’s shape could be described as an oblate spheroid. It’s kind of like a sphere, but the Earth’s rotation causes the equator to bulge out . What this means is that the measurement from pole to pole is about 43 km less than the diameter of Earth across the equator.
Even though the tallest mountain on Earth is Mount Everest, the feature that’s furthest from the center of the Earth is actually Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador.
Earth is mostly iron, oxygen and silicon
If you could separate the Earth out into piles of material, you’d get 32.1 % iron, 30.1% oxygen, 15.1% silicon, and 13.9% magnesium. Of course, most of this iron is actually down at the core of the Earth. If you could actually get down and sample the core, it would be 88% iron. 47% of the Earth’s crust consists of oxygen.
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water
When astronauts first went into the space, they looked back at the Earth with human eyes for the first time, and called our home the Blue Planet. And it’s no surprise. 70% of our planet is covered with oceans. The remaining 30% is the solid ground, rising above sea level.
The Earth’s atmosphere extends out to 10,000 km
The atmosphere is thickest within the first 50 km or so, but it actually reaches out to about 10,000 km above the surface of the planet. This outermost layer of the atmosphere is called the exosphere, and starts about 500 km above the surface of the Earth. As we said, it goes all the way up to 10,000 km above the surface. At this point, free-moving particles can actually escape the pull of Earth’s gravity, and be blown away by the Sun’s solar wind.
But this high atmosphere is extremely thin. The bulk of the Earth’s atmosphere is down near the Earth itself. In fact, 75% of the Earth’s atmosphere is contained within the first 11 km above the planet’s surface.
Want more planet Earth facts? We’re halfway through. Here come 5 more.
The Earth’s molten iron core creates a magnetic field
The Earth is like a great big magnet, with poles at the top and bottom of the planet, near to the actual geographic poles. This magnetic field extends from the surface of the Earth out thousands of kilometers – a region called the magnetosphere.
Be grateful for the magnetosphere. Without it particles from the Sun’s solar wind would hit the Earth directly, exposing the surface of the planet to significant amounts of radiation. Instead, the magnetosphere channels the solar wind around the Earth, protecting us from harm.
Scientists think that the magnetic field is generated by the molten outer core of the Earth, where heat creates convection motions of conducting materials. This generates electric currents that create the magnetic field.