Facts About Planet Earth - Our Home Planet

Earth image taken by the crew of Apollo 17- Facts about the earth
Blue marble image: The first full-view photograph of Earth taken by the crews of Apollo 17

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the densest planet in the solar system. With a radius of 6,371 kilometres or 3,959 miles, it is the largest of the terrestrial planets and fifth largest planet in the entire solar system. Unlike other planets whose name is placed on Greek or Roman deities, the name earth comes from a Germanic word, which means "the ground". It is the only object in the known universe which can sustain life and holds water in its three states - solid, liquid and gas. Earth was formed about 4.54 billion years ago from the gas cloud that left after the sun's formation.

Facts about the Earth

Planet profile

Name Earth
Satellite 1 (moon)
Maximum Distance from Sun (aphelion) 152.6 million km
Minimum Distance from Sun (perihelion) 147.5 million km
Equatorial Radius 6378.1 km
Polar Radius 6356.8 km
Volume 1.08321 × 1012 km3
Mass 5.97237 × 1024 kg
Surface area 510.1 million km2
Gravity 9.801 m/s2
Max Temperature 56.9 °C or 134.3 °F
Min Temperature −89.2 °C or −128.5 °F
Length of day
(sidereal day)
23 hrs 56 min 4 sec
Length of year 365.25 Days
Astronomical symbol

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Quick Earth Facts

  1. The driest place on Earth is the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica. There is no rain over 2 million years and wind speed can reach up to 320 kph or 200 mph.
  2. The surface temperature of the Sun's surface and the Earth's core is the same, which is about 5,500 degrees Celcius (9,900 degrees Fahrenheit).
  3. 99% of gold on the Earth is in its core.
  4. There are more than 20,000 men made objects revolving around the Earth; only 8,615 of them are human-made satellites.
  5. Voyager 1 captured the Earth's farthest picture 3.7 miles away, and it is called the pale blue dot.
  6. There are 100 lightning strikes per second, about 8 million per day and 3 billion each year.
  7. The wind transports 40 million dust every year from Sahara desert to Amazon.
  8. Every year, 40,000 tons of space dust falls on our planet. It is made up of oxygen, nickel, iron, carbon and other elements. It is literally Stardust.
  9. According to new estimates, there are 8.7 million species of life ever lived on Earth, in which 99 per cent of the species have now become extinct.
  10. From the highest ( Mount Everest - 29,029 ft or 8.9 km above sea level ) to the lowest ( Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench - 35,814 ft or 10.9 km below sea level ) points, surface of the Earth spans a complete of 65,230 ft or 19.8 km.
  11. The Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia is the deepest artificial point on Earth, and it is 12,262 metres or 40,230 ft deep.
  12. 97% of the Earth's water is salty, the remaining 3% of total freshwater is held in glaciers (70%) and Lake Baikal in Russia (20%).
  13. Sunlight travels to 1000 m (3,280 ft) under the sea, but there is hardly any significant light beyond after 200m (665 ft), so the rest of the water is in permanently dark.
  14. Earth has a border between the atmosphere and the outer space, known as Kàrmàn line. It lies at an altitude of 62 miles above sea level.
  15. The megaquake of Japan in 2011 of 9 magnitudes, shortened the day by 1.8 microseconds.

Detailed Facts about the Earth

  • A day on Earth is not 24 hrs long

Sidereal day (1-2) and Solar day (1-3) on Earth
Sidereal day (1-2) and Solar day (1-3) on Earth

A day is the length of time during which Earth spins 360 degrees on its axis. It takes 23 hrs 56 min and 4 sec to complete one rotation. However during that time the earth moves a bit in its orbit. So even after a 360-degree turn, the Sun is not directly above the same point on earth that it was at the beginning of the spin. It is not the exact noon of the next day. So, the earth needs to spin a little more than 360 degrees to get us to noon. The 360-degree rotation is called a sidereal day while the noon to noon rotation is called a solar day.

The length of the solar day varies throughout the year because its orbit is an ellipse and not a circle. The Earth moves faster when it is near the Sun and slower when it is further from the Sun. So the little extra amount of rotation that the earth needs to do to get from noon to noon varies throughout the year.
  • Earth is slowing down

Moon causes tides while revolving around the Earth. This waves cause little bit friction and thus the Earth rotation slowdown.

At the early days of the solar system, a Mars-sized body collided with the earth. The collision set our planet to spin so fast that the day was only about 6 hours long. This collision also simultaneously knocked out a chunk of rocks that coalesced to become the Moon. Thereafter, our Earth and Moon settled into a gravitational relationship, one of the effects of by which the Moon causes tides on the Earth.

However with every tide cycle, the sloshing of Earth’s water exerts a little bit of friction on the Earth’s surface, and it slows the planet’s rotation ever so slightly. Scientists calculated the deceleration of the Earth with the help of an atomic clock (a precise clock that experiences an error of 1 second every 100 million years). The rotation is slowing down at a rate of 70 milliseconds per 100 years.

Every time Earth slows the Moon moves a little bit further away. Over time, our day increased from 6 to 24 hours, and the Moon retreated to its current distance of about a quarter of a million miles. After 14 million years, one day will be about 25 hrs long.
  • Only 5 per cent of the ocean has been discovered

Fishes under ocean
Marine life underwater

Human has mapped 100% of the Lunar and Martian surface and around 98% of our closest planet venus. But only 5% of our own seafloor is mapped. There is a valid reason for this. NASA uses radio waves to map other planets, but radio waves cannot be used for the seafloor because water gets in the way. Mapping the ocean floor requires sonar which is a much slower process. The ocean authorities like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration don't have funding to explore the ocean on a large scale.

We have only discovered about 242,500 underwater creatures as they are mentioned in the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). Every year 2,000 new species are included in this register, and it is expected that 700,000 to 1 million species are living in the ocean. So, there may be mermaid or Megalodon residing in the deep sea; we just don't know about it.
  • There are killer lakes on earth

Lake Kivu (top-left), Lake Monoun (top-right) and Lake Nyos (bottom-centre)
Lake Kivu (top-left), Lake Monoun (top-right) and Lake Nyos (bottom-centre)

There are three lakes, Lake Monoun and Lake Nyos in Cameron and Lake Kivu located near the border of the Congo and Rwanda. They are often known as the deadly explosive lakes because they occasionally explode and kill everything around them. These lakes are situated above volcanoes. The magma hidden beneath the surface emits carbon dioxide into the lake's waters. This carbon dioxide dissolves at the bottom of the lakes where the pressure is high. A small increase in water temperature can release a large amount of CO2 with a colossal explosion.

At Lake Nyos, this event happened in the middle of the night. A 1.2 cubic kilometre toxic gas cloud of catbon dioxide started migrating off the water. When the cloud entered the surrounding villages, people couldn't breathe and experienced severe CO2 poisoning. As a result over 1700 people lost their lives in the catastrophe, as well as thousands of cattle and wild animals.
  • The continents will reunite again in 250 million year

Pangaea (229 millions to 180 millions ago)
Pangaea (335 million to 175 million years ago)
© Wikimedia

Pangea Ultima (Will form after 250 millions years)
Pangea Ultima (Will form after 250 million years)
© Nasa

Three hundred thirty-five million years ago, all the land on earth was a part of one giant landmass called Pangaea. Then after 175 million years, Pangaea started to break up, forming Laurasia and Gondwana. Later the two spilt and gradually the Earth's continents formed as we know them today. But scientists believe the continents will become one giant landmass again.

All the seven continents are floating on the tectonic plates. These plates move about a few centimetres per year over the molten rock. In the next 250 million years, Australia will collide with Japan, Korea and China. North America will crash into Western Africa, and the northern part of Africa will share its border with Europe. This collision will create a new Himalaya-scale mountain range or maybe even more significant. This supercontinent will last for up to 50 million years.
  • Earth has 20 million tons of Gold

Golden bricks on earth

At the bottom of the Earth's oceans, there can be 20 million tons of gold. The only reason that nobody's attempted to get the gold because the metal is extremely diluted. You will get only a gram of gold in a hundred million tons of seawater.

If all gold extracted from the ocean, it would be enough to cover the entire surface of our planet in a 2-foot layer of gold. If we distributed equally to each of the Earth's inhabitants, each one gets nine pounds of gold.
  • Earth's oldest temple is about 12,000 years old

Göbekli Tepe the - oldest temple on earth
Göbekli Tepe - The oldest temple on Earth

Humans have been building monumental religious structures for thousands of years. Like The great Ziggurat, constructed by the Sumerians around 2,000 BCE and Stonehenge which dates as early as 3000 BCE. But 2,000 and 3,000 BCE are nothing compared to this possibly the oldest religious structure ever found, Göbekli Tepe. This ancient structure dates back as early as 9100 BCE that is 11,000 years old and 6,500 years before the pyramids of Giza.

Göbekli Tepe was first noted in a survey conducted by the University of Istanbul and Chicago in 1963 and is located in southern Turkey. Archaeologists have dated this site as "Pre Pottery Neolithic A Period" (10,000–8,800 BCE), even before the invention of pottery and the iron tools. They found More than 200 pillars. These gigantic pillars are 7 meters tall and weighing upwards to ten-ton.
  • Earth was once considered as the centre of the universe

Geocentric model and Heliocentric model comparison
Geocentric model and Heliocentric model comparison

Today we all know that Earth (along with its Moon) revolve around the sun. But until a few hundred years ago, it was not acceptable. Ancient philosophers and astronomers, Aristotle and Ptolemy observed the sky and developed a Geocentric Model of the universe. In the Geocentric model, the stars, planets, sun and the moon, all the things in the sky revolve around the earth in a perfect circle. However, they did not explain why planets (which moves differently from the background star) sometimes change its brightness and move in entirely different directions.

In 1543, Copernicus came with its Heliocentric model which stated that the sun is the centre of the universe and earth along with other planets moves around the sun in a perfect circle. The Copernicus' model was not much accurate because it was using circular orbits. Thereafter, in the early 1600s, Johannes Kepler stated that orbits did not have to be circle and he assumed them as an ellipse.

In 1609, Galileo Galilei observed the celestial bodies (especially Venus and Jupiter) with his telescope. He found 4 bodies revolving around Jupiter (which were later called as the Galilean Moons) and it was also a proof that not everything revolved around the earth. He also observed Venus goes through phases like our moon but it was bigger when it was new and smaller when it was full, supporting the Heliocentric model. However, with these concrete pieces of evidence, for a long time, the heliocentric orbit was not accepted.
  • Age of the Earth

Jack Hills, Australia - facts about the earth
Jack Hills, Australia

Scientists have estimated the age of Earth, that is approximately 4.54 billion years. They have calculated the age of the Earth by radiometric dating technique. In this technique, scientists could determine the age of rock, based on the relative amount of radioactive elements it contains. By using radiometric dating, scientists can calculate the age of dinosaurs as well as our Earth.

Geologists confirmed that Zircon crystal (about 440 micrometres long) found in Jack Hills, Australia is the oldest rock on our planet. It is about 4.4 billion years old, that means it was formed less than 200 million years after the early Earth. They also determine the age of lunar rock sample and some of the oldest meteorite. More than 70 meteorites have been dated to the same range as the moon rocks, 4.4 billion to 4.5 billion years old.
  • Thousands of years ago Sahara was green and lush

Sahara desert - once was lush and green
Sahara Desert (At Present)

Sahara desert is the largest hot desert in the world located in North Africa. Its area is almost the size of the entire United States about 3.5 million square miles or 9.2 million square kilometre. Today, Sahara is a hot scorching place where few life forms can survive. But it was not always like that.

According to research, the Sahara was tropical some thousands of years ago. Researchers have discovered several prehistoric paintings indicating that people had once lived here. Even more confusing was that these paintings did not show the desert landscape but rather depicted a view of grassland.

One theory suggests that the cause of Sahara's desertification is the Earth's axial tilt which changes between 22° and 24. 5° in every 14 thousand years. The Sahara expected to shift from one environment to another every 14 thousand years. The next change in the landscape will happen 15 thousand years from now.
  • One day the north becomes south and south become north

Earth's magnetic field reversal
Earth's magnetic field reversal

Earth has a strong magnetic field that comes from its nickel-iron core and a pretty fast axial rotation. The magnetic field is vital for Earth because it protects the planet from the impact of the solar winds. We think that our planet's magnetic field as constant and stable but the truth is: it is changing!. We know the magnetic fields have flipped because there is evidence in the geological record. Scientists research shows that 780,000 years ago, the Earth's magnetic field flipped and it remains constant ever since.

Researchers said that since the 19th century the northern magnetic pole has shifted about 685 miles. Now it is continuously moving northwestward across the Canadian Arctic. The southern magnetic pole is also continually roaming.

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