Do you know much about your own planet? You know it”s round and blue, sure, and that it”s the third planet from the sun. But there”s a lot going on here and not just where humans are concerned.
In honor of Earth Day, let”s take a look at our planet in all its weird, wonderful, life-sustaining glory!
1. Earth is pretty big compared to us, but pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
At the Equator, Earth has a circumference of 24,901 miles, or 40,075 kilometers.
2. The Earth isn”t perfectly round.
It”s close, but not a perfect sphere. Because it spins, there”s a slight bulge around the Equator, resulting in a slight squashing effect. The radius of the Earth is about 16 miles longer at the Equator than it is at the poles.
3. On Earth, you”re constantly in motion.
Depending on where you are on the planet, you could be moving up to 1,000 miles per hour. Objects closer to the Equator will be moving faster than objects closer to the poles because they have a greater distance to travel in a single rotation.
4. You”re not just spinning. You”re also hurtling through space.
Earth revolves around the sun at 67,000 miles, or 107,826 km, per hour.
5. Earth is tilted on its axis.
This tilt is the reason Earth experiences seasons, and why the seasons are always opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. When the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun, it”s summer, at which point we experience warmer temperatures and longer days. At the same time, the Southern Hemisphere will experience shorter days and colder weather, since it”s tipped away from the sun.
6. The Earth is billions of years old.
By dating rocks on Earth, as well as meteorites that formed at the same time as Earth, it”s estimated that our planet is about 4.54 billion years old. The rock you see here, called garnet paragneiss, is some of the oldest material on Earth. It was found in Quebec, and is 4.28 billion years old.
7. Earth can get pretty hot.
The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in El Aziza, Libya, in 1922. The temperature was 136 degrees Fahrenheit, or 57.8 degrees Celsius.
8. It can also get really cold.
The lowest temperature ever recorded was at Vostok Station in Antarctica, which clocked in at -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or -89.2 degress Celsius.
9. Antarctica is important.
Everyone likes the penguins, but Antarctica our southernmost and oft-forgot continent holds 70% of Earth”s fresh water and 90% of its ice. It”s got more ice than the Atlantic Ocean has water, so it”d be very bad news if it were to melt.
10. Gravity isn”t constant.
There”s always gravity, but certain areas of the world experience less gravity than others. Canada”s Hudson Bay, for example, has less gravity than other areas. This is because there is less land mass, the glaciers are retreating, and the magma at Earth”s core moves differently in this location.
11. Earth”s magnetic poles are moving.
Earth”s magnetic north pole is actually moving further north, which means it”s actually moving around the globe. Eventually, the poles will switch. That sounds like a really big deal, but it”s happened before.
12. Sometimes Earth gets a visitor.
We all know that Earth only has one moon, but sometimes, an asteroid gets pulled into Earth”s orbit and can stick around for as long as nine months before leaving again. It”s really just coming over to say hello. (This asteroid is Vesta, which has not done that.)
13. The moon is why oceanic tides exist.
The moon”s orbit around the Earth controls sea levels, resulting in tides. Moonquakes (which are like earthquakes, but on the moon) can also affect tides.
14. The Earth is mostly water.
The Earth”s surface is 70% water, with only 3% of that water being of the fresh variety. (Human bodies are about 65% water, with infants being more watery than adults…in case you were wondering.) Humans have only explored about 5% of Earth”s oceans, though. And here”s a fun fact: If you were to take all the water on Earth, freeze it, and smoosh it into a snowball, it”d be the size of Saturn”s moon, Tethys.
15. The longest mountain range is (mostly) underwater.
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs right down the middle of the Atlantic ocean, and it”s 20 times longer than the Andes Mountains. It”s actually visible in Iceland, as seen here, where it”s known as the Reykjanes Ridge. It then runs right into the ocean, wandering all the way down past much of South America.
16. The deepest valley is also under the ocean.
The Mariana Trench is about seven miles deep, and that”s beneath the ocean floor. For all we haven”t explored in the ocean, humans have actually been to the bottom only three people, but still. Pictured above is the first manned vessel to reach the bottom of the Trench, which happened back in 1960. The pressure is immense, but there are still a few living organisms hanging out down there.
17. Despite huge mountains and deep trenches, the Earth is smooth.
The combined measurements of all the Earth”s mountains and canyons make up for only 1/5000th of the Earth”s total circumference, so if you were to touch it, it would be smoother than the surface of a bowling ball.
18. The most active volcano on Earth is in southern Italy.
The Stromboli Volcano (yes, that”s its name) has been erupting continuously for the past 2,000 years. It”s on a small island off Sicily”s northern coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea, so it doesn”t usually bother anyone too much. As another fun fact, this volcano inspired J.R.R. Tolkien”s Mount Doom.
19. The ocean houses the most life on the planet.
And actually, coral reefs boast the planet”s highest density of life, even more than rain forests. They”re teeming with all kinds of creatures, and among them is the coral itself. Coral is the world”s largest living structure, and some reefs can even be seen from space.
20. The largest living organism in the world is a fungus.
Coral is the largest living structure, but it”s actually made up of many individual organisms. The largest single living thing, though, is the honey fungus, or pidpenky. The largest single organism covers 3.4 square miles and is thousands of years old. It”s edible, but it”s also considered a pest, causing serious problems to nearby plants and trees.
There”s one other fact that you should consider, too: the Earth is your home, and it”s the only one you have. As small as humans are, we really do have an impact on our planet and everything else with which we share it, so be nice to the Earth. It”s been very nice to you.