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Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Cosmic dust constantly falls to earth. Photo Credit: Cosmotography

15. Earth is also covered with cosmic dust.

Earth is continuously being bombarded by comets and meteorites, most of which are relatively small and burn up in the atmosphere. Every single day, 100 tons of cosmic dust, most of it from these space rocks that disintegrate, descends on the Earth in the form of interplanetary fairy dust. NASA collects many of these particles for study. Why? Because they reveal much about what is going on in our solar system. Most of the particles fall safely to the ground, entirely unbeknownst to us. This dust is full of the minerals that compose much of the Earth’s surface, so we welcome it.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Most cosmic dust particles are minuscule, measuring between a few molecules and a few micrometers in size. Larger ones are called meteoroids, which is something we’re usually more familiar with. This cosmic dust, or space dust, can cause zodiacal light in the Solar System. This dust includes comet dust, asteroidal dust, and interstellar dust. They all contain complex organic compounds that can reveal necessary information about phenomena like the Solar System formation. The dust grains are irregularly shaped, with their porosity ranging from fuzzy to compact. It’s fun to think about fluffy cosmic dust.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Mount Kilauea in Hawaii. Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

14. The most active volcano is in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of volcanoes, most of which are still active. There are six active volcanos on the Islands of Hawaii and Maui being monitored by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Mount Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Mauna Kea, Loihi, and Haleakala. These are not the explosive volcanoes that can kill vast swathes of people and cause the global climate to shift. No, these volcanoes erupt quietly and sometimes continually, and they are always adding land to the islands. In fact, each island is made of one or more volcanoes that first erupted on the ocean floor and eventually emerged above sea level.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: USGS/EPA

Mount Kilauea in Hawaii is the most active volcano in the world, spewing out the most lava. It erupted continuously from 1983 to 2018 along the volcano’s East Rift Zone. From 2008 – 2018, there was a lava lake at the volcano’s summit. Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano, has erupted 33 times since 1843. The latest eruption lasted over three weeks and produced lava flows within 5 miles of Hilo, the largest population center in Hawaii. However, Mount Stromboli, off the coast of southern Italy, has been blowing smoke nearly continuously for nearly 2000 years. Both Stromboli and Mount Kilauea have been the site of human habitation for a long time.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Have you hugged a tree today? Photo Credit: iStock

13. Trees provide our oxygen.

Next time you consider cutting down some trees, stop and think that trees are the lungs of the Earth. They breathe in carbon dioxide, the by-product of our own respiration, and exhale oxygen – our polar opposites in that sense. Of course, they use oxygen when they break down glucose to release energy and power their metabolism, but their production is more than their intake. They are regularly cleaning the air and making it safe and healthy for other animals and us. Deforestation is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, as it removes our planet’s lungs and replaces them with artificial structures, usually made of cement, which absorbs heat.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: Pexels

If we want to continue having a world to live in, we need to preserve our trees better and plant new ones. If you’re interested in relevant math, it has been determined that it takes about seven or eight trees worth each year to produce enough oxygen for one person. Think about the number of people on the planet, and imagine how many trees we genuinely need for better quality air. Not all trees are created equal, though; Douglas firs, spruces, true firs, beech trees, and maple trees are among the top oxygen-producing trees. That is primarily due to their leafiness; it has been determined that oxygen release is proportional to overall leaf mass.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Mushrooms have been known to get quite large. Photo Credit: What If Show

12. The largest living thing is a giant mushroom.

General Sherman is a giant sequoia in California, and it is 52,500 cubic feet in size. It is the largest tree in the world measured by volume, and for a long time, it was the largest thing in the world. However, in 1992, a giant mushroom took the title of the most incredible living thing in existence. It took up a whopping 2200 acres in the state of Oregon’s Malheur National Forest! Interestingly, someone discovered it because trees were dying off in the forest, so a team from the US Forest Service decided to investigate the cause.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: Reddit

They soon determined that most of the trees in the area had been infected with the fungus. Its age had been calculated to be somewhere between 1,900 and 8,650 years old! Even after the fungus killed a tree, the tree could remain standing for years before toppling. The humongous mega fungus was a collection of mushroom shoots that were all connected to one central organism. They were probably either cloned or directly related, but there is a slight chance that they were not clones. Still, a 2200-acre mushroom is impressive either way. If this piques your interest, check out the Pando organism in Utah.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Kepler 22-b may be capable of hosting life. Photo Credit: NASA

11. There are other planets like Earth.

Seeing just how impressive our planet makes us want to believe that there is no place like home. However, that is most likely not true. Scientists have been discovering exoplanets are planets outside the confines of our solar system. Moreover, they have found some that may be remarkably similar to Earth. We should be pleased to know that there may be other Earth-like planets out there because life is too precious to be confined to one small corner of our solar system. Also, the presence of other earth-like planets does not make our home any less unique.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: Youtube

The “habitable zone” is the distance from a star at which liquid water could exist on orbiting planets’ surfaces – basically where conditions are right for life. Life on other planets may not be anything like what we can fathom, but it makes sense to start with something familiar. Since our star, the sun, has nurtured life on our planet for over 4 billion years, it makes sense that the same conditions could be replicated elsewhere. Scientists have found nearly two thousand alien planets since they’ve started looking, and there is an abundance of small, rocky worlds like our own little Earth. Of these 2,000 planets, there are six planets that NASA considers “similar” to Earth: Gliese 667Cc, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62f, Kepler-186f, and Kelpler-452b. The last one is the most Earth-like so far, according to scientists.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Plate tectonics are massive, irregularly shaped slabs of solid rock that are generally composed of both oceanic and continental plates that come together, spread apart, and interact at boundaries all over the planet. Photo Credit: Getty Images

10. Plate tectonics keep the Earth 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. There are seven or eight major plates (depending on the criteria) and many minor 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 will go underneath the other, and where they pull apart, they will allow a fresh crust to form. This process is vital for a variety of reasons.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen

Not only does it lead to geological activity such as earthquakes, mountain-building, and oceanic trench formation, but it also is intrinsic to the carbon cycle. When microscopic plants in the ocean die, they fall to the bottom of the sea. Over long periods, the remnants of this life, rich in carbon, are carried back to the Earth’s interior and recycled. That pulls carbon out of the atmosphere, ensuring that we do not suffer a runaway greenhouse effect. Without the actions of plate tectonics, there would be no way to recycle this carbon, and the Earth would become an overheated place.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Earth is an oblate spheroid. Photo Credit: Pixabay

9. Although many people believe Earth is round, it is almost a sphere, but not entirely!

Some people indeed think the Earth is flat. Although we really didn’t know at one point, it is easy to prove that the Earth isn’t flat. So, it is safe to say that many people tend to think that Earth is a sphere. However, thanks to modern astronomy and space travel, scientists have since understood that Earth is shaped like a flattened sphere or an oblate spheroid. This shape is similar to a sphere, but the poles are flattened, and the equator bulges. In the case of the Earth, this bulge is due to our planet’s rotation.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: ESA International

That means that the measurement from pole to pole is about 43 km less than Earth’s diameter across the equator. The feature that is the furthest from the center of the Earth is Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador. Keep reading to find out more amazing facts about the planet Earth. You can discover what the planet is made of, how much water it has, and more.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
The Earth’s structure is divided into four major components: the crust, the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

8. Iron, oxygen, and silicon comprise the Earth — mostly.

To better understand the Earth’s components, you should also understand the basics of the Earth’s layers. The ocean basins and continents make up the ‘crust’ layer, which is the Earth’s outermost layer. It varies between three and 46 miles deep. If you could separate the Earth into piles of material, you would have four main components: iron, oxygen, silicon, and magnesium. The majority would be iron at 32.1%; the second would be oxygen at 30.1%. Silicon would come in third at 15.1%, and lastly, magnesium at 13.9%.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: Johan Swanepoel/ Shutterstock

However, most of this iron is located at the ‘core’ of the Earth, which is the innermost layer. The core has two parts: a solid inner core and a liquid outer core. The inner core rotates at a different speed than the rest of the Earth. If you could get down and truly sample the Earth’s core, it would be 88% iron. On the other hand, if you tested the Earth’s crust, you would find that 47% of it is oxygen. The ‘mantle’ is between the crust and the core. It is about 1800 miles deep and is mostly composed of magnesium and iron. When this mantle layer is pushed through the crust, we experience volcanoes.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
The seven continental landmasses make up 30 percent of Earth’s surface. Photo Credit: Pixabay

7. Water covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.

When astronauts first went into space, they looked back at the Earth with human eyes for the first time. Based on their observations, the Earth acquired the nickname the “Blue Planet.” The nickname came as no surprise seeing how 70 percent of our planet is covered with oceans. In fact, our planet looks blue from outer space because of this vast amount of water. Ironically, our human bodies are also comprised of water. In fact, the body has about 50 to 70 percent of water — just like Earth!

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: Evatt/AP

The remaining 30 percent is the solid crust located above sea level. That is why scientists call it the continental crust. Underneath the water that fills the oceans and the dirt and plants covering the continents, the Earth’s surface is made of rock. The rocky layer under the Earth’s soil is called the crust which comprises the continents and ocean basins. Keep reading to discover how thick the Earth’s atmosphere really is. And what does that mean for us.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Earth’s atmosphere extends to a distance of just over 6,000 miles. Photo Credit: Pixabay

6. Earth’s atmosphere is thickest within the first 30 miles from the surface.

Although the atmosphere is thickest within the first miles from the surface, it reaches over 6,000 miles into space. It comprises five main layers – the Troposphere, the Stratosphere, the Mesosphere, the Thermosphere, and the Exosphere. The Troposphere starts at the Earth’s surface and ends about 9 miles out. That is the densest part of the atmosphere, and this is where we experience all weather. The Stratosphere starts right after the Troposphere and extends to about 31 miles high. It is where you’ll find the ozone layer, which scatters UV radiation and protects us from the sun’s rays. The Mesosphere starts next and ends at about 53 miles away from the Earth’s surface. That is where meteors burn up.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: NASA

The Thermosphere is the next layer and is a larger layer that extends out to 372 miles! It is where satellites orbit and where you’ll see auroras. The Ionosphere overlaps the Mesosphere and extends to the edge of space at about 600 miles. That is the layer that makes radio communication possible. As a rule, air pressure and density decrease the higher one goes into the atmosphere and the farther one is from the surface. The bulk of the Earth’s atmosphere is down near the Earth itself. The Exosphere merges with the emptiness of outer space, where there is no atmosphere and is composed of low densities of hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
You can’t see it, but there’s an invisible force field around the Earth. Photo Credit: Pixabay

5. The Earth’s molten iron core creates a magnetic field.

Have you ever thought about the Earth’s core? Or how magnetic fields work? You know all of these things exist, but do you understand them? After all, our planet is quite amazing! The Earth is like a giant magnet, with poles at the top and bottom near the actual geographic poles. The magnetic field it creates extends thousands of miles from the Earth’s surface and forms a region called the magnetosphere. Scientists think this magnetic field is generated by the molten outer core of the Earth, where heat creates convection methods of conducting materials to generate electric currents.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Without the magnetosphere, particles from the sun’s solar wind would hit Earth directly, exposing the planet’s surface to significant amounts of radiation. Instead, the magnetosphere channels the solar wind around the Earth, protecting us from harm. Thank goodness for those fields. Certain things happen to us every single day without us even realizing it. Keep reading to learn how long a day — and year — truly is on Earth!

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
The day is not exactly 24 hours long. Photo Credit: Pixabay

4. Earth does not take 24 hours to rotate on its axis.

Try to stay in your seat for this fantastic science fact about the Earth. You might not even believe it, but you should check the sources. It takes 23 hours, 56 minutes, and just over four seconds for the Earth to rotate once completely on its axis, referred to as a Sidereal Day. You might think that this makes a day four minutes shorter than we think it is. You may also question how day after day and within a few months, that day would be night, and night would be a day.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: iStock

However, Earth orbits around the sun. Every day, the sun moves compared to the background stars by about one degree. Suppose you add up that little motion from the sun that we see because the Earth is orbiting around it and rotating on its axis. You get a total of 24 hours. People call this particular day Solar Day. Keep reading to learn how this affects the rest of the calendar. After all, if a day isn’t a full 24 hours then a month can’t be what it is, right? What about the entire year? Is it still 365 days? It’s time you learn the truth about our marvelous planet.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
If the days are a bit longer than 24 hours, that means a year on Earth is not 365 days. Photo Credit: Pixabay

3. The Earth completes one orbit every 365.242199 solar days.

There are 365 days in a year. This is common knowledge, right? You probably even learned that fact when you were a child in school. Ever since the 16th century, scientists have worked tirelessly to understand the relationship of how the Earth revolves around the sun. While most years are calculated for 365 days, the extra .242199 is a fact that goes a long way towards explaining why we need an extra calendar day every four years, aka during a leap year. The planet’s distance from the sun varies as it orbits.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: iStock

The Earth is never the same distance from the sun from day today. If the year is divisible by 400, then it is a leap year. The exception to this rule is if the year in question is divisible by 100. Keep reading to learn more about the Earth’s moon. Do you know about the moon’s two co-orbital satellites? It’s time you learn more so you can share your knowledgeable information with your friends and family. You can impress them with your science smarts!

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
As you are probably aware, Earth has one moon. Photo Credit: Pixabay

2. Earth has one moon and two co-orbital satellites.

While many people know and understand that the Earth has one moon, did you know that two additional asteroids are locked into co-orbital orbits with Earth? People call them 3753 Cruithne and 2002 AA. They belong to a larger population of asteroids — Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). Scientists also refer to them as Earth Trojans. Experts sometimes call the asteroid 3753 Cruithne is as Earth’s second moon. But it doesn’t actually orbit the Earth but is even following its own distinct path around the sun. However, 2002 AA is making a horseshoe orbit around the Earth that brings it close to the planet every 95 years.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: iStock

Other small, natural objects in orbit around the sun may enter orbit around Earth for a short period, making them temporary natural satellites until they exit our orbit. The only confirmed examples of this have been 2006 RH120 during 2006 and 2007 and 2020 CD3 between 2018 and 2020. There are also objects called “quasi-satellites.” The difference between them and standard satellites is that the orbit of a satellite of Earth depends on the Earth-Moon system’s gravity. In contrast, the quasi-satellite’s trajectory would not change if the Earth-Moon system were removed because it is orbiting the sun.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Earth is the only planet in the universe that has life. Photo Credit: Pixabay

1. The world boasts several million species of life, living in habitats from the bottom of the deepest ocean to a few miles from the atmosphere.

While there has been past discovered evidence of water and organic molecules on Mars and building blocks of life on Saturn’s moon, Titan, Earth is the only known planet to have life. Scientists have speculated about the possible existence of life beneath the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan. As we’ve discussed, scientists have even looked for other planets that look like they could support similar life forms, perhaps in some search of connection. They also look for chemical combinations that could signal alien life: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, sulfur, and hydrogen.

Marvelous Things About Planet Earth
Photo Credit: givaga/Shutterstock

However, Earth remains the only confirmed place of life. Scientists are building experiments that will help find life on other planets if it exists. For instance, giant radio dishes currently scan distant stars, listening for intelligent life’s characteristic signals reaching out across interstellar space. NASA’s entire exoplanet program is to find life signs on a planet other than Earth, though this could take decades if not longer. One promising landmark in the search is the James Webb Space Telescope, launching this year! The Webb will be the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built and launched into space. Scientists hope that it could pick up signs of an atmosphere like ours, so keep your fingers crossed!

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