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Earth


Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only object in the Universe known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence,Earth formed over 4 billion years ago.Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite.Earth revolves around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.

Earth's axis of rotation is tilted, producing seasonal variations on the planet's surface.The gravitational interaction between the Earth and Moon causes ocean tides, stabilizes the Earth's orientation on its axis, and gradually slows its rotation.Earth is the densest planet in the Solar System and the largest of the four terrestrial planets.

Earth's lithosphere is divided into several rigid tectonic plates that migrate across the surface over periods of many millions of years. About 71% of Earth's surface is covered with water, mostly by oceans.The remaining 29% is land consisting of continents and islands that together have many lakes,rivers and other sources of water that contribute to the hydrosphere. The majority of Earth's polar regions are covered in ice, including the Antarctic ice sheet and the sea ice of the Arctic ice pack. Earth's interior remains active with a solid iron inner core, a liquid outer core that generates the Earth's magnetic field, and a convecting mantle that drives plate tectonics.

Within the first billion years of Earth's history, life appeared in the oceans and began to affect the Earth's atmosphere and surface, leading to the proliferation of aerobic and anaerobic organisms. Some geological evidence indicates that life may have arisen as much as 4.1 billion years ago. Since then, the combination of Earth's distance from the Sun, physical properties, and geological history have allowed life to evolve and thrive.In the history of the Earth, biodiversity has gone through long periods of expansion, occasionally punctuated by mass extinction events. Over 99% of all species that ever lived on Earth are extinct.Estimates of the number of species on Earth today vary widely most species have not been described.Over 7.4 billion humans live on Earth and depend on its biosphere and natural resources for their survival.Humans have developed diverse societies and cultures; politically, the world has about 200 sovereign states.


Contents

  1. Name and etymology
  2. Chronology
  3. Physical characteristics
  4. Orbit and rotation

Name and etymology


The modern English wordEarth developed from a wide variety of Middle English forms,which derived from an Old English noun most often spelled eorðe. It has cognates in every Germanic language, and their proto-Germanic root has been reconstructed as *erþō. In its earliest appearances, eorðe was already being used to translate the many senses of Latin terra' and Greekγῆ (): the ground,its soil, dry land,the human world,the surface of the world (including the sea), and the globe itself. As with Terra and Gaia, Earth was a personified goddess in Germanic paganism: the Angles were listed by Tacitus as among the devotees ofNerthus,and later Norse mythology included Jörð, a giantess often given as the mother of Thor.

Originally, earth was written in lowercase, and from early Middle English, its definite sense as "the globe" was expressed as the earth. By Early Modern English, many nouns were capitalized, and the earth became (and often remained) the Earth, particularly when referenced along with other heavenly bodies. More recently, the name is sometimes simply given as Earth, by analogy with the names of the other planets.House styles now vary: Oxford spelling recognizes the lowercase form as the most common, with the capitalized form an acceptable variant. Another convention capitalizes "Earth" when appearing as a name (e.g. "Earth's atmosphere") but writes it in lowercase when preceded by the (e.g. "the atmosphere of the earth"). It almost always appears in lowercase in colloquial expressions such as "what on earth are you doing?"

Chronology


Main article: History of Earth

Formation

The oldest material found in the Solar System is dated to 4.5672±0.0006 billion years ago(Bya).By 4.54±0.04 Bya the primordial Earth had formed. The formation and evolution of Solar System bodies occurred along with the Sun. In theory, a solar nebula partitions a volume out of a molecular cloud by gravitational collapse, which begins to spin and flatten into a circumstellar disk, and then the planets grow out of that disk along with the Sun. A nebula contains gas,ice grains, and dust (including primordial nuclides). According to nebular theory,planetesimals formed by accretion, with the primordial Earth taking 10–20million years(Mys) to form.

A subject of on-going research is the formation of the Moon, some 4.53 Bya.A working hypothesis is that it was formed by accretion from material loosed from Earth after a Mars -sized object, named Theia, impacted Earth.In this scenario, the mass of Theia was approximately 10% of that of Earth,it impacted Earth with a glancing blow, and some of its mass merged with Earth. Between approximately 4.1 and 3.8, numerous asteroid impacts during the Late Heavy Bombardment caused significant changes to the greater surface environment of the Moon, and by inference, to that of Earth.

Geological history

Earth's atmosphere and oceans were formed by volcanic activity and outgassing that included water vapor. The origin of the world's oceans was condensation augmented by water and ice delivered by asteroids, protoplanets, and comets. In this model, atmospheric "greenhouse gases" kept the oceans from freezing when the newly forming Sun had only 70% of its current luminosity. By 3.5 Bya, Earth's magnetic field was established, which helped prevent the atmosphere from being stripped away by the solar wind.

A crust formed when the molten outer layer of Earth cooled to form a solid. The two models that explain land mass propose either a steady growth to the present-day forms or, more likely, a rapid growth early in Earth history followed by a long-term steady continental area.Continents formed by plate tectonics, a process ultimately driven by the continuous loss of heat from Earth's interior. On time scales lasting hundreds of millions of years, the supercontinents have assembled and broken apart. Roughly 750 million years ago (Mya), one of the earliest known supercontinents, Rodinia, began to break apart. The continents later recombined to form Pannotia, 600–540 Mya, then finally Pangaea, which also broke apart 180 Mya.

The present pattern of ice ages began about 40 Mya and then intensified during the Pleistocene about 3 Mya. High-latitude regions have since undergone repeated cycles of glaciation and thaw, repeating about every 40,000–100000 years. The last continental glaciation ended 10,000 years ago.

Physical characteristics


Shape

The shape of Earth is approximately oblate spheroidal. Due to rotation, the Earth is flattened along the geographic axis and bulging around the equator.The diameter of the Earth at the equator is 43 kilometres (27 mi) larger than the pole-to-pole diameter. Thus the point on the surface farthest from Earth's center of mass is the summit of the equatorial Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador The average diameter of the reference spheroid is 12,742 kilometres (7,918 mi). Local topography deviates from this idealized spheroid, although on a global scale these deviations are small compared to Earth's radius: The maximum deviation of only 0.17% is at the Mariana Trench (10,911 metres (35,797 ft) below local sea level), whereas Mount Everest (8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above local sea level) represents a deviation of 0.14%.

In geodesy, the exact shape that Earth's oceans would adopt in the absence of land and perturbations such as tides and winds is called the geoid. More precisely, the geoid is the surface of gravitational equipotential at mean sea level.

Chemical composition

Earth's mass is approximately 5.97×1024 kg (5,970 Yg). It is composed mostly of iron (32.1%), oxygen (30.1%), silicon (15.1%), magnesium (13.9%), sulfur (2.9%), nickel (1.8%), calcium (1.5%), and aluminium (1.4%), with the remaining 1.2% consisting of trace amounts of other elements. Due to mass segregation, the core region is estimated to be primarily composed of iron (88.8%), with smaller amounts of nickel (5.8%), sulfur (4.5%), and less than 1% trace elements.

The most common rock constituents of the crust are nearly all oxides: chlorine, sulfur, and fluorine are the important exceptions to this and their total amount in any rock is usually much less than 1%. Over 99% of the crust is composed of 11 oxides, principally silica, alumina, iron oxides, lime, magnesia, potash, and soda.

Chemical composition of the crust
Compound Formula Composition
Continental Oceanic
silica SiO2 60.2% 48.6%
alumina Al2O3 15.2% 16.5%
lime CaO 5.5% 12.3%
magnesia MgO 3.1% 6.8%
iron(II) oxide FeO 3.8% 6.2%
sodium oxide Na2O 3.0% 2.6%
potassium oxide K2O 2.8% 0.4%
iron(III) oxide Fe2O3 2.5% 2.3%
water H2O 1.4% 1.1%
carbon dioxide CO2 1.2% 1.4%
titanium dioxide TiO2 0.7% 1.4%
phosphorus pentoxide P2O5 0.2% 0.3%
Total 99.6% 99.9%

Internal structure

Earth's interior, like that of the other terrestrial planets, is divided into layers by their chemical or physical (rheological) properties. The outer layer is a chemically distinct silicate solid crust, which is underlain by a highly viscous solid mantle. The crust is separated from the mantle by the Mohorovičić discontinuity. The thickness of the crust varies from about 6 km (kilometers) under the oceans to 30–50 km for the continents. The crust and the cold, rigid, top of the upper mantle are collectively known as the lithosphere, and it is of the lithosphere that the tectonic plates are composed. Beneath the lithosphere is the asthenosphere, a relatively low-viscosity layer on which the lithosphere rides. Important changes in crystal structure within the mantle occur at 410 and 660 km below the surface, spanning a transition zone that separates the upper and lower mantle. Beneath the mantle, an extremely low viscosity liquid outer core lies above a solid inner core. The Earth's inner core might rotate at a slightly higher angular velocity than the remainder of the planet, advancing by 0.1–0.5° per year. The radius of the inner core is about one fifth of that of Earth.

Heat

Earth's internal heat comes from a combination of residual heat from planetary accretion (about 20%) and heat produced through radioactive decay (80%). The major heat-producing isotopes within Earth are potassium-40, uranium-238, and thorium-232. At the center, the temperature may be up to 6,000 °C (10,830 °F), and the pressure could reach 360 GPa. Because much of the heat is provided by radioactive decay, scientists postulate that early in Earth's history, before isotopes with short half-lives were depleted, Earth's heat production was much higher. At approximately 3 Ga, twice the present-day heat would have been produced, increasing the rates of mantle convection and plate tectonics, and allowing the production of uncommon igneous rocks such as komatiites that are rarely formed today.

The mean heat loss from Earth is 87 mW m−2, for a global heat loss of 4.42 × 1013 W. A portion of the core's thermal energy is transported toward the crust by mantle plumes, a form of convection consisting of upwellings of higher-temperature rock. These plumes can produce hotspots and flood basalts. More of the heat in Earth is lost through plate tectonics, by mantle upwelling associated with mid-ocean ridges. The final major mode of heat loss is through conduction through the lithosphere, the majority of which occurs under the oceans because the crust there is much thinner than that of the continents.

Surface

The total surface area of the Earth is about 510 million km2 (197 million sq mi).Of this, 70.8%, or 361.13 million km2 (139.43 million sq mi), is below sea level and covered by ocean water. Below the ocean's surface are much of the continental shelf, mountains, volcanoes, oceanic trenches, submarine canyons, oceanic plateaus, abyssal plains, and a globe-spanning mid-ocean ridge system. The remaining 29.2% (148.94 million km2, or 57.51 million sq mi) not covered by water has terrain that varies greatly from place to place and consists of mountains, deserts, plains, plateaus, and other landforms. Tectonics and erosion, volcanic eruptions, flooding, weathering, glaciation, the growth of coral reefs, and meteorite impacts are among the processes that constantly reshape the Earth's surface over geological time

The continental crust consists of lower density material such as the igneous rocks granite and andesite. Less common is basalt, a denser volcanic rock that is the primary constituent of the ocean floors. Sedimentary rock is formed from the accumulation of sediment that becomes buried and compacted together. Nearly 75% of the continental surfaces are covered by sedimentary rocks, although they form about 5% of the crust. The third form of rock material found on Earth is metamorphic rock, which is created from the transformation of pre-existing rock types through high pressures, high temperatures, or both. The most abundant silicate minerals on Earth's surface include quartz, feldspars, amphibole, mica, pyroxene and olivine. Common carbonate minerals include calcite (found in limestone) and dolomite.

The elevation of the land surface varies from the low point of −418 m at the Dead Sea, to a maximum altitude of 8,848 m at the top of Mount Everest. The mean height of land above sea level is about 797 metres (2,615 ft).

The pedosphere is the outermost layer of Earth's continental surface and is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes. The total arable land is 10.9% of the land surface, with 1.3% being permanent cropland. Close to 40% of Earth's land surface is used for cropland and pasture, or an estimated 1.3×107 km2 of cropland and 3.4×107 km2 of pastureland.

Hydrosphere

The abundance of water on Earth's surface is a unique feature that distinguishes the "Blue Planet" from other planets in the Solar System. Earth's hydrosphere consists chiefly of the oceans, but technically includes all water surfaces in the world, including inland seas, lakes, rivers, and underground waters down to a depth of 2,000 m. The deepest underwater location is Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean with a depth of 10,911.4 m.

The mass of the oceans is approximately 1.35×1018 metric tons or about 1/4400 of Earth's total mass. The oceans cover an area of 3.618×108 km2 with a mean depth of 3682 m, resulting in an estimated volume of 1.332×109 km3.If all of Earth's crustal surface were at the same elevation as a smooth sphere, the depth of the resulting world ocean would be 2.7 to 2.8 km.

About 97.5% of the water is saline; the remaining 2.5% is fresh water. Most fresh water, about 68.7%, is present as ice in ice caps and glaciers.

The average salinity of Earth's oceans is about 35 grams of salt per kilogram of sea water (3.5% salt).Most of this salt was released from volcanic activity or extracted from cool igneous rocks. The oceans are also a reservoir of dissolved atmospheric gases, which are essential for the survival of many aquatic life forms. Sea water has an important influence on the world's climate, with the oceans acting as a large heat reservoir.Shifts in the oceanic temperature distribution can cause significant weather shifts, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

Atmosphere

The atmospheric pressure on Earth's surface averages 101.325 kPa, with a scale height of about 8.5 km. It has a composition of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, with trace amounts of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gaseous molecules. The height of the troposphere varies with latitude, ranging between 8 km at the poles to 17 km at the equator, with some variation resulting from weather and seasonal factors.

Earth's biosphere has significantly altered its atmosphere. Oxygenic photosynthesis evolved 2.7 Gya, forming the primarily nitrogen–oxygen atmosphere of today. This change enabled the proliferation of aerobic organisms and, indirectly, the formation of the ozone layer due to the subsequent conversion of atmospheric O2 into O3. The ozone layer blocks ultraviolet solar radiation, permitting life on land. Other atmospheric functions important to life include transporting water vapor, providing useful gases, causing small meteors to burn up before they strike the surface, and moderating temperature. This last phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect: trace molecules within the atmosphere serve to capture thermal energy emitted from the ground, thereby raising the average temperature. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone are the primary greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Without this heat-retention effect, the average surface temperature would be −18 °C, in contrast to the current +15 °C, and life on Earth probably would not exist in its current form. In May 2017, glints of light, seen as twinkling from an orbiting satellite a million miles away, were found to be reflected light from ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Orbit and rotation


Rotation

Earth's rotation period relative to the Sun—its mean solar day—is 86,400 seconds of mean solar time (86,400.0025 SI seconds). Because Earth's solar day is now slightly longer than it was during the 19th century due to tidal deceleration, each day varies between 0 and 2 SI ms longer.

Earth's rotation period relative to the fixed stars, called its stellar day by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), is 86,164.0989 seconds of mean solar time (UT1), or 23h 56m 4.0989s. Earth's rotation period relative to the precessing or moving mean vernal equinox, misnamed its sidereal day, is 86,164.0905 seconds of mean solar time (UT1) (23h 56m 4.0905s).Thus the sidereal day is shorter than the stellar day by about 8.4 ms. The length of the mean solar day in SI seconds is available from the IERS for the periods 1623–2005 and 1962–2005.

Apart from meteors within the atmosphere and low-orbiting satellites, the main apparent motion of celestial bodies in Earth's sky is to the west at a rate of 15°/h = 15'/min. For bodies near the celestial equator, this is equivalent to an apparent diameter of the Sun or the Moon every two minutes; from Earth's surface, the apparent sizes of the Sun and the Moon are approximately the same.

Orbit

Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 150 million km (93 million mi) every 365.2564 mean solar days, or one sidereal year. This gives an apparent movement of the Sun eastward with respect to the stars at a rate of about 1°/day, which is one apparent Sun or Moon diameter every 12 hours. Due to this motion, on average it takes 24 hours—a solar day—for Earth to complete a full rotation about its axis so that the Sun returns to the meridian. The orbital speed of Earth averages about 29.78 km/s (107,200 km/h; 66,600 mph), which is fast enough to travel a distance equal to Earth's diameter, about 12,742 km (7,918 mi), in seven minutes, and the distance to the Moon, 384,000 km (239,000 mi), in about 3.5 hours.

The Moon and Earth orbit a common barycenter every 27.32 days relative to the background stars. When combined with the Earth–Moon system's common orbit around the Sun, the period of the synodic month, from new moon to new moon, is 29.53 days. Viewed from the celestial north pole, the motion of Earth, the Moon, and their axial rotations are all counterclockwise. Viewed from a vantage point above the north poles of both the Sun and Earth, Earth orbits in a counterclockwise direction about the Sun. The orbital and axial planes are not precisely aligned: Earth's axis is tilted some 23.44 degrees from the perpendicular to the Earth–Sun plane (the ecliptic), and the Earth–Moon plane is tilted up to ±5.1 degrees against the Earth–Sun plane. Without this tilt, there would be an eclipse every two weeks, alternating between lunar eclipses and solar eclipses.

The Hill sphere, or the sphere of gravitational influence, of the Earth is about 1.5 million kilometres (930,000 mi) in radius. This is the maximum distance at which the Earth's gravitational influence is stronger than the more distant Sun and planets. Objects must orbit the Earth within this radius, or they can become unbound by the gravitational perturbation of the Sun.

Earth, along with the Solar System, is situated in the Milky Way and orbits about 28,000 light-years from its center. It is about 20 light-years above the galactic plane in the Orion Arm.

Axial tilt and seasons

The axial tilt of the Earth is approximately 23.439281° with the axis of its orbit plane, always pointing towards the Celestial Poles. Due to Earth's axial tilt, the amount of sunlight reaching any given point on the surface varies over the course of the year. This causes the seasonal change in climate, with summer in the Northern Hemisphere occurring when the Tropic of Cancer is facing the Sun, and winter taking place when the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere faces the Sun. During the summer, the day lasts longer, and the Sun climbs higher in the sky. In winter, the climate becomes cooler and the days shorter. In northern temperate latitudes, the Sun rises north of true east during the summer solstice, and sets north of true west, reversing in the winter. The Sun rises south of true east in the summer for the southern temperate zone and sets south of true west.

Above the Arctic Circle, an extreme case is reached where there is no daylight at all for part of the year, up to six months at the North Pole itself, a polar night. In the Southern Hemisphere, the situation is exactly reversed, with the South Pole oriented opposite the direction of the North Pole. Six months later, this pole will experience a midnight sun, a day of 24 hours, again reversing with the South Pole.

By astronomical convention, the four seasons can be determined by the solstices—the points in the orbit of maximum axial tilt toward or away from the Sun—and the equinoxes, when the direction of the tilt and the direction to the Sun are perpendicular. In the Northern Hemisphere, winter solstice currently occurs around 21 December; summer solstice is near 21 June, spring equinox is around 20 March and autumnal equinox is about 22 or 23 September. In the Southern Hemisphere, the situation is reversed, with the summer and winter solstices exchanged and the spring and autumnal equinox dates swapped.

The angle of Earth's axial tilt is relatively stable over long periods of time. Its axial tilt does undergo nutation; a slight, irregular motion with a main period of 18.6 years. The orientation (rather than the angle) of Earth's axis also changes over time, precessing around in a complete circle over each 25,800 year cycle; this precession is the reason for the difference between a sidereal year and a tropical year. Both of these motions are caused by the varying attraction of the Sun and the Moon on Earth's equatorial bulge. The poles also migrate a few meters across Earth's surface. This polar motion has multiple, cyclical components, which collectively are termed quasiperiodic motion. In addition to an annual component to this motion, there is a 14-month cycle called the Chandler wobble. Earth's rotational velocity also varies in a phenomenon known as length-of-day variation.

In modern times, Earth's perihelion occurs around 3 January, and its aphelion around 4 July. These dates change over time due to precession and other orbital factors, which follow cyclical patterns known as Milankovitch cycles. The changing Earth–Sun distance causes an increase of about 6.9% in solar energy reaching Earth at perihelion relative to aphelion. Because the Southern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun at about the same time that Earth reaches the closest approach to the Sun, the Southern Hemisphere receives slightly more energy from the Sun than does the northern over the course of a year. This effect is much less significant than the total energy change due to the axial tilt, and most of the excess energy is absorbed by the higher proportion of water in the Southern Hemisphere.

A study from 2016 suggested that Planet Nine tilted all solar system planets, including Earth's by about 6 degrees.

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