Aliens have captured our fascination but this near perfect orb that we call home, our Planet Earth is more than just a planet. It is home for some extraordinary drama. From deadly volcanoes to colossal clashes of tectonic plates, from mysterious phenomena to weird life forms, let us today embark on a journey of 50 extremely interesting Earth facts that will leave you puzzled and baffled!
Interesting Earth Facts: 1-10
1. When viewed from Sun, Earth is the third planet and also the third terrestrial planet. A terrestrial planet is a rocky planet. The other terrestrial planets in our Solar System are Mercury, Venus and Mars.
2. Earth is also the largest terrestrial planet of all four terrestrial planets in our Solar System.
3. Earth is the only planet in our Solar System that has not been named after any Roman god or deity. In fact the name of Earth comes from the word ‘erda’, which is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning soil or ground.
4. Earth is the only known planet in our Solar System that supports life. No other planet supports life. However, scientists are searching for life forms on some of moons of bigger planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
5. The Earth we know today was formed 4.54 billion years ago.
6. The mass of planet Earth is 5,972,190,000,000,000 billion kilograms.
7. The distance of Earth’s orbit from Sun is 1 AU (astronomical unit) which is equivalent to 149, 598, 262 kilometers. Earth takes 365.26 Earth Days to complete one revolution around Sun along its orbit.
8. The surface temperature of Earth ranges between -88°C and 58°C.
9. Earth has equatorial and polar diameters of 12,756 kilometers and 12,714 kilometers respectively. This simply means that Earth is not a perfect sphere. It fact, it is slightly flattened at the poles.
10. The equatorial circumference of Earth is 40,030 kilometers.
Interesting Earth Facts: 11-20
11. Earth has only one satellite which is known as Moon. This satellite is the 5th largest natural satellite in entire Solar System but if a satellite is measured in terms of the percentage of the size of the planet it orbits, our Moon is the largest satellite in Solar System.
12. Rotation of Earth is gradually slowing down. However, the rate of this deceleration is extremely low. Earth’s rotation is slowing down at a rate of 1.7 milliseconds in every 100 years but again, this is not really a uniform rate. At this rate, length of one day will be 25 hours around 140 million years from now.
13. Our Earth’s core is made of nickel and iron. Combined with the rapid rotation speed of Earth, this metallic core produces a very strong magnetic field which is responsible for warding off solar winds that have the potential of wiping out every form of life that exists on Earth.
14. Earth possesses the highest density of all planets that exist in our Solar System. The average density of Earth is 5.52 grams every cubic centimeter. However, this density is not uniform throughout our planet Earth. For instance, the density of the metallic core is far more than the density found of Earth’s crust.
15. Ancient scientists believed that Earth was the center of the universe because they could see Sun and other celestial objects traveling in circular paths around them. This led them to believe that Earth’s position was static. It was Copernicus who postulated that Sun and not Earth was the center of the universe. It was later found that Copernicus was indeed partially right. It was found that Earth was not static and it revolved around the Sun. But, it was also found that even Sun was not the center of Universe. In fact it is only at the center of our Solar System which is a part of the Universe that is in a state of constant expansion.
16. Earth is the only planet in our Solar System that has liquid water. In fact 70% of Earth is covered by water and the remaining 30% is visible land above the sea level.
17. Earth when viewed from outer space looks blue because of the enormous volume of water it holds.
18. We know that Earth takes 24 hours to rotate on its axis but this is with respect to the Sun. With respect to stars, the time taken by Earth to complete one rotation is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds.
19. We mentioned (in point 12 above) that Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down. This is happening because our Moon exerts tidal effects on our Earth. Because of this gradual slow down, a day today is slightly longer than a day 100 years ago.
20. Earth is mainly composed of oxygen, iron and silicon. However, other materials (elements) are also present. Iron forms about 32.1% of total Earth, oxygen covers 30.1%, silicon takes up 15.1% and magnesium takes 13.9%. Most of the iron present on Earth is found in its core. The core is made up of 88% iron and the remaining is nickel.
Interesting Earth Facts: 21-30
21. We know that Earth has only one natural satellite which is the Moon. However, there are actually two more. These additional two are actually asteroids that are locked in a co-orbital orbit with our planet. One of this is known as ‘2000 AA29’ and the other one is known as ‘3753 Cruithne’. The ‘2000 AA29’ is just 60 meters across and travels around our home planet in a horse shoe orbit. It comes close to Earth every 95 years. The ‘3753 Cruithne’ on the other hand is often dubbed as the second moon of Earth. It follows an orbit which is synchronized with our Earth’s orbit and takes a path which makes it look like it is following our planet but in reality, it is actually following a path of its own and travels around the sun in a completely different orbit.
22. One Earth year is not really 365 days. It is 365.25 days. The extra 0.25 days is what accounts for an extra day every 4 years. This day goes in the month of February when instead of 28 days, the calendar (Georgian Calendar which is the standard calendar that is used almost everywhere in world with few exceptions) shows 29 days. This year is known as leap year. Having said that, this too is not entirely accurate! The solar year, which is believed to be 365.25 days, is slightly shorter than that. As a result, adding up 1 extra day every 4 years leads to 3 extra days in every 400 years. Thus, the Georgian Calendar actually eliminates 3 leap days every 4 centuries. Every 3 century year that is an integer multiple of 100 but not an integer multiple of 400 eliminates the February 29 from the calendar. Thus, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100 and 2200 are all common years but 1600, 2000, 2400 are all leap years.
23. Earth does not have a straight axis. Its axis is slightly tilted at 66 degrees.
24. Of the 100% water found on Earth, 97% is salt water and 3% is fresh water. Of this 3% fresh water, 2% is found in frozen state in glaciers and ice sheets. Just 1% fresh water can be found underground and in rivers and lakes.
25. The continent of Asia covers 30% of visible land on Earth. Remaining 70% is taken by remaining 6 continents. However, nearly 60% of Earth’s human population is located in Asia and remaining 40% are in the remaining 6 continents.
26. During winter each year, 1 septillion snow crystals fall on Earth. One septillion is 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.
27. While it is very common for us to believe that standing on Earth we are standing still, it is a very wrong notion. Depending on our current location on Earth, we may be spinning through space at a speed of over 1,000 miles every hour. People located on equator are traveling through space at fastest speed and people located at the poles are traveling at the slowest speed.
28. We are not just spinning around through space; we are also speeding all around the Sun at 67,000 miles an hour! So, along with Earth we are spinning (rotating) and revolving!
29. The surface of Earth or the ground on which we actually live and move around on, is constantly being recycled. The cycle is usually igneous rocks to sedimentary rocks to metamorphic rocks and back to igneous rocks.
30. The hottest spot on Earth is Libya’s El Azizia. This place, back in September 13, 1922 recorded an amazing 57.8°C or 136°F.
Interesting Earth Facts: 31-40
31. Antarctica is definitely Earth’s coldest place where temperatures can drop down to minus 100°F or minus 73°C in winter months. However, the lowest ever recorded temperature was in Russia. The Vostok Station recorded a bone-chilling minus 128.6°F or minus 89.2°C back in 1983 on July 21.
32. 90% of Earth’s ice and 70% of Earth’s fresh water are trapped in Antarctic ice.
33. Cuevo San Martin Infierno of Cuba has Earth’s largest known stalagmite that is 220 feet tall.
34. Our Earth is not a perfect sphere and hence, mass is not evenly distributed on Earth. As a result, gravity is not even either! Different areas on Earth may have different gravity. One unique example is Canada’s Hudson Bay.
35. The magnetic north pole of Earth is creeping northward at a speed of 40 miles per year.
36. Earth’s magnetic poles flip. This happened a number of times over last 20 million years. This pole reversal usually takes place every 200,000 to 300,000 years. As of 2014, that reversal is well overdue. This reversal takes place over a period of hundreds of thousands of years.
37. Earth’s longest mountain range is not on Earth’s surface. It is rather under water and is actually a chain of volcanoes that stretch over an area of 40,389 miles or 65,000 kilometers.
38. Next to the rain forests, the largest numbers of species per unit area that can be found in any ecosystem on Earth are the Coral Reefs. Coral Reefs are the home of largest known living structures on Earth. These living structures are made of coral polyps which are actually very tiny.
39. The deepest point on Earth not covered by ocean is Antarctica’s Bentley Subglacial Trench. At its deepest point it is 8,382 feet below sea level. The deepest point on Earth covered by ocean is 35,813 feet or 10,916 meters below sea level and it is one ocean floor in Mariana Trench.
Interesting Earth Facts: 41-50
41. Our planet Earth has some really weird and dangerous places. Special attention goes to Cameroon and the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. What’s so special about these places? These places have three lakes by the names Kivu, Monoun and Nyos. They are no ordinary lakes. They are crater lakes sitting right above volcanic Earth. The magma below the Earth (essentially the lakebed) release carbon dioxide which form a thick layer covering the lakebed. This trapped carbon dioxide is often released in form of explosions and can asphyxiate any passerby. No wonder, the lakes have earned the name of ‘exploding lakes’.
42. Sea levels on Earth are gradually rising because increase in global atmospheric temperature is melting down glaciers. The Canadian Arctic glacier in particular is responsible for contributing 10% of total meltwater in entire world.
43. This is the most stunning of all facts we have learned so far. Shil DasSarma, a microbial geneticist from University of Maryland says that once back in time Earth was probably purple as it is green today. He says that even before Chlorophyll came to existence, Retinal already existed on Earth during the ancient times. Retinal is actually a light-sensitive molecule capable of absorbing green light and reflecting back violet and red lights, the combination of which appear to be purple. Retinal actually exists today and can be found in halobacteria which actually is a photosynthetic microbe, having a plum-colored membrane where Retinal is actually found.
44. About 100 tons of cosmic dust or interplanetary material falls on Earth every single day.
45. Scientists say that the continents (that are today present on Earth) have collided together to form supercontinents and then broken apart again and then collided again only to break apart later several times throughout the 4.54 billion years of history of Earth. The most recent supercontinent was Pangaea which broke apart some 200 million years ago forming the current 7 continents on Earth.
46. Tectonic plates or rock slabs of Earth shift. The rate of this shift is very slow and is always invisible to us but the effect of their shift is extremely monumental. They can give birth to mountains and trigger deadly tsunamis. Himalayas for instance is a result of a clash between two shifting tectonic plates some 40 to 50 million years ago. Actually India and Eurasia collided giving birth to the 1800 miles or 2900 kilometers of stretch of Himalayas.
47. Only 1/5000th of Earth’s total circumference is covered by high mountains and deep trenches. Thus, Earth is actually very smooth.
48. Earth is hit by 8.6 million lightning strikes every single day!
49. Earth’s oceans are hotbed for volcanic activities. Almost 90% of all volcanic activities take place in deep ocean floor and go unnoticed.
50. As we mentioned earlier, Earth has some incredible places. One such weird place is below the Amazon river where one can find the Rio Hamza river. That river is about 400 kilometers wide at certain points. This river flows through rock at a speed of 1 millimeter an hour! Yet another weird place is the ‘Door to Hell’ in Turkmenistan where a crater was formed by a collapsed gas well. That crater burned continuously for 40 years. Again, Antarctica’s Dry Valleys is the driest place on Earth. The last rainfall in that place occurred some 2 million years ago. Yet another incredibly weird place is deep down in the oceans. At the depth of 1.7 miles or 2.8 kilometers in ocean, some bacteria are found that use uranium’s radioactivity to convert water into stable usable energy.
Bonus Earth Facts:
1. Earth’s oceans are home to about 1 million life forms of which only 1/3rd have been described till date.
2. Tardigrade is the hardiest life form that lives on Earth. It is also known as water bear and is actually a micro animal with 8 legs. They can survive even when heated for a few minutes to a temperature of 151°C or 304°F. They can also survive for days when chilled to a temperature of -200°C or -328°F. Some species of Tardigrade can survive for a few minutes at a temperature of -272°C which is just one degree above absolute zero. They are capable of withstanding very high pressure of 1200 times the normal atmospheric pressure and can withstand extremely low pressure of vacuum.There are some species of this micro animal capable of withstanding the pressure of 6,000 atmospheres. How much pressure is that? That’s the pressure that water puts at the deepest point in Mariana Trench. These Tardigrades are capable of living in dry state for 10 years and can survive 1000 times more radiation than any other animal. They can even survive in space for 10 days in dehydrated state and can simply revive after rehydration when brought back to Earth but their subsequent mortality was high.
3. Oceans on Earth contain more gold than what can be found on land.
4. Every year the continents drift away from each other by a distance of 2 centimeters.
5. Scientists say that within next 300 years, 75% of all known animal species on Earth will become extinct.