Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the fifth largest:
|Orbit:||149,600,000 km (1.00 AU) from Sun|
Earth is the only planet whose English name does not derive from Greek/Roman mythology. The name derives from Old English and Germanic. There are, of course, hundreds of other names for the planet in other languages.
It was not until the time of Copernicus (the sixteenth century) that it was understood that the Earth is just another planet.
Earth, of course, can be studied without the aid of spacecraft. Nevertheless it was not until the twentieth century that we had maps of the entire planet. Pictures of the planet taken from space are of considerable importance; for example, they are an enormous help in weather prediction and especially in tracking and predicting hurricanes. And they are extraordinarily beautiful.
The Earth is divided into several layers which have distinct chemical and seismic properties (depths in km):
0- 40 Crust
10- 400 Upper mantle
400- 650 Transition region
650- 2700 Lower mantle
2700-2890 D'' layer (sometimes included in the lower mantle)
2890-5150 Outer core
5150-6378 Inner core
The crust varies considerably in thickness, it is thinner under the oceans, thicker under the continents. The inner core and crust are solid; the outer core and mantle layers are fluid.
Most of the mass of the Earth is in the mantle, most of the rest in the core; the part we inhabit is a tiny fraction of the whole (values below x10^24 kilograms):
atmosphere = 0.0000051
oceans = 0.0014
crust = 0.026
mantle = 4.043
outer core = 1.835
inner core = 0.09675
The core is probably composed mostly of iron (or nickel/iron) though it is possible that some lighter elements may be present, too. Temperatures at the center of the core may be as high as 7500 K, hotter than the surface of the Sun. The lower mantle is probably mostly silicon, magnesium and oxygen with some iron, calcium and aluminum. The upper mantle is mostly olivene and pyroxene (iron/magnesium silicates), calcium and aluminum. We know most of this only from seismic techniques; samples from the upper mantle arrive at the surface as lava from volcanoes but the majority of the Earth is inaccessible. The crust is primarily quartz (silicon dioxide) and other silicates like feldspar. Taken as a whole, the Earth's chemical composition (by mass) is:
The Earth is the densest major body in the solar system.
The other terrestrial planets probably have similar structures and compositions with some differences: the Moon has at most a small core; Mercury has an extra large core (relative to its diameter); the mantles of Mars and the Moon are much thicker; the Moon and Mercury may not have chemically distinct crusts; Earth may be the only one with distinct inner and outer cores. Note, however, that our knowledge of planetary interiors is mostly theoretical even for the Earth.
Unlike the other terrestrial planets, Earth's crust is divided into several separate solid plates which float around independently on top of the hot mantle below. The theory that describes this is known as plate tectonics. It is characterized by two major processes: spreading and subduction. Spreading occurs when two plates move away from each other and new crust is created by upwelling magma from below. Subduction occurs when two plates collide and the edge of one dives beneath the other and ends up being destroyed in the mantle. There is also transverse motion at some plate boundaries (i.e. the San Andreas Fault in California) and collisions between continental plates (i.e. India/Eurasia). There are (at present) eight major plates:
North American Plate - North America, western North Atlantic and Greenland South American Plate - South America and western South Atlantic Antarctic Plate - Antarctica and the "Southern Ocean" Eurasian Plate - eastern North Atlantic, Europe and Asia except for India African Plate - Africa, eastern South Atlantic and western Indian Ocean Indian-Australian Plate - India, Australia, New Zealand and most of Indian Ocean Nazca Plate - eastern Pacific Ocean adjacent to South America Pacific Plate - most of the Pacific Ocean (and the southern coast of California!)
There are also twenty or more small plates such as the Arabian, Cocos, and Philippine Plates. Earthquakes are much more common at the plate boundaries. Plotting their locations makes it easy to see the plate boundariess.
71 Percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water. Earth is the only planet on which water can exist in liquid form on the surface (though there may be liquid ethane or methane on Titan's surface and liquid water beneath the surface of Europa). Liquid water is, of course, essential for life as we know it. The heat capacity of the oceans is also very important in keeping the Earth's temperature relatively stable. Liquid water is also reponsible for most of the erosion and weathering of the Earth's continents, a process unique in the solar system today (though it may have occurred on Mars in the past).
The Earth's atmosphere is 77% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, with traces of argon, carbon dioxide and water.
The presence of free oxygen is quite remarkable from a chemical point of view. Oxygen is a very reactive gas and under "normal" circumstances would quickly combine with other elements. The oxygen in Earth's atmosphere is produced and maintained by biological processes. Without life there would be no free oxygen.
The interaction of the Earth and the Moon slows the Earth's rotation by about 2 milliseconds per century.
Earth has a modest magnetic field produced by electric currents in the core. The interaction of the solar wind, the Earth's magnetic field and the Earth's upper atmosphere causes the auroras.
Mass ( kg): 5.9736 x (10^24)
Volume (km^3): 108.321 x (10^10)
Equatorial radius (km): 6378
Polar radius (km): 6356
Volumetric mean radius (km): 6371
Core radius (km): 3485
Mean density (kg/m^3): 5520
Surface gravity (m/s2): 9.78
Escape velocity (km/s): 11.186
GM (km^3/s^2): 0.3986 x (10^6)
Bond albedo: 0.385
Visual geometric albedo: 0.367
Visual magnitude V(1,0): -3.86
Solar irradiance (W/m^2): 1380
Black-body temperature (K): 247.3
Topographic range (km): 20
Moment of inertia (I/MR^2): 0.3308
J2: 1082.63 x (10^-6)
Semimajor axis (km): 149.6 x (10^6)
Sidereal orbit period (days): 365.256
Tropical orbit period (days): 365.242
Perihelion (km): 147.1 x (10^6)
Aphelion (km): 152.1 x (10^6)
Mean orbital velocity (km/s): 29.79
Orbit inclination (deg): 0.00
Orbit eccentricity: 0.0167
Sidereal rotation period (hrs): 23.9345
Obliquity to orbit (deg): 23.45
Dipole field strength: 0.3076 gauss-Re^3
Latitude/Longitude of dipole: 78.6 degrees N/70.1 degrees W
Dipole offset (planet center to dipole center) distance: 0.0725 Re
Latitude/Longitude of offset vector: 18.3 degrees N/147.8 degrees E
Note: Re denotes Earth radii, 6,378 km
Surface Pressure: 1014 mb
Surface Density: 1.217 kg/m^3
Scale height: 8.5 km
Average temperature: 288 K
Diurnal temperature range: 283 K to 293 K
Wind speeds: 0 to 100 m/s
Mean molecular weight: 28.97 g/mole
Atmospheric composition (by volume, dry air):
Major : 78.084% Nitrogen (N2), 20.946% Oxygen (O2),
Minor (ppm): Argon (Ar) - 9340; Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - 350
Neon (Ne) - 18.18; Helium (He) - 5.24; CH4 - 1.7
Krypton (Kr) - 1.14; Hydrogen (H2) - 0.55
Water is highly variable, typically makes up about 1%
Earth has only one natural satellite, the Moon. But thousands of small artificial satellites have also been placed in orbit around the Earth. Asteroid 3753 (1986 TO) has a complicated orbital relationship with the Earth; it's not really a moon, the term "companion" is being used. It is somewhat similar to the situation with Saturn's moons Janus and Epimetheus. Lilith doesn't exist but it's an interesting story.
Mass (kg): 0.07349 x (10^24)
Volume (km^3): 2.1973 x (10^10
Equatorial radius (km): 1738
Polar radius (km): 1735
Volumetric mean radius (km): 1737.5
Mean density (kg/m^3): 3340
Surface gravity (m/s^2): 1.62
Escape velocity (km/s): 2.38
GM (km^3/s^2): 0.0049 x (10^6)
Bond albedo: 0.067
Visual geometric albedo: 0.12
Visual magnitude V(1,0): +0.21
Solar irradiance (W/m^2): 1380
Black-body temperature (K): 274.5
Topographic range (km): 16
Moment of inertia (I/MR^2): 0.394
Orbital parameters (for orbit about the Earth)
Semimajor axis (km): 0.3844 x (10^6)
Perigee (km): 0.3633 x (10^6)
Apogee (km): 0.4055 x (10^6)
Revolution period (days): 27.322
Synodic period (days): 29.53
Mean orbital velocity (km/s): 1.023
Orbit inclination (deg): 5.145
Orbit eccentricity: 0.0549
Sidereal rotation period (hrs): 655.728
Equatorial inclination (deg): 6.68
Recession rate from Earth (cm/yr): 3.8
|Distance (km)||Radius (km)||Mass (kg)|