Though humans have been studying the Earth for a long time, there is still a lot we don’t know. And even given the things we do know, some things are still not common knowledge, or are misperceived. Here are some fascinating facts about our home planet.
A huge reservoir of water has recently been discovered 660 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. Buried inside a gigantic mass of blue rock called ringwoodite, which stores the water not as a liquid, but as hydroxide ions. But it is still water nonetheless.
There is enough water below earth’s surface to fill the oceans again 3 times over. The old theory of how water made it to the Earth’s surface is that icy comets deposited it here; the new theory is that geological activity actually released it from beneath the surface, allowing it to flood over and form the oceans we know today.
Secret Mountain Range
There is an underwater mountain range called the Mid-ocean Ridge System which spans 18,000 kilometers. It is the longest mountain range on earth – 20 times longer than the Andes – and is 90% underwater. It was formed by the movement of tectonic plates, and has thousands of individual volcanoes constantly erupting. Approximately 20 eruptions occur each year, which forms about 2.5 km of new sea floor in the process.
Our Core Is a Miniature Sun
The Earth’s core is as hot as the sun – approximately 5,400 degrees Celsius/9,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This core is a lot bigger than you would think – it spans 1,516 miles across, and makes up 19% of earth’s total volume. Gravitational forces, radioactive decay, and even residual heat left over from earth’s formation are all contributing factors to the core’s heat.
The Earth is Round…Well, Kind of Round
Our planet is actually not a perfect sphere; rather, it is a bumpy, non-spherical globe. It’s more like a potato than an orange. Furthermore, the Earth’s rapid rotation on its axis pushes the middle portion of earth out in a bulge, causing it to look more like a smushed orange than a regular orange.
Humans Are Not the Dominant Species
Despite having a population of 7.4 billion, humans are far from the most numerous life form on the planet. Our biggest competitor? Microbes. In single teaspoon of soil, there are more organisms than there are humans on the planet. So if human life were to end in a cataclysmic event, it would likely not be the end of life on Earth – not by a long shot.
Mankind has ventured into space about 135 times, leaving debris behind from rockets each time. These rocket parts, combined with natural space debris and almost 2,300 satellites, means there is a lot of stuff whizzing around the Earth at all times. It is estimated that there are about 370,000 pieces of space garbage stuck in earth’s orbit, flying around at up to 22,000 miles per hour (rendering it very dangerous for humans to enter and exit the earth’s atmosphere).
The Amazon Rainforest occupies 2,100,000 miles of land. It is the size of all the other rainforests (located in Central America, Australia, Southern Asia, and Africa) combined. It is home to 10% of the known species in the world, and provides a whopping 20 PERCENT of all the world’s breathing oxygen.
You do not weigh the same in the North Pole as you weigh in Brazil. Why? Because the Earth actually has an uneven distribution of gravity. Certain places, such as the Poles, and a place called Hudson Bay (in Canada), experience less gravity; this is due to a combination of lower land mass, retreating glaciers, and magma below the surface. At the earth’s poles, and in Hudson Bay, you would weigh .5% more than you would weigh at the equator.
The Mysterious Ocean
Despite the affinity we have for the oceans, which make up 70% of the Earth’s surface, we know almost nothing about them. In fact, we actually know more about outer space. The reason for this is the oceans’ sheer size and depth; the deepest part of the ocean measures 35,623 feet – putting that in perspective: Mount Everest measures 29, 035 feet. Planes fly at an altitude of 35,000 feet. To measure the deepest ocean, you would need to stack 24.5 Empire State buildings on top of one another.
Only 5% of oceans have been explored. To date, we have discovered about 210,000 underwater species (including fish, fungi, plants, and microorganisms). That’s a whole lot, but it is estimated that there are still 20 million species left to discover underwater.