Like an exceptional lifeboat drifting through the universe, our Earth is a strange and wonderful place. From its majestic Himalayan mountains to the black fathoms of the Mariana Trench, from the gurgling geysers of Yellowstone to the empty cold heart of Antarctica, it’s full of odd and captivating places. Each varying ecosystem is driven by many of the same geologic forces and weather principles that affect every corner of the planet. But what do you really know about the basis facts of Earth science?
The planet’s composition alone is very different from others in the Milky Way galaxy and even in our own solar system. The fundamental building blocks of the Blue Planet affect everything from our atmosphere, to the amount of solar radiation we experience, and the makeup of the very air we breathe. Change just a bit of this formula and, suddenly, our safe haven in the stars would be very inhospitable. What do you recall about the environmental conditions that result from our planet’s various cycles?
The Earth is not an unchanging mass of rock. Driven by heat, friction, gravity, erosion and the interplay of countless other dynamic factors, the planet is virtually a lifeform unto itself. Wade into the salty waters of this amazing Earth science quiz now!
Earth is the "third rock from the sun." And we don't really want to be any closer, because if we were, we'd fry.
Water, glorious water, covers the vast majority of Earth's surface. And the bulk of that water is salty, meaning we can't drink it without processing plants.
So far as we know, Earth is the only planet in the solar system -- and the entire universe -- to contain life. But many scientists believe it's only a matter of time before we find life on other planets.
Chile's Atacama Desert is an extreme place, the driest area on Earth. In some areas of this region, humans have never once recorded precipitation of any kind.
We'll never run out of iron on Earth. That element makes up about 32% of the planet. The vast majority of that iron is very deep, near the Earth's center.
There is no solid ground under the North Pole. There's nothing there but sea ice floating on water, a dark and mysterious place untouched by sunlight.
The oceans are incredibly vast. Not only do they cover 70% of the planet, but they're deep -- at least 2.5 miles deep.
In 1922, a weather station in El Azizia, Libya, recorded the hottest temperature ever. It was 136 degrees Fahrenheit. But hey, it was dry heat.
Because the oceans are so deep, they logically take up much of the space that would otherwise be consumed by crust. That's where you find the crust at thinnest, in some places only three miles thick.
The Pacific Ocean is home to the infamous Ring of Fire, an area of incredible tectonic and volcanic activity. Roughly 90% of the world's earthquakes happen in this sprawling area.
You might think that oxygen is the most prevalent gas near the ground. But it's actually nitrogen that makes up nearly 80% of air near terra firma.
The crust is the outermost layer of the Earth's composition. Just below the crust is the mantle, and below that, the outer core.
In 1970, the USSR started drilling to see how far it could get into the Earth's surface. After 20 years the Kola Superdeep Borehole was complete … and it went 7.5 miles down.
Yellowstone is vast wilderness. It's also a bubbling cauldron. It's a massive volcano, and one that could eventually erupt again.
The very inner core of the Earth is solid, not molten lava or gooey caramel goodness. It is mostly iron-nickel alloy, a material that makes up many planetary cores.
America's Great Lakes are truly great, a massive repository of freshwater. They contain about 20% of Earth's surface freshwater and have a surface area of more than 95,000 square miles.
Our Earth is not a perfect sphere. Instead, it's a slightly flattened sphere -- the exact term is oblate spheroid, and we promise that's not actually a scary medical term.
Plants suck in a lot of carbon dioxide and expel oxygen. That oxygen is exactly what humans and countless other creature need for survival.
Much of it is frozen in time and place … in Antarctica. That's where about 70% of our planet's freshwater is located, suspended in ice.
The Big Bang started it all. And as celestial bodies began to collide and form in the aftermath, Earth formed, too -- about 4.5 billion years ago.
Earth's atmosphere is densest within the first few miles. But that atmosphere extends for an incredible distance -- 10,000 km, or more than 6,200 miles.
Our universe is cluttered with countless meteoroids (most the size of pebbles) zipping around to and fro. The vast majority of those meteoroids burn up and fragment into harmless pieces thanks to our protective atmosphere.
In 1960, scientists recorded the most powerful earthquake ever. It's called the "Great Chilean Earthquake," and it had an incredible magnitude of 9.5.
The molten outer core of Earth's depths is made of iron. And that iron helps to generate a magnetic field around Earth … and that field keeps much of the sun's radiation from striking the planet's surface.
Would you like to go on a one-way vacation to the glorious ball of fire in the sky? Good luck -- it's 93 million miles away.
Scientists generally agreed that there are seven major tectonic plates. As these plates slowly collide they create mountains; as they drift away, valleys and oceans form.
Earth's rotational spin is (thankfully) imperceptible to us as we stand on the surface. Near the equator, the planet's spin is speediest, at around 1,000 MPH.
Most of Earth's tectonic plates are tortoises … Australia's is a jackrabbit. It moves so fast that engineers and mapmakers have to account for its high speed. Since 1994 alone, the plate has drifted more than five feet.
A huge portion -- about a third -- of Earth's freshwater is underground. Major stores of freshwater are called aquifers.
Saturn, that greedy ring-grabber, got all of the rings. Earth has no rings, not even faint ones.
In most places, the crust forms a solid layer. But in a few areas, like the Pacific's Ring of Fire, the mantle pushes through … and that's where volcanic eruptions occur.
Slow but steady is the key for tectonic plates. These gigantic features of Earth's crust move about as fast (or slow) as your fingernails grow.
The northern and southern lights -- the aurorae -- are a result of Earth's magnetic field. They appear when solar winds smash into air near our planet's magnetic poles.
The inner core, resting in the molten outer core, spins at a different speed than the rest of the planet. Scientists think this what causes our planet's magnetic field.
By weight, oxygen makes up nearly half of Earth's crust. But don’t go trying to inhale your garden soil anytime soon, as that oxygen is intermingled with all sorts of other materials.