50 Fascinating Facts About the Earth
Ahhh, the earth. We do love it, don’t we? It provides us food, beauty and safety. But it also provides us some wild forms of entertainment. And the forms of entertainment that we’re talking about come by way of some crazy facts. Some of these you’re going to almost find difficult to believe, but we promise – these are verifiable facts. So enjoy the knowledge! You’re going to be surprised by the top 20 – that’s for sure.
50. The closest point to outer space on Earth isn’t Mt. Everest
Yes, it’s the tallest peak on Earth. But in terms of being as close to outer space as possible, Mt. Everest comes in second. Mt. Chimborazo in the Ecuadorian Andes is a 20,000-foot tall mountain – about 9,000 feet shorter than Everest. But because it is located much closer to the equator, and thus on the Earth’s bulge, it actually reaches closer to outer space.
49. The deepest hole ever dug into the Earth was over 40,000 feet deep
Good luck getting out of that one. In the 1970’s, during an international race for scientific information, Russia led a program with the intent of drilling through the Earth’s crust and reaching the mantle. The mantle sits anywhere from three to 25 miles below the Earth’s surface. In the span of nearly 20 years, the Russians were able to drill a hole 7.5 miles down. However, they were forced to stop when drillers reached much-higher-than-expected temperatures of 365 degrees Fahrenheit. They never reached the mantle. Oh and get this, the hole was only 9 inches wide.
48. Six countries make up almost ½ of the Earth’s land
Go big or go home. Russia (and Antarctica), Canada, China, United States, Brazil, and Australia are the six largest countries by land mass in the world. If you total up all the land inside of these six countries, it equates to 40 percent of the planet. That means that remaining 60 percent of the land is split among 189 countries.
47. Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing
Scientists and researchers don’t know exactly why the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, but they can say for certain that it is. The change in pace is happening at a decrease of 17 milliseconds every 100 years. Technically, this is lengthening our days. However, it will be about 140 million years until we reach the point where we have 25 hour days.
46. There are actually 365.24 days in a year
Have you ever wondered why we have a “leap year”? Our calendar adds an extra day once every four years because the amount of days in a year isn’t a clean 365. So, that extra day every February exists to account for the full day accumulated every four years!
45. The moon has moonquakes
Among the many scientific instruments left on the moon in order to continuously transmit data back to Earth were some seismometers. These are tools used to measure earthquake activity. After a few years of information were received and an ensuing very long gap in time, NASA determined in 2005 that the moon was seismically active. Some moonquakes that were registered on the moon measured a 5.5 on the Richter scale.
44. Coral Reef and its Residents
Coral Reefs house the most species per unit area of any of the planet’s ecosystems, similar to rainforests. While they are made up of tiny coral polyps, together with coral reefs are the largest living structures on Earth, with some visible even from space, according to NOAA.
43. Two-thirds of Earth’s freshwater is frozen
Freshwater only makes up about 1.7 percent of the Earth’s total water supply. But of that freshwater, nearly 70 percent of it is locked up in the ice caps at the two extreme ends of our planet. Which means that freshwater rivers and lakes account for about one-half percent of all water on the planet.
42. Greenland’s Population
Greenland boasts the least population density of any on Earth. Most of the settlements in Greenland are clustered on the coast, however, so this low population density is somewhat misleading.
41. Mauna Kea and Mount Everest have a dispute for tallest mountain
The battle for tallest mountain most typically is awarded to Mount Everest. At 29,029 feet above sea level, its peak is considered the tallest in the world. And that’s correct, it’s the tallest place a human can stand on Earth. But is it the tallest mountain? Mauna Kea in Hawaii stands 13,796 feet above sea level, but well over half of this volcanic mountain is located underwater. The total height of this mountain is 33,000 feet tall. So, you decide.
40. Dry Valleys in Antartica
Dry Valleys in Antarctica are the driest place on Earth. This place has seen no rainfall for 2 million years. This is an 1853 square miles region with no ice, snow or water.
39. It takes 8 minutes and 19 seconds for light to reach our planet from the sun
It’s all about the math, baby. Let’s break it down: we orbit the sun at a distance of roughly 93 million miles away. Light moves at about 186,000 miles per second. Math divided by math equals math and we’re left with eight minutes and 19 seconds for the sunlight to reach our planet. Next time the sun goes down, watch it until it completely disappears from the horizon and then counts how long until it’s dark around you. It’s scary how accurate that is.
38. Kepler 22-b
Scientists have found evidence of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars, including an alien planet called Kepler 22-b circling in the habitable zone of a star much like ours. We don’t know if any of these planets have life.
37. Tectonic Plates grow at the same rate as our fingernails
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the ocean, the largest mountain chain in the world, is formed by two tectonic plates that are shifting outwards. Those plates, which will eventually force our continents back together, are moving at a rate of a few inches per year. That is about the same pace as our fingernails. At that rate, a supercontinent will form in 250 million years.
36. The largest concentration of peregrine falcons is in New York City
With massive cities taking up many forests and open plains where birds thrive, some birds have been chased out of their habitat. But not the Peregrine Falcon. More Peregrine Falcons exist in the confines of New York City than in any other habitat on Earth. They feed on the seemingly innumerable amount of pigeons that populate the city.
35. The Unexplored
More than 95% of Earth’s ocean is still unexplored.
34. It would take 42 minutes to free fall through the center of the Earth to the other side
If there was a glass waterslide that went straight from America to the Indian Ocean (not China like many believe), and one decided to free fall through it, it would take less than 45 minutes to do so. There’s a whole bunch of factors involved that would complicate the issue, but that’s no fun to think about. You would reach a maximum speed of 17,895 mph, your body would flip over due to gravity at the Earth’s core and then you would have to hold on to something at the end of the tunnel to make sure you don’t fall back down and restart the process. But after all of that, you could get from one side to the other in 42 minutes.
33. Mawsynram, Meghalaya, India
Mawsynram in Meghalaya, India is the wettest place on land on Earth. It receives an average annual rainfall of 467 inches.
32. The Queen of England is legal owner of ⅙ of the Earth surface
Now, the Queen herself isn’t technically the owner, per se. The land is owned by ‘the Crown’ which is overseen by the Queen. The Crown lays claim to 16 nations – two of which being Canada and Australia. Take that plus smaller, yet still large, countries like New Zealand, Bahamas, Belize, and others and you’ve got yourself, one powerful landlord.
31. The Maldives
The Maldives is the flattest country in the world with an average highest above sea level of 7.87ft.
30. Asia covers 30% of all land on Earth
News flash: Asia is massive. The continent which spans more than 7,500 miles wide and is bordered by three of the world’s five oceans is home to roughly 30 percent of all land on Earth. What’s crazier is that within that 30 percent of the land, 60 percent of all humans on Earth live there.
29. The Nile
The Nile is the longest river on Earth that extends 4160 miles long from its source in Burundi to the Mediterranean Sea.
28. There are more living organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are humans on Earth
Six billion, just in case you forgot. Now, most of these organisms are millions upon millions of protozoa, single-celled organisms with animal-like qualities. These protozoa require the best microscopes in the world to be seen, but still, they exist – especially in good quality soil.
27. Karman Line
The boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space is known as the Karman Line. This boundary lies at a distance of 328,084 ft from Earth’s sea level. Anyone who goes beyond this line is considered an astronaut.
26. The Earth’s core is as hot as the Sun
Now, when you read this it might not sound too outlandish. But when you think that the center of our planet – our fragile, relatively tiny planet where an increase of 100 degrees of surface temperature would kill everyone and almost everything – the center of that planet is as hot as a star. Roughly 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact.
The name “Earth” comes from Old English and Old High Germanic words for “ground” or “soil.”
24. Earth is the only planet not named after a god
Earth is the only planet whose name didn’t come from Greek or Roman mythology. Mercury is the god of commerce, Venus is goddess of love and beauty, Mars is the god of war, Jupiter was the king of the gods, Saturn is the god of agriculture, Uranus is an ancient Greek deity of the heavens and Neptune is the god of the sea.
23. Earth is the densest planet in the solar system
Density is defined as the ratio between the mass of an object to the volume of that object. So even though Earth is only the fifth-largest planet in our solar system, it contains a crust, thick mantle, liquid outer core and solid inner core – which weigh immense amounts. Saturn is the only planet in our solar system that is less dense than water.
22. Earth is made of predominantly Iron, Oxygen, Silicon and Magnesium
Earth is the only planet we know about that is able to sustain life. For that to happen, there has to be a whole host of chemical compositions that are mixed just right within the Earth’s four layers. The crust is majority oxygen. The mantle is majority magnesium and iron. The outer core, which is liquid, is composed predominantly of a nickel-iron alloy and the inner core is almost exclusively iron. Each of these layers contains several chemicals like silicon, titanium, sodium, calcium, aluminum and many others.
21. Earth is not a sphere
Don’t listen to flat-earthers. And don’t listen to round-earthers, either. Earth is a geoid. And there is a small but important difference between a sphere and a geoid. The difference lies in our planet’s waistline. Because of gravitational pulls, Earth bulges out at the equator, which makes it a geoid.
20. Earth’s name comes from old English and German words ‘ertha’ meaning ‘ground’
While every culture has a different word for ‘Earth’ – the Dutch use ‘aarde’, the Portuguese use ‘terra’ and in Turkey, they say ‘dunya’. But all of these words, including ‘Earth’, have a direct translation from ‘soil’ or ‘ground’. The word earth is taken from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘erde’ which means ground.
19. Earth is the only planet in the solar system to have water in all three forms
Some other planets have liquid water. Some other planets have ice. Some other planets are made almost entirely of gas. But Earth is the only planet in our solar system where water can be found in all three of its natural states.
18. One-third of Earth’s surface is desert
Water makes up about 71 percent of this planet, meaning we live and breath on the other 29 percent. And over one-third of it is desert land. Now, let’s remember that the definition for a desert has nothing to do with heat and everything to do with rainfall. A desert is described as any place that receives less than 10 inches of precipitation per year. So, while the massive deserts like the Atacama and the Sahara make up a lot of that land mass, don’t forget about the ice caps. The entire continent of Antarctica is a desert – averaging 2 inches of precipitation per year.
17. Earth has much fewer impact craters than other planets
When a meteorite crashes into a planet or moon, an impact crater is formed. That’s what you see when you look at our moon and see circles dotted all over it. So, shouldn’t the Earth be full of impact craters, too? Yes, and no. Yes, because the Earth has been hit by meteorites over time, no doubt. But no, because unlike the moon, the Earth’s surface and the core is constantly changing and evolving. The land we walk on now has been subducted and recycled over time. The craters that were formed how-ever-many-million-years ago have disappeared from the Earth’s surface and the ones that are here now will disappear in years to come!
16. You are currently spinning through space at 1000 miles per hour
Thought you were sitting down and relaxing, huh? Not so much. In order for our planet to complete one rotation around its axis in 24 hours, the Earth must spin at roughly 1,000 miles per hour. This rotation is not felt, and it is seldom seen. One of the few ways that we can see a byproduct of this rotation is in our waterways. The Gulfstream which carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico across the Atlantic all the way to England is due, in part, to the massive speed at which the Earth rotates.
15. El Azizia, Libya is the world’s hottest spot
As with any record-holder, there’s going to be some drama for the top spot. From what has been measured, El Azizia in Libya is the hottest place on the Earth on record. A nearby weather station measured the temperature at El Azizia at 138 degrees Fahrenheit on September 13, 1922. However, many scientists agree that this isn’t actually the hottest place on Earth. Recently researches have deemed the Lut Desert in Iran as the hottest spot on Earth – saying that the ground temperature has reached over 150 degrees. That being said, the Lut Desert is so remote and barren than no measuring tools have been on site to record an official temperature.
14. Antarctica is world’s coldest spot
No debate here. Measured on August 10, 2010, in the East Antarctic Plateau of Antarctica, the temperature dipped to a chilly -136 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature was recorded in between two high points – Dome Argus and Dome Fuji – where cold wind funneled down and dropped the temperature to new lows. The coldest inhabited land is in nearby Siberia, where -90 degree days have happened twice on record.
13. Antarctica is the best place to find meteorites
Since the dawn of time, big rocks have been crashing into other big rocks. Deserts are the best places to find meteorites and of those deserts, Antarctica reigns supreme. The cold preserves the data of the rock and the lack of vegetation makes them easier to find than, say, in a forest. More meteorites have been found in Antarctica than anywhere else on Earth.
12. Earth’s magnetic pole is moving north
First and foremost, there is a difference between the magnetic North pole and the geographic North Pole. If you were to pull out a compass right now, it would point you toward the magnetic North Pole, not the geographical spot where the Earth’s axis exists. The magnetic North and South Pole are constantly changing – they move in loops of up to 50 miles per day. But the average magnetic North Pole location has moved over 685 miles in the last 150 years, at a pace of 25 miles per year. Scientists think it might be a sign that the magnetic North and South Pole are beginning to switch.
11. There are no black flowers on Earth
Of the myriad colors our Earth’s plants can produce, the pigmentation doesn’t exist to create a naturally black flower. Almost every other color in the color wheel can be found in the wild, but not black. In a laboratory, now that’s a different story. United States scientists took four years to create the first black plant, Black Velvet. It is a petunia that’s the only purpose is aesthetic.
10. You can float on the Dead Sea
The extremely high salt content means that the human body is completely buoyant. Just how salty is the Dead Sea? The waters of this lake have a salt content of roughly 8.6 times as high as that of the ocean.
9. Lightning flashes are hotter than the Sun
Five times hotter, to be precise. When lightning strikes, it heats up the air immediately surrounding it to 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit – roughly five times hotter than the Sun. When this happens, it causes the air particles around it to expand rapidly and then contract rapidly. The initial ‘CRACK’ of lightning is the noise made by the air molecules beginning to compress back to their normal distance apart. The ensuing rumble of thunder is the ongoing vibrations of the molecules contracting back to normal.
8. Tons of cosmic dust rain down on us every day
In the past 24 hours, as much as 100 tons of the interstellar dust has fallen through our atmosphere. The phrase ‘cosmic dust’ sounds magical, mythical even. But in reality, it is merely a collection of extremely fine, invisible minerals floating through space. Typically, it is composed of sodium, and the more accurate average estimation is 60 tons per day – but scientists believe it could be as much as 100 tons of cosmic dust that rain down on us every single day.
7. All land used to be one massive continent
Once upon a time, about 300 million years ago, there weren’t seven continents and five oceans. Rather, there was one, giant landmass is known as a supercontinent called Pangaea. The plates that our land sits on are constantly converging and diverging. This has happened since Earth has been here.
6. Amazonian Rainforests make their own rain
The trees in the Amazon are so abundant and so massive that during their chemical process of photosynthesis, they actually produce rain on their own. During photosynthesis, transpiration occurs where plant roots draw up moisture through the ground and it evaporates into the atmosphere above. But there are so many trees in the forest that all this evaporated water creates a shift in wind patterns that bring in more rainfall from the Atlantic Ocean, sooner. And thus, creating a vicious cycle.
5. Our atmosphere extends 6,200 miles
Ever wonder how far until you get to space? Well now you know, 6,200 miles is the distance to leave Earth’s atmosphere and enter outer space.
4. 1.3 million Earths could fit inside the sun
I’m going to do you a favor and save you the arithmetic on this one. The equation is daunting and involves numbers to the eighteenth power. The sun takes up 99.86 percent of the mass of the solar system. The planets which are way bigger than ours – Saturn, Jupiter – take up just about all of the rest of that .14 percent. That leaves little old Earth hanging in the balance.
3. The moon isn’t the only satellite in Earth’s orbit
There are other objects in orbit around Earth. The most notable was discovered in April of 2016 and is referred to as 2016 HO3. Scientists have deemed it too far away from Earth to be considered a true satellite, but nonetheless, it does orbit around the Earth, at least periodically.
2. Earth is only place in the solar system where a total solar eclipse can happen
Beat that, Jupiter. A total solar eclipse is only present when the angular size of the sun matches up perfectly with the angular size of an object that passes in front of it – say, a moon. The key here is that the corona of the sun is still visible around the edges of the eclipse in a total solar eclipse. So either the moons of other planets are too small when it passes through sun’s visage which creates a transit, or they are too big and block out the entire light of the sun. Either way, that’s one more point for Planet Earth.
1. If the moon didn’t exist, our days would only be 6 hours long
In addition to numerous other life-altering effects that would take place if the moon were to magically disappear, the most readily noticeable would be the length of days. Because of the gravitational pull and tidal relation between the moon and Earth, the rotation of our planet is much slower than if the moon were not there. Without it, scientists estimate our days could be between six to eight hours long.