Well, we’ve finally made it! After all that galactic traveling, we’re stopping by Mother Earth before scooting on to Venus. While we’re here, we might as well dish out some info about this beautiful planet, right?
An Ungodly Naming
As we’ve gone through the solar system, chances are you noticed the trend when it comes to their names. They’re pretty much all named after a Roman or Grecian god. All of them, of course, except for Earth. Our little planet’s moniker is believed to stem from the Indo-European “er”, with routes in the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon “erde” and “erda”, along with the proto-Germanic root of “erpo”. In Germanic paganism, Earth was a goddess that paralleled the Roman Terra and Grecian Gaia, so while it may not have been directly named after a god or goddess, it still can be connected to one.
Is Earth Really That Unique?
Quite often we hear about how different Earth is when compared to other planets in the Milky Way, but is Earth really all that unique? In reality, there have been discoveries of other planets many, many lightyears away of planets that are quite similar to our precious blue sphere. In September of 2010, a planet known as Planet G, or Gliese 581g, in the Gliese 581 system was located. Planet G is said to be able to support life, similar to that found on Earth. Unfortunately, current technologies limit knowledge on just how similar to Earth Planet G really is, but the potential is there.
How Deep Does it Go?
Holes have popped up all over the Earth’s surface and some have even been at the behest of Russian scientific experiments – but there’s one natural point that goes far beyond any known cave, valley, or canyon. The Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, just east of the Mariana Islands, reaches a depth of 36,070 feet or 10,994 meters below sea level. Expeditions in 1960 and 2012 were the only successful attempts at reaching the bottom of the trench and, no, neither found the illusive megalodon. On land, the deepest point is an artificial hole started in the 1970s. After 19 years of attempts and drilling, the Kola Superdeep Borehole reached a depth of 40,230 feet or 12,262 meters.
Giant Mushrooms of Earth
Prior to the introduction of intelligent humanoid life, Earth was known for its “larger than life” inhabitants. Among the more sizable things that once lived on the Earth’s surface were what scientists believed to be giant mushrooms. Even more intriguing than the thought of Earth being coated with fungi up to 24 feet or 8 meters high is that these spores actually towered over what we consider “normal” plant life. Fossils of Prototaxites date back to over 350 million years ago, during a time when, quite ironically, life on Earth was still pretty small scale. Though popular theory pegs these fossils as once being fungus, there are still those unsure of the organism’s true lineage.
What’s Visible from Space?
We’ve done a great deal to this planet - sometimes creating works of beauty, but often times showcasing the worst that humans can dish out - but we know you’re wondering just how much of it is actually visible from space? Technically, thinking in the general definition of what we consider “space,” you won’t be able to distinguish anything; but cross over into low-orbit Earth, and there are a few structures you can sneak a peek at, such as The Great Pyramids of Giza and the 64,000 acres in southeastern Spain known as the Greenhouses of Almeria. Really, though, outside of being able to identify cities, larger bridges here and there and lots of smog, you won’t be able to play much of a game of “I Spy.”
The Many Quakes of Earth
We’re no strangers to hearing about quakes all over the globe. From the calmer trembling of the Earth’s crust to the far more devastating quakes, as a whole we probably knowingly experience several dozen a year. According to the National Earthquake Information Center, what we’re feeling is just the tip of the iceberg – and the United States Geological Survey thinks it’s even more drastic than the NEIC states. According to the NEIC, approximately 50 earthquakes a day are recorded, or around 18,000 a year. The USGS claims that there are several million each year, with so many going undetected either because they’re in remote areas or due to their very small magnitudes.
Earth’s Lonely Satellite
As you’ll come to find in our last stops on the express train to knowledge-town, Earth certainly doesn’t have the fewest satellites, but that doesn’t make our moon any less lonely, accompanied only by over 12,000 near-Earth objects. Thought to be about 4.5 billion years old – not much younger than Earth itself - the Moon is approximately 238,855 miles or 384,499 kilometers away and is directly responsible for the tides on Earth. Though around 27% the size of Earth, the Moon is actually the 5th largest natural satellite in the solar system, only falling behind Jupiter’s Ganymede, Callisto, and Io and Saturn’s Titan.
Distance from the Sun
Being only the 3rd rock from the sun, one would think Earth is pretty close to that giant, glowing, celestial orb… right? Well, we all haven’t melted to death, so we’re not really that close. In fact, at our closest, we’re a hefty 92.95 million miles or 149.6 million kilometers away from the sun. There’s also quite a bit of a leap from Earth to the next farthest planet of Mars, at its closest, is an additional 36 million miles or 57 million kilometers away.
A Real Earth Day
You may assume you’ve been spending your life enjoying full 24-hour days here on Earth, but you know what they say about assuming. In actuality, your days fall short of 24-hours, with a full rotation occurring within 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. If you think about it, our current method of daily cycling adds about 1,460 minutes a year. So, who’s to blame for the additional time each day? The 24-hour clock can be traced back to ancient Egypt, which divided the day into 10 hours of day, 12 hours of night, with one hour added at twilight and one at the end of the day.
1.3 Million Earths
Think you know how big Earth is? If you guessed about 3,959 miles or 6,371 kilometers in radius, you’re right; but, relative to some of our outer space neighbors, what does that mean? Of the 9 commonly recognized planets, our home planet is 5th largest, only falling behind the massive Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; but let’s look at El Sol for another comparison. It would take about 1.3 million Earths mushed together to recreate the size of the sun, which is approximately 108 times larger than Earth itself.