Earth is our home planet. Scientists believe Earth and its moon formed around the same time as the rest of the solar system. They think that was about 4.5 billion years ago. Earth is the fifth-largest planet in the solar system. Its diameter is about 8,000 miles. And Earth is the third-closest planet to the sun. Its average distance from the sun is about 93 million miles. Only Mercury and Venus are closer.
Earth has been called the "Goldilocks planet." In the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," a little girl named Goldilocks liked everything just right. Her porridge couldn't be too hot or too cold. And her bed couldn't be too hard or too soft. On Earth, everything is just right for life to exist. It's warm, but not too warm. And it has water, but not too much water.
Earth is the only planet known to have large amounts of liquid water. Liquid water is essential for life. Earth is the only planet where life is known to exist.
What Does Earth Look Like?
From space, Earth looks like a blue marble with white swirls and areas of brown, yellow, green and white. The blue is water, which covers about 71 percent of Earth's surface. The white swirls are clouds. The areas of brown, yellow and green are land. And the areas of white are ice and snow.
The equator is an imaginary circle that divides Earth into two halves. The northern half is called the Northern Hemisphere. The southern half is called the Southern Hemisphere. The northernmost point on Earth is called the North Pole. The southernmost point on Earth is called the South Pole.
What Are Earth's Different Parts?
Earth consists of land, air, water and life. The land contains mountains, valleys and flat areas. The air is made up of different gases, mainly nitrogen and oxygen. The water includes oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, rain, snow and ice. Life consists of people, animals and plants. There are millions of species, or kinds of life, on Earth. Their sizes range from very tiny to very large.
Below Earth's surface are layers of rock and metal. Temperatures increase with depth, all the way to about 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit at Earth's inner core.
Earth's parts once were seen as largely separate from each other. But now they are viewed together as the "Earth system." Each part connects to and affects each of the other parts. For example:
Clouds in the air drop rain and snow on land.
Water gives life to plants and animals.
Volcanoes on land send gas and dust into the air.
People breathe air and drink water.
Earth system science is the study of interactions between and among Earth's different parts.
How Does Earth Move?
Earth orbits the sun once every 365 days, or one year. The shape of its orbit is not quite a perfect circle. It's more like an oval, which causes Earth's distance from the sun to vary during the year. Earth is nearest the sun, or at "perihelion," in January when it's about 91 million miles away. Earth is farthest from the sun, or at "aphelion," in July when it's about 95 million miles away.
At the equator, Earth spins at just over 1,000 miles per hour. Earth makes a full spin around its axis once every 24 hours, or one day. The axis is an imaginary line through the center of the planet from the North Pole to the South Pole. Rather than straight up and down, Earth's axis is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees.