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Earth


Earth

If you were looking at Earth through a telescope, this is probably what it would look like. We would be a blue ball with some white highlights. You see the continent of Africa in this picture, with Saudi Arabia at the top and the island of Madagascar to the right. The swirling cloud patterns show us that the weather on Earth is constantly changing, including a very large storm or hurricane at the bottom right of the picture.

Our home planet is the third planet out from the Sun, located in between Venus and Mars. The orbit, or path we follow around the Sun is nearly a perfect circle. The closest we come to the Sun is a little over 91 million miles, and the furthest away we get is a little less than 94 million miles. Our average distance from the Sun is about 93 million miles. By the way, our average distance from the Sun is called an astronomical unit (or a.u.).

Our home planet is a little over 7,600 miles in diameter, or about 24,000 miles around the equator. On a size basis, we are right in the middle of our planetary family, with four planets, Pluto, Mercury, Venus and Mars, being smaller, and four planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, being larger.

Moon

We only have one Moon and it has been an important part of our culture, literature and mythology since time began. The Moon is about one-fourth the size of Earth, with a diameter of a little over 2,000 miles. Earth is the only planet in the solar system that has solar eclipses, which happen when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun.

Earth is the only planet that does not have a name from either Greek or Roman mythology. The name that most of the people on Earth use for our home planet comes from German/English roots.

Earth has a core, or center, that is solid and made up of mostly of iron. The large amount of iron in our planet is what creates the magnetic field which compasses are based on to roughly determine North.

On top of the solid core is a very thick layer of molten, or almost liquid, rock. This layer is called the "mantle" and is responsible for the many eruptions of volcanoes that happened in the past and are continuing to happen now.

The solid layer, or crust, that makes up the continents and the oceans is actually very thin, averaging less than thirty miles thick. The continents actually float around on this top layer, which is explained in Plate Tectonics of the geology of our planet.

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