Words by: Ruth Ong Art by: Jessie Liu
What’s up slackers, welcome back to school. Today we’re learning about the parent that didn’t emotionally scar you: Mother Earth.
With climate change deniers and flat-earthers still sprouting up, we thought it was time for a refresher on the planet we call home.
Until Elon Musk works out the kinks of SpaceX, Earth is the only planet we know of inhabited by living things. The name “earth” originates from the old Germanic word meaning “the ground”. A true indie icon, Earth is the only planet in our solar system not named after a Greek or Roman deity. Earth is also the only planet with liquid water on the surface, which makes it an ideal home for living creatures.
Mama Earth is the fifth largest planet in the solar system and third in line from the Sun. Our Earth has seven siblings in the solar system family, including Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and everybody’s favourite: Uranus. While ‘90s kids will remember Pluto as the ninth planet, it was controversially cancelled in 2006 and reclassified as a dwarf planet.
Earth spins on her axis, taking around 24 hours to complete a full rotation. A talented multitasker, she also spends her time journeying around the Sun. Earth shuffles around the Sun in 365.25 days, which is pretty close to the 365 days we call a year. To make up for the missing quarter, a cheeky day is added to our annual calendar every four years, known as a leap year.
Like onions and ogres, Earth also has layers — four to be exact. The inner core at the planet’s centre is followed by an outer core, mantle and crust. The inner core is solid, spherical and steamy, with a temperature as high as 5,400 degrees Celsius. Around it is the aptly named outer core — a band of fluid iron and nickel around 2,300 kilometres thick. A gooey mantle of molten rock follows the outer core, which is protected by Earth’s outermost layer: the crust. Earth’s crust and mantle are broken up into large plates which constantly bump and grind against each other. This movement of plates is what causes earthquakes to rumble and volcanoes to form.
Earth’s atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen and oxygen, with a sprinkle of other gases including carbon dioxide. The atmosphere is what regulates temperature on Earth, allows us to breathe, and protects us against harmful radiation from the Sun. Ultimately, Earth’s ability to support and sustain living creatures is what makes it so unique.
And that concludes today’s class on planet Earth. Make sure to treat her with love and respect, just as your Mother would like.