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General Characteristics and Major Division of the Earth

Earth, our home, is the third planet from the sun. It is the only planet known to have an
atmosphere containing free oxygen, oceans of liquid water on its surface, and, of course, life.
Earth is spherical in shape. Just as the Sun and Moon appear as spheres, so too is the
Earth spherical in shape. To people on Earth, the planet appears to be generally flat (not
counting for hills and valleys), but in reality the surface of the Earth has a slight curve. This can
be noticed when looking out on a large lake or the ocean and seeing a ship come up along the
horizon. Its shape is actually slightly flattened at the poles.
Size
The diameter of the Earth at the equator is 12,756 km (7,926 miles), and its
circumference or distance around the Earth at the equator is 40,075 km (24,901 miles).
Composition
The composition of the Earth consists of the solid and liquid portion and the atmosphere or
gaseous portion. Oxygen is chemically combined with many substances to produce liquid and
solid compounds. Although water (H2O) is a dominant compound on Earth, Hydrogen is not
listed above because of its small mass. Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) is sand, and that compound makes
up a large portion of the Earth's mass. Much of the Iron is in the Earth's core and is responsible
for the Earth's magnetic field.
Atmosphere
Although most people think air is mainly Oxygen, the atmosphere of the Earth actually consists
of 79% Nitrogen (N2), 20% Oxygen (O2) and 1% of other gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
Force fields
The Earth has two major force fields: gravity and magnetism.
Gravity
Gravity is the force at a distance that attracts objects of mass toward each other. The force of
gravity from the Earth holds down our atmosphere, oceans and everything else.
Orbital characteristics
Earth spins on an imaginary line called an axis that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole,
while also orbiting the sun. It takes Earth 23.439 hours to complete a rotation on its axis, and
roughly 365.26 days to complete an orbit around the sun.
Earth's axis of rotation is tilted in relation to the ecliptic plane, an imaginary surface through
Earth's orbit around the sun. This means the northern and southern hemispheres will
sometimes point toward or away from the sun depending on the time of year, varying the
amount of light they receive and causing the seasons.
Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle, but is rather an oval-shaped ellipse, like that of the orbits of
all the other planets. Earth is a bit closer to the sun in early January and farther away in July,
although this variation has a much smaller effect than the heating and cooling caused by the tilt
of Earth's axis. Earth happens to lie within the so-called "Goldilocks zone" around its star, where
temperatures are just right to maintain liquid water on its surface.
Orbit & rotation
Some statistics about Earth, according to NASA:
Average distance from the sun: 92,956,050 miles (149,598,262 km)
Perihelion (closest approach to the sun): 91,402,640 miles (147,098,291 km)
Aphelion (farthest distance from the sun): 94,509,460 miles (152,098,233 km)
Length of solar day (single rotation on its axis): 23.934 hours
Length of year (single revolution around the sun): 365.26 days
Equatorial inclination to orbit: 23.4393 degrees
Earth's moon
Earth's moon is 2,159 miles (3,474 km) wide, about one-fourth of Earth's diameter. Earth
has one moon, while Mercury and Venus have none and all the other planets in our solar
system have two or more.
Division of the Earth
Earth is divided yet connected. Lithosphere, Hydrosphere and the atmosphere are the
major division of the Earth.
Lithosphere is the solid rocky crust covering entire planet. This crust is inorganic and is
composed of minerals. Earth’s lithosphere includes the crust and the uppermost mantle, which
constitute the hard and rigid outer layer of the earth. It is broken into huge sections called
tectonic plates. The crust, mantle and the core are the earth’s interior.
Hydrosphere is made up of all the water on earth. 97% salty and in the ocean, 2% frozen
in glaciers and polar ice caps and 1% freshwater and ground water. The hydrosphere covers
about 70% of the surface of the earth and is the home for many plants and animals.
Atmosphere is the body of air which surrounds our planet. Most of our atmosphere is
located close to the earth’s surface where it is most dense. The atmosphere is a mixture of
nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%) and the other gases (1%) that surround earth. It is divided into
five layers. These are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and
exosphere.
Over the past century, greenhouse gases and other air pollutants released into the
atmosphere have been causing big changes.