Every day, scientists are discovering new things about our planet. While NASA has satellites and probes millions of light years away to study other planets, there’s still a lot we do not know about the very planet we inhabit. With latest technological advances, scientists are able to better understand and uncover things that were previously not known to mankind. For instance, we call Earth the blue marble or the blue planet, but scientists believe that it was not always blue. Here, we have gathered a list of some weird and interesting facts about our planet that most people are not aware of.
1. The Moon could have been a part of the Earth and somehow was separated from the Earth early in the history of the solar system.
Many scientists believe that the Moon could have been a part of the Earth. According to The Fission Theory, the Moon’s composition resembles that of the Earth’s mantle and a rapidly spinning Earth could have cast off the Moon from its outer layers. The theory was first proposed in 1975 by scientists, Dr. William K. Hartmann and Dr. Donald R. Davis. According to their research, the Moon has exactly the same oxygen isotope composition as the Earth, whereas Mars rocks and meteorites from other parts of the solar system have different oxygen isotope compositions. The scientists theorized that the Moon was formed when a big object collided with Earth, which resulted in the splitting off of a small piece of Earth that later became its satellite. (source 1, 2)
2. The Earth’s atmosphere extends far beyond the Moon. According to scientists, the outermost part of Earth’s atmosphere – called the geocorona – extends outward almost twice as far as the moon’s orbit.
For decades, it was taught and believed that the Earth’s atmosphere ends in exosphere; which is the outermost layer of the Earth’s atmosphere that extends all the way up to 6,213 miles or 10,000 kms. In 2019, however, the ESA, European Space Agency, revealed that the outermost part of Earth’s atmosphere is actually called the geocorona, which extends beyond the moon’s orbit. Until now, scientists were unaware of the existence of geocorona, a cloud of hydrogen atoms.
A UV camera shows the color enhancement of an ultraviolet photograph of the geocorona, a halo of low density hydrogen around the Earth. The image on the left was acquired by the first telescope on the moon, placed by Apollo 16 astronauts in 1972. In the image, the geocorona surrounding Earth is clearly visible. While the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (384,600 km), Earth’s geocorona extends beyond this distance. The study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics is groundbreaking since scientists now know that planets with hydrogen in their atmospheric outer reaches often have water vapor closer to their surfaces. (source)
3. According to a recent study, half of Earth’s water may have come from ancient asteroid collisions.
While an asteroid striking Earth is considered a catastrophic event, scientists believe that it can also help life flourish. According to a recent study, a peanut-shaped asteroid called Itokawa, was harboring water. So, scientists believe that similar objects in the past could have traveled millions of miles and landed on Earth, thus seeding the early Earth with life-sustaining water. In 2000, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, sent the Hayabusa probe to the asteroid Itokawa.
The aim was to collect samples from a traveling space rock and bring them back to Earth. Although the probe was unable to collect rock samples, it did manage to collect dust particles, which were safely transported back to Earth. A close inspection of the samples revealed that the S-type (non-metallic) asteroid had similar levels of isotopes to those you would find in rocks on Earth. Another study, published in the journal Science Advances, also supports the fact that these rocky visitors could have delivered up to half of Earth’s water, a long, long time ago. (source 1, 2)
4. The difference in Earth’s mass causes fluctuations in gravity in different places on Earth.
It is a common misconception that the Earth’s gravity is the same everywhere. Since the Earth is not perfectly spherical or uniformly dense, gravity is weaker at the equator due to centrifugal forces produced by the planet’s rotation. The difference in mass also causes fluctuations in gravity, which is why the strength of gravity varies around the planet. One such mystery was surrounding Canada’s Hudson Bay, where gravity was lower than other places on Earth. UFO enthusiasts claimed that there was some supernatural power existing in the area, causing the fluctuations in gravity.
Recent studies however, shows us that the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered much of present-day Canada and the northern United States, was so large that it dented the earth 10,000 years ago, literally bending gravity. Other studies also show that convection in the Earth’s mantle, a layer of hot, flowing rock beneath the crust, also plays a significant role in the gravitational fluctuations. (source 1, 2)
5. There’s enough gold buried deep within the Earth’s core to cover the entire land surface of the planet with a 19 inch layer.
For centuries, mankind has been mining precious metals such as gold from underneath the surface of our Earth. While these activities might have depleted some minerals around the world, gold is something that won’t be depleted anytime soon. Scientists recently discovered that the Earth indeed has enormous amounts of these deposits, especially those sitting close to the earth’s core. According to some estimates, there is enough gold at the core of the Earth to cover the surface of the planet in a 19-inch thick layer, but it’s located 1,800 miles below our feet and at many thousands of degrees. Professor Bernard Wood, a geologist from Macquarie University in Sydney, came up with the calculations based on research published in a 2006 issue of the journal Nature. (source)
6. According to a new study, early Earth was purple rather than green.
If you step outside today, you will see green everywhere. However, early Earth had a purple tinge, rather than green, according to authors behind this new NASA-funded research. In the study, which was published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, researchers Shiladitya DasSarma and Edward Schwieterman explain that a molecule, called retinal, once dominated the Earth before chlorophyll. The retinal gave Earth a purple tinge instead of a green one.
Chlorophyll is the pigment that is a key part of photosynthesis, and also gives our plants and leaves their green color. However, early Earth was dominated by retinal, according to the “Purple Earth” hypothesis. Retinal pigments absorb green and yellow light and reflect red and blue light. This means that whatever organism was dependent on retinal appeared purple. The days of retinal came to an end when it was replaced by chlorophyll. (source)
7. Every day, the Earth is leaking oxygen from its atmosphere and scientists are not sure why.
It is estimated that every day, around 90 tons of materials are being leaked from the Earth’s atmosphere out into space. Although space agencies such as the ESA have been studying the phenomenon, scientists are still unsure of why this happens. Given the fact that the Earth’s atmosphere is gigantic, 90 tons per day is a comparatively small amount and we do not have to worry about running out of oxygen anytime soon. However, understanding and finding the why’s and how’s is extremely important since it could cause our planet to become uninhabitable in the far future. (source)
8. Sand from the Sahara is blown by the wind all the way to the Amazon, recharging its minerals. The desert literally fertilizes the rainforest every year.
The Sahara is the largest hot desert on the planet, which covers 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers). Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Red Sea on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the north and the Sahel Savannah on the south, the Sahara desert plays a key role in sustaining life in the Amazon. Every year, on average, 182 million tons of dust that is finer than the thickness of hair is lifted up from Africa and about 27 million tons is deposited in the Amazon basin. The Saharan dust contains iron and phosphorus, which helps life thrive in the Amazon and is also responsible for keeping it green. (source)
9. It’s unclear as to how Earth got its name.
Earth, the third planet from the sun after Mercury and Venus, is the only known planet capable of sustaining life. Every language has a name for planet Earth. For instance, in Portuguese, the Earth is known as “terra,” the Germans call it “erde”, “aarde” by the Dutch, and “dünya” in Turkey. However, the modern name, Earth, is not as old as the other names and is believed to be less than 1,000 years old. It is also the only planet not named after a Greek or Roman god or goddess. The only viable explanation as to how the Earth got its name is from the Anglo-Saxons, who elected to name the earth “erda”. The German correspondent of the word is “erde”, and the Old English correspondent of the word “erde” was “ertha” or “eor(th)e. (source)
10. The oceans hold more than $771 trillion worth of gold.
While it’s certainly not easy to extract the gold, scientists estimate that the oceans of the world contain approximately 20 million tons of gold. According to Forbes, the concentration lies on the order of parts per trillion, making it extremely difficult to get. Currently, there are no cost-effective methods to extract the gold from seawater. At the same time, there are historic shipwrecks with cargoes of platinum ingots, gold, and silver estimated at $4.5 billion in total. (source)