Our planet is pretty amazing and unique. It’s the only planet in our solar system that has life, as far as we know, and it’s also the prettiest. (We may be biased here, but you should always be biased towards your mother’s beauty.) There’s always something new to learn and discover about this living rock hurling through space that we all share, so here are 25 Shocking Facts You Never Knew About Earth!
Most people know that Earth is the only planet in our Solar System with an atmosphere that readily supports life (oxygen & water). What most people don't realize is that Earth is one of only four terrestrial planets (meaning it's rocky at the surface). Venus, Mars and Mercury are the other three.
Every 100 years the Earth's orbit spins approximately 2 milliseconds slower. We're slowing down.
Surprisingly, we haven't explored much of Earth. About 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by water, and we've barely explored the oceans. In fact, less than 10% (some say at little as 5%) of the oceans have been explored. Over 200,000 marine species have been identified in the 10% that's been explored, so just imagine what's left down there that we have no idea about.
Check out more about Earth’s oceans in 25 Surprising Things You Might Not Know About Earth’s Oceans.
Despite most of the Earth's surface being covered in water, 68% of the fresh water on Earth is permanently frozen as ice caps and glaciers.
The Earth isn't perfectly round. It's slightly football shaped due to it's constant spinning. So despite the perfect sphere we so often see depicted, it's actually a little squished.
Mount Everest isn't technically the highest point on Earth. Oops. Since the Earth isn't perfectly round, anything along the equator is slightly "higher" or closer to space than objects further from the equator. So Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is over 9,000 feet "shorter" than Everest when measuring by feet from Sea Level. However, due to the "bump" of the Equator, its top is actually about a mile and a half further from the center of the Earth than the top of Everest.
There are no true black flowers. The planet just doesn't grow them. They're all very deep shades of purple or red, some so much so that our eyes perceive them as black, but they aren't true black.
The largest Earthquake ever recorded happened on May 22nd, 1960 in southern Chile near Valdivia. It's referred to as the "Great Chilean Earthquake," coming in at a magnitude of 9.5.
A Great Bristlecone Pine in California is thought to be the oldest living organism on Earth at an estimated 5,067 years old. It has no name. More well known, but younger, is the named tree of the same species named Methuselah, which is 4,850 years old.
Tides exist because of the Moon. No, really. The moon's orbit controls sea levels, which results in...tides. Moonquakes - like Earthquakes, but on the moon! - also can affect the tides. No moon, no tides. So think twice before you threaten to steal or blow up our dear Luna, okay?
The largest mountain range and the deepest valley are both under the ocean. The Mariana Trench is seven miles deep - that's seven miles BELOW the ocean floor, kids - and three people have been to the bottom of it. Despite the insane pressure of all that water, things still live down there.
Yet despite these highest highs and lowest lows, the Earth is pretty smooth. Considering how big it is - 24,901 mi circumference - all those mountain and canyons, when taken into account, 1/5000th of the total circumference. Which means if the Earth was small enough to hold, it would seem as smooth as a bowling ball.
Antarctica is one of the best places to find meteorites. This isn't because it gets more, but rather because they're pretty easy to find there, due to the lack of vegetation and lots of snow. More Metorites have been found in Antarctica than anywhere else.
Were all that ice in Antarctica to melt, sea levels would rise 200ft across the Earth. For reference, the highest point in all of Florida is only 312ft above sea level.
The magnetic poles of Earth are moving. They have moved before. They will move again. Eventually they will be fully switched from when they started, and then move back. It's not the end of the world.
There are five main layers to the Earth's atmosphere -Exosphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere, Stratosphere & Troposphere. The higher you go, the thinner it gets - so it's the most dense in the lowest layer, the troposphere, which is where weather happens.
Learn more about the Earth’s atmosphere in our list of 25 Facts About The Earth’s Atmosphere That Are Truly Majestic.
Earth has boiling rivers. In the Peruvian rainforest, a legit shaman cares for and protects the sacred healing site of Mayantuyacu. Mayantuyacu has a 4 mile river named Shanay-timpishka whose temperatures reach up to 196 degrees Fahrenheit, though in some parts it will actually boil. Um, if you fall in, you die.
At least 30 different places on Earth have sand dunes that...sing? They sing and croak, and it sounds like something between a swarm of bees and chanting monks. I'm sure you'd like us to tell you why now, but...nobody is sure.
The Earth's tectonic plates are constantly shuffling around each other, causing earthquakes, tsunamis, and forming mountains. They ALSO play a very important role in The Carbon Cycle which means carbon based life forms continue to do pretty well here.
Due to the amount of heavy elements in Earth's make up - Lead, Uranium, Fruitcake - Earth is the most dense planet in the Solar System, giving it the highest surface gravity of any terrestrial object (planets, dwarf planets, or moons) in the solar system.
(Also the best John Mayer song ever, Gravity.)
Climate overall tends to shift from really really hot to really really cold. There have been at least 5 MAJOR Ice Ages throughout the history of the planet, and technically we're still living at the tail end of the last one, which started a little over 3 million years ago and peaked about 20,000 years ago. According to scientists, Ice Ages start slowly and end abruptly, sometimes warming globally as much as 20°F over the course of only a few years! In the last 100,000 years alone, the Earth has experienced at least 24 of these rapid temperature changes.
I like big Moons and I cannot lie. Earth's Moon - which doesn't have an official name like other planets' moons - is huge compared to the size of Earth. Most scientists think this is because the Moon used to be a PART of Earth. The theory goes that there was a violent separation (possibly several) millions of years ago of the rocks that eventually became the Moon. She just wants to stay close to home, aw.
The softest mineral on Earth is talc. Yes, Talc as in Talcum Powder that we use in cosmetics and on babies' bums, as well as in ceramic glaze and paper production.
There's a place where it thunderstorms every night. Nothwestern Venezuela is home to where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, and it is here, that every night, a Thunderstorm happens. They can last up ten hours and average nearly 30 lightening strikes per minute.
40,000 tons of space dust falls on our planet annually. It's made of oxygen, nickle, iron, carbon, and other elements. It's literally Stardust. The planet is covered it in. We breath it in. It's pretty cool to think about.
Photo Credits: Feature image: shutterstock, 25-24. wikimedia commons (public domain), 23-22. pexels (public domain), 21. Rdevany, Mt. Everest from Gokyo Ri November 5, 2012, CC BY-SA 3.0, 20-19. pexels (public domain), 18. wikimedia commons (public domain), 17. Famartin, 2015-07-13 09 11 13 A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine along the North Loop Trail about 7.3 miles west of the trailhead in the Mount Charleston Wilderness, Nevada, CC BY-SA 4.0, 16-12. pexels (public domain), 11. wikimedia commons (public domain), 10-6. pexels (public domain), 5. USDA via flickr (public domain), 4-1. pexels (public domain)