40 Earth Facts to Deepen Your Love of the Planet

15. Earth’s orbit also varies over time

Not only does the Earth’s tilt change over time, but also its orbit around the Sun. Another discovery of Milutin Milankovitch, the Earth’s orbit changes from roughly circular to roughly elliptical in a cycle that spans about 100,000 years.

Called eccentricity, this change in orbit would be caused by the influence of Jupiter and Saturn on Earth over regular periods.

When Earth’s orbit is more elliptical, about 23% more incoming solar radiation reaches Earth at its closest approach to our planet’s Sun each year. At present, the Earth’s eccentricity is almost the least elliptical (most circular) and is decreasing very slowly.

This has an impact on the Earth’s climate cycle, but it is relatively less important than other factors.

16. The Earth also wobbles like a spinning top

Not only does the Earth’s tilt change from time to time, but the entire axis wobbles over time – just like a spinning top.

Called axial precession, tthe trend in the direction of this oscillation occurss in a cycle that lasts about 26,000 years or so. Made Notorious By Milutin Milankovitch, tIt is believed that the ideal forces of the Sun and the Moon are responsible for this movement.

In the past, the Earth’s precession was called the “precession of the equinoxes” because the equinoxes moved west along the ecliptic relative to the fixed stars. This is the opposite of how the Sun moves along the ecliptic each year.

It is widely believed that this was first observed by the 2nd century BC astronomer. Hipparchus.

17. The circumference of the Earth is 24,901 miles

If you prefer miles, that comes down to about 40,075 km.

18. There are many people on Earth

The current estimate of the world’s population, from June 2022, is around 8 billion and growing.

19. And most of them live in Asia

Of the total population of the planet, about 60% are found in Asia. This includes countries like the People’s Republic of China, India, and parts of the Russian Federation.

20. The Earth is full of contradictions

Source: Google Maps

Planet Earth is a very complex system and at times can create very strange contradictions. For example, the driest place on earth and the largest body of water lie side by side.

The first is the Atacama Desert; the latter is the massive Pacific Ocean.

21. Antarctica is actually a very cold desert.

Speaking of deserts, the continent of Antarctica is, technically speaking, also one. Since a desert is actually defined by its average annual rainfall, rather than being a massive expanse of sand etc., Antarctica easily meets the requirements.

22. Some parts of the world below sea level are not covered by ocean

If we stick to Antarctica for a moment, some parts of its land are thousands of feet/meters below sea level. Some parts of the The subglacial Bentley Trench in Antarctica is actually 2,555m below sea level.

The reason these areas are not flooded is because they are covered in several thousand feet of ice.

23. The light takes about 8 minutes to reach us

You probably already know this one, but sunlight takes about 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach us. Even though light is incredibly fast, Earth is so far away, 93 million miles (151.92 million km) in fact, that it still takes a few minutes to cover the distance.

24. Earth’s magnetic field reverses over time

Earth's magnetic field
Source: Andrew Z. Colvin/Wikimedia Commons

Responsible for protecting the Earth from the ravages of the solar winds, the Earth’s magnetic field is largely the reason life can survive here. But, for reasons not well understood, this field weakens, collapses and reverses from time to time.

Occurring in cycles of approximately 3-4 times every million years, it is unclear whether this poses a potentially serious problem for life on Earth. It’s happened so often, for so long, that it never seems to have caused large-scale extinctions, although some claim it might.

However, in our modern, technology-dependent civilization, the next one could be serious enough for all of us.

25. And this one is way overdue

I don’t want to scare you too much, but the next magnetic field reversal is long overdue. In fact, as of 2012, it may be about 400,000,000 years behind (the last one is 780,000 years ago, and they happen about every 300,000 years, on average).

26. We know more about space than some of our oceans

Although the world’s oceans are much easier (you think) to explore than some other worlds, we know very little about the oceans. According to some estimates, we have only fully explored about 20% of the oceans.

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