This appendix will appear in the second edition of Saving Our World.
Mind Blowing Facts About Planet Earth We Did Not Learn In School
By Laura Lee – January 20, 2022
There is so much we don’t know about our planet. Most of us only know that it is our home and it’s where dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. Some also know that it’s part of the solar system, that it’s the only planet known to maintain life, and that it’s also the only one known to have liquid water on its surface. But what else have scientists discovered that our school teachers never taught us? Well, you’re about to find out. Keep reading to learn about the planet we call home.
THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE LIVING IN SOUTHEAST ASIA THAN OUTSIDE OF IT.
With 4.6 billion inhabitants, Asia is the most populous continent in the world. The region is so populous, in fact, that just part of it is home to the majority of people on the planet. The circle above is about 2,500 mi in radius and contains more than half the world’s population.
YOU CAN FIT EVERY PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM BETWEEN THE EARTH AND THE MOON.
The moon really doesn’t seem to be that far away considering we can see it from Earth. However, it is approximately 238,555 miles away from us. This distance is big enough that you could fit all other planets in the solar system between Earth and the moon with about 4,990 miles to spare.
IF OTHER PLANETS WERE THE SAME DISTANCE FROM EARTH AS THE MOON.
Perspective is interesting. Even if things are massive, they might appear tiny when they are far away. This illustration shows how we would see some of the other planets in the solar system if they were the same distance from Earth as the moon.
THE U.S. IS SO LARGE IT COULD FIT 30 EUROPEAN COUNTRIES.
With a total area of 3,796,742 sq miles, the United States is the third-largest country in the world by both land and total area. The country is so massive, in fact, that it could fit thirty European countries in its area as you can see in this picture.
AUSTRALIA IS WIDER THAN PLUTO.
Who would have thought that a country could be bigger than a planet? It turns out the Australian mainland extends from west to east for nearly 2,500 miles, while the diameter of Pluto is only 1,476.8 miles. This means that the land down under is a lot wider than our favorite dwarf planet.
VENEZUELA’S CATATUMBO RIVER EXPERIENCES ALMOST CONSTANT LIGHTNING.
One of the most intriguing atmospheric phenomena in the world is known as Catatumbo Lightning. A never-ending lightning storm electrifies the sky for several hours each day over the mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela where it empties into Lake Maracaibo.
GRAVITY IS NOT THE SAME EVERYWHERE ON EARTH. THIS MAP SHOWS THE PLANET’S GRAVITATIONAL FIELD.
If you thought gravity was the same everywhere on the planet, this map is about to prove you wrong. Since the planet is not perfectly spherical or uniformly dense, gravity varies around the globe. It is stronger over places with more mass underground (red areas in the map) and weaker at the equator.
THE OCEANS HOLD 20 MILLION TONS OF GOLD.
Getty Images / Moment / fanjianhua
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is about one gram of gold for every 100 million metric tons of ocean water in the Atlantic and north Pacific. However, these particles are extremely tiny and, currently, there is no cost-effective way to actually extract them.
THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE WHEN A SUNSET AND A SOLAR ECLIPSE HAPPEN AT THE SAME TIME.
Unless you’ve actually witnessed something like this, you might not know that sunsets and solar eclipses can happen at the same time. In fact, every time there is a total solar eclipse, it takes place at sunrise in some parts of the world and sunset in others.
THE SIZE OF A COMET COMPARED TO THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES.
As you may know, comets are frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system. Composed of dust, rock, and gasses, comets can be a few miles wide or tens of miles wide. This rendering of the 2.5-mile wide Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko compared to the city of Los Angeles shows how big these cosmic snowballs truly are.
THE LONGEST WALKABLE ROAD IN THE WORLD IS OVER 14,000 MILES AND STRETCHES ACROSS AFRICA, EUROPE AND ASIA.
It would take the average person about 587 days walking 8 hours every day to walk the longest walkable road in the world. Starting from Cape Town, in South Africa, this trail passes through countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Sudan, Egypt, and Turkey before reaching its final destination, Russia.
EARTH WITHOUT WATER.
This rendition might be a little bit exaggerated, but it shows just how different our planet would look without water… Known as the Blue Planet, 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water, including lakes, rivers, oceans, ice sheets, and glaciers.
THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE OF THE EARTH YEAR-ROUND IS AROUND 57°F.
Combining land and ocean annual temperatures, the 1901–2000 average temperature on Earth was is 57.0°F. While the average land temperature for the same period was 47.3°F, the average surface temperature between 1901 and 2000 was 60.9°F.
THE MOST REMOTE LOCATION ON EARTH IS 1,677 MILES AWAY FROM THE NEAREST LANDMASS.
Lying at least 1,670 miles from the nearest land and 13 ft under the sea, Point Nemo is considered the most remote place from any human civilization on Earth. It was named after the fictional submarine sailor from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO SEE RAINBOWS IS IN HAWAII.
A 2021 study by Dr. Steven Businger shows that Hawaii is the best place on Earth to see rainbows. Due to its latitude, Hawaii’s trade wind weather is characterized by clear skies between convective showers, which are just enough to allow sunlight to reach the rain beneath the showers, producing perfect conditions for rainbow sightings.
SUNSETS ON EARTH ARE RED, BUT SUNSETS ON MARS ARE BLUE.
Also known as the Blue Planet, Earth has red-colored sunsets. Mars, commonly called the Red Planet, has blue-colored sunsets. It turns out sunsets on each planet have different colors depending on the planets’ atmospheres and how their particles scatter sunlight.
A MODEL OF HOW MANY EARTHS WILL FIT INTO THE SUN.
The Sun has a radius of about 435,000 miles and our planet has a radius of about 3,950 miles. According to NASA, this means it would take more than 330,000 Earths to match the mass of the Sun and 1,300,000 Earths to fill its volume.
ALL OF EARTH’S WATER IN COMPARISON WITH EARTH.
Water makes up about 71% of Earth’s surface. Water is found in the oceans, as well as lakes, rivers, swamps, and underground. Created by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, this picture represents how much water is actually found on, in, and above Earth.
THE HOTTEST SPOT ON EARTH HIT 136°F IN 1922.
In July 1913, observers in Furnace Creek, California, noticed their thermometers reach 134°F and declared it the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. However, nine years later, in September 1922, a weather station in El Azizia, Libya, reached a temperature of 136.4°F. According to the World Meteorological Organization, this remains the highest air temperature ever recorded.
ASIA COVERS 30% OF ALL THE LAND ON THE PLANET AND IS HOME TO 60% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION.
The largest on Earth, Asia covers an area of 17,212,000 sq mi – equivalent to about 30% of the planet’s total land area. With 4.5 billion people, Asia is also the most populous continent on the planet, constituting approximately 60% of the world’s population.
THE EARTH IS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING 100 TIMES PER SECOND.
According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, about 100 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur every single second in the world. This is equivalent to 8.6 million times per day! If you were wondering where is the most lightning-prone region in the world, it’s Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, where 28 lightning strikes occur every minute.
1,300,000 EARTHS COULD FIT INSIDE THE SUN.
With a diameter of 864,400 miles, the Sun is about 109 as wide as our planet and weighs about 333,000 times as Earth. To put its size in perspective, the Sun is so large it could fit about 1,300,000 planet Earths inside it.
ROUTE 66 IS LONGER THAN THE DISTANCE TO THE EARTH’S CORE.
The distance between the surface of the Earth and its core is about 1,802 miles. In comparison, U.S. Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America, is 2,448 miles long – almost twice as long as the distance from the ground to the core of the planet.
EARTH ONCE HAD TWO MOONS.
According to a 2011 study by planetary scientist Erik Asphaug and postdoctoral researcher Martin Jutzi at the University of California Santa Cruz, Earth used to have two moons. Their theory suggests a second, much smaller moon may have orbited Earth before slamming into the other lunar satellite, explaining why the two sides of the surviving moon are so different from each other.
THERE IS A WATERFALL IN ANTARCTICA THAT RUNS RED.
Known as Blood Falls, this waterfall runs red due to a high concentration of iron in its water. When the iron-rich water oxidizes at the surface, it becomes blood-red, depositing rusty stains on the ice as it falls.
ONLY 29% OF THE EARTH’S SURFACE IS COVERED BY LAND, THE REST IS COVERED BY WATER.
While only 29% of the planet’s surface is covered by land, the other 71% is covered by water. This water is 97% salted and 3% fresh, however, out of that 3% freshwater, over 2% is frozen in ice sheets and glaciers. This leaves less than 1% freshwater which can be found in lakes, rivers, and the underground.
THE EARTH’S CORE IS AS HOT AS THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.
It turns out the Earth’s inner core is a lot hotter than we thought. New measurements suggest the planet’s core temperature is about 10,832°F. This means it is as hot as the Sun’s surface, whose surface temperature is approximately 9,941 °F.
EARTH ISN’T A PERFECT SPHERE.
Although Earth is definitely a sphere, it isn’t a perfect one. NASA explains that due to the force caused when the planet rotates, the North and South Poles are slightly flat. But the difference in diameter is quite small. The diameter at the poles is about 7,900 miles and 7,926 miles at the equator – which means the difference in diameter is only about 0.3%.
48.5 TONS OF METEORITIC MATERIAL FALLS ON EARTH EACH DAY.
Also known as shooting stars, meteors are meteoroids that enter Earth’s atmosphere (or that of another planet) at high speed and burn up. According to NASA, it is believed that about 48.5 tons of meteoritic material fall on Earth every single day.
FIRE ON EARTH VS. MICROGRAVITY.
On Earth, gravitational convection makes candle flames teardrop-shaped. They also look yellow due to soot being carried to their tip. According to NASA, in microgravity, there are no convective flows, so flames are spherical, soot-free, and blue.
EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE CONSTANTLY SHINES.
Due to a phenomenon known as airglow, our planet’s atmosphere shines constantly. This faint emission of light causes the night sky to never look completely dark, even after removing the effects of starlight and diffused sunlight from the far side.
AUSTRALIA’S TECTONIC PLATES ARE DRIFTING SO QUICKLY IT REQUIRES UPDATES TO GPS SYSTEMS REGULARLY.
Earth’s tectonic plates are shifting, but Australia is moving particularly fast. Its plates are drifting so quickly it requires updates to GPS systems and maps regularly. Between 1994 and 2016, the country moved almost 5 feet according to National Geographic. Scientists believe that in around 50 million years, Australia will collide with southeast Asia.
4.5 BILLION YEARS AGO, THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE ON EARTH WAS AROUND 176°F.
When Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, it was a lot warmer than today. According to a 1986 article published in one of the top academic journals in the world, Science, the planet’s temperature averaged around 176°F at the time.
WE CAN SEE ABOUT 2,500 STARS WITH THE NAKED EYE.
Although the Milky Way has about 400 billion stars, the average human eye can only see about 5,000 of them without the help of optical instruments such as telescopes. But because Earth itself gets in the way, we can only see half of those from where we stand.
CORAL REEFS ARE THE LARGEST LIVING STRUCTURES ON EARTH.
Made up of tiny coral polyps, coral reefs are the largest living structures on the planet. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some of these communities of connected organisms are even visible from space.
IN 250 MILLION YEARS, ALL CONTINENTS WILL COME TOGETHER AS A SUPERCONTINENT.
You may have heard of Pangea, the last supercontinent, which formed around 310 million years ago. Due to the movement of the tectonic plates, this supercontinent started breaking up about 180 million years ago, forming the continents we know today. Studies suggest that due to the subtle movement of the plates, moving around a couple of inches each year, a new supercontinent will be formed in about 250 million years.
THE LOWEST TEMPERATURE RECORDED ON EARTH WAS -128.6°F.
On July 21, 1983, Vostok Station, a Russian research station located in inland Princess Elizabeth Land, Antarctica, recorded the lowest temperature ever measured on Earth. That day, the thermometers in the area reached a freezing -128.6°F.
A NATURAL GAS FIELD IN TURKMENISTAN HAS BEEN BURNING FOR OVER FIVE DECADES.
Known as Door to Hell, this large crater located in Turkmenistan has been burning since 1971. Over fifty years ago, during a Soviet drilling operation, engineers encountered a pocket of natural gas and decided to set it on fire thinking it would burn out in a few weeks. However, it continues to burn five decades later and has even become a popular tourist attraction.
GRAVITY ON EARTH IS NOT UNIFORM.
People often assume that gravity is the same everywhere on Earth, but it actually varies since the planet is not perfectly spherical or uniformly dense. Gravity is also weaker at the equator due to centrifugal forces produced by Earth’s rotation.
EARTH IS THE ONLY PLANET KNOWN TO HAVE LIQUID WATER ON ITS SURFACE.
Although evidence points to water on other planets in our solar system, including a global ocean beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Earth is currently the only known planet to have consistent bodies of liquid water on its surface.
EARTH RISING ABOVE THE LUNAR HORIZON SEEN FROM APOLLO 8 (1968)
Known as Earthrise, this picture has been described as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken”. It was captured by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission, the first crewed voyage to orbit the Moon in 1968.
ASTRONAUT KATHRYN SULLIVAN IS THE ONLY PERSON IN HISTORY TO HAVE VISITED BOTH SPACE AND THE DEEPEST PLACE ON EARTH, THE MARIANA TRENCH.
NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space in 1984. Decades later, she became the first woman to dive to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the planet’s oceans.
EARTH SPINS THROUGH SPACE AT JUST OVER 1,000 MILES PER HOUR.
The Earth is constantly spinning and some parts of the globe are actually moving at just over 1,000 miles per hour. To understand why the equator spins faster than the North and South poles, picture a basketball spinning on someone’s finger. Any point on the ball’s equator would need to go farther than a point near the person’s finger to complete a 360-degree spin.
EARTH IS 18 GALACTIC YEARS OLD.
In regular years, our planet is 4.5 billion years old. But if we consider the fact that the Milky Way (our galaxy) makes one rotation approximately every 250 million years, our planet is around 18 galactic years old.
CANADA HAS MORE LAKES THAN THE REST OF THE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD COMBINED.
With 9% of its total area covered by freshwater, Canada has approximately 31,752 lakes larger than one square mile. Of those, 561 lakes have a surface area larger than 38 square miles, including four of the Great Lakes.
NORTH AMERICA AT NIGHT SEEN FROM SPACE.
If you have ever wondered what Earth looks like at night when seen from space, here’s your answer. Showing our planet at night as seen from space, this gorgeous picture is a composite assembled from data acquired by NASA’s satellites.
THE WORLD’S LARGEST METEORITE WEIGHS MORE THAN 60 TONS.
Believed to have occurred about 80,000 years ago, the Hoba meteorite was discovered in 1920 by Jacobus Hermanus Brits, who was plowing one of his fields with an ox. Weighing over 60 tons, the meteorite has never been moved from the spot where it landed in Namibia.
SUNSET ON EARTH SEEN FROM SPACE.
We can all agree that sunsets here on Earth are absolutely gorgeous. If you have ever wondered what they look like from outer space, this is your answer. This photo was taken by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst at the International Space Station.
BLUE LAKE IN NEW ZEALAND IS THE CLEAREST BODY OF WATER IN THE WORLD.
Located in New Zealand, Blue Lake is the clearest body of water in the world. Also known as Rotomairewhenua by the Maori people in the region, this lake’s visibility ranges from 230 to 260 ft. To put this number in perspective, distilled water has a visibility of about 260 ft.
IF THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE WAS COMPRESSED INTO A DAY, HUMANS WOULD HAVE EMERGED AT 11:59 PM.
While Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, the universe is actually 13.7 billion years old. Homo Erectus, the first human on the planet, appeared only about 2 million years ago – which means that if the time the universe has existed was compressed into the span of a 24-hour day, the Big Bang would have happened at the stroke of midnight, Earth would have been born at 4:38:00p.m. and humans would have shown up at 11:59:56pm.
THE MOON PASSING BETWEEN NASA’S DEEP SPACE CLIMATE OBSERVATORY AND THE EARTH.
Used in the Deep Space Climate Observatory, the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera captures pictures of the sunlit side of our planet like this one for monitoring purposes. This image shows the far side of the Moon, illuminated by the Sun, as it crosses between the spacecraft and Earth.
THE LARGEST SINGLE-CELL ORGANISM ON EARTH HAS A DIAMETER OF 1.6 IN.
Known as bubble algae or sailor’s eyeballs, the Valonia ventricosa is a species of algae thought to be the largest known species of unicellular organisms. This single-cell organism’s diameter ranges from 0.4 to 1.6 inches, although it can reach 2 inches in rare cases.
EARTH’S SIZE COMPARED TO THE SUN AND OTHER PLANETS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM.
With an equatorial circumference of about 24,901 miles, Earth is the fifth largest planet in the solar system. Although it is only slightly bigger than venus, whose equatorial radius is about 3,761 miles, our planet is a lot larger than Mars, whose equatorial radius is just 2,110 miles.
JACOB’S WELL IS 137 FEET DEEP.
Located in the Texas Hill Country, Jacob’s Well is a perennial karstic spring. The 137ft-deep spring is well-known among open-water divers, who come from all over the world to visit the site.
HARPEA’S CAVE IN SPAIN IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF TECTONIC PLATE MOVEMENT.
Located near the Franco-Spanish border, Harpea’s Cave is a great example of an anticline – an arched fold of strata that has its oldest beds at its core. Showing its oldest geological layers in its center, this cave is also a perfect example of tectonic plate movement.
THE LONGEST MOUNTAIN RANGE IN THE WORLD IS ACTUALLY UNDERWATER.
Called the mid-ocean ridge, the longest mountain range on the planet spans 40,389 miles around the globe (yellow-green on the map above). Formed by the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates, 90% of the seafloor mountain system is actually located under the ocean according to the US National Ocean Service.
THERE ARE OVER 4,500 SATELLITES ORBITING THE EARTH.
As of January 1st, 2022, there are 4,852 active artificial satellites orbiting the Earth. Out of those satellites, 2,944 belong to the US. This means the United States has the largest number of human-made objects placed in orbit compared to all other countries in the world.
A YEAR ON EARTH ISN’T ACTUALLY 365 DAYS.
Although we were always taught that a year has 365 days, the truth is a year on Earth is actually 365.2564 days. The extra 0.2564 days are the reason why we need leap years every four years, adding one more day to February to make up for the extra time.
EARTH IS ABOUT 4.54 BILLION YEARS OLD.
By dating the oldest rocks and meteorites that have been discovered on Earth, scientists have been able to calculate the age of the planet. It turns out Earth is about 4.54 billion years old. Nuvvuagittuq Belt, pictured above, is made up of the oldest known rocks on the planet, dating back to 4.28 billion years ago.
ANTARCTICA IS THE LARGEST DESERT ON EARTH.
The definition of a desert is simple: it’s a region that is very dry because it barely receives any water. The total precipitation in Antarctica is 166mm (6.5 inches) per year and its area is approximately 5,500,000 square miles, making the continent the largest desert in the world.
THE DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH HASN’T SEEN RAIN FOR 2 MILLION YEARS.
Located in Antarctica, an area called the McMurdo Dry Valleys is the driest place and one of the most extreme deserts on Earth. There has been absolutely no precipitation for nearly 2 million years in the 1,900-square-mile region.
HURRICANES CAN UPROOT TREES.
As we all know, hurricanes can cause a lot of damage. Due to their strong winds, trees can sometimes even be uprooted – which is what happened in Florida a few years ago. The picture above shows the effects of Hurricane Matthew in Florida back in 2016.
THE FIRST PHOTO OF EARTH FROM SPACE (1946).
On October 24, 1946, American scientists and researchers launched a V-2 missile carrying a 35-millimeter motion picture camera into space. At an altitude of 65 miles, this picture was captured – becoming the first-ever photo of Earth from space.
THERE WASN’T JUST ONE ICE AGE.
Whether you learned about the Ice Age in school or by watching Ice Age in the movie theater, you have definitely heard this term before. But did you know that there has been more than one Ice Age since Earth formed? Throughout history, the planet has been completely covered in ice at least five times.
MORE THAN EIGHTY PERCENT OF OUR OCEAN IS UNMAPPED, UNOBSERVED, AND UNEXPLORED.
Exploring the ocean at great depths is very difficult due to zero visibility, extremely cold temperatures, and intense pressures. For these reasons, more than 80% of the ocean remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.
WE DON’T KNOW WHO NAMED THE EARTH.
All of the planets in the solar system were named by the Greeks and Romans after their gods and goddesses. However, the name “Earth” is the combination of the Middle English word “ertha” and the German term “erde, which means “the ground”.
THE FASTEST GUST OF WIND ON EARTH WAS 253 MILES PER HOUR.
Back in 1996, a tropical cyclone named Olivia bore down on the coast of Barrow Island, Australia. According to the Weather Channel, its eyewall produced five extreme three-second gusts of wind, whose peak was a 253 mph gust on April 10.
THERE ARE FOSSILIZED PLANTS IN GREENLAND UNDER A MILE OF ICE.
Around 80% of the surface of Greenland is covered by the Greenland Ice Sheet, which might be the only relic of the Pleistocene glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere. Back in 1966, researchers found well-preserved fossil plants at the bottom of a mile-deep core sample, which means the 660,000-square-mile ice sheet must have melted and reformed in the last million years.
THE WORLD’S MOST DENSELY POPULATED ISLAND IN THE WORLD IS THE SIZE OF TWO SOCCER FIELDS.
Located in the Archipelago of San Bernardo off the coast of Colombia, Santa Cruz del Islote is home to five hundred people. About the size of two soccer fields (two acres), the small artificial island is considered the most densely populated island in the world.
EARTH WEIGHS ABOUT 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 POUNDS.
The fifth-largest planet in the solar system, Earth weighs an impressive 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds (or 5,974,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms). This number can be calculated using the planet’s density, gravity, and gravitational constant.
OUR DAYS ARE GETTING LONGER.
Our days get about 1.8 milliseconds longer per century. This happens because of Earth’s relationship with the Moon. With the tides it creates, the Moon is actually creating a force that slows down our planet’s rotation. This means that when Earth first formed billions of years ago, a day was only six hours long.
WHAT THE WORLD LOOKED LIKE ABOUT 300 MILLION YEARS AGO.
Before we had all the continents that exist today, all landmass was centered on the Equator. This supercontinent was called Pangea and was formed approximately 335 million years ago, then began to break apart about 200 million years ago.
THE ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC SEEN FROM SPACE.
We never get to see pictures of Earth from this angle. Thanks to NASA, images such as this one allow us to see the world from a different perspective. Here is our planet as seen from space – this is the Arctic and Antarctic.
EARTH’S GEOLOGICAL TIME SCALE.
A lot has happened since Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago. This illustration shows just how much our planet has seen before we came long about 2 million years ago, including five mass extinctions and five different ice ages.