15 Interesting Facts About Planet Earth
What color did the Earth used to be? How many moons did we used to have? From exploding lakes to a 35,000-ton fungus, here’s some of the weirdest, most random facts about planet Earth.
15 Earth Isn’t Round
…and it’s not flat, either, so put that out of your mind. Actually, the general shape of the planet is a squashed sphere, a little wider around the middle than a perfect sphere would be. On top of that, there are spots where mass is a bit higher, and gravity has a stronger pull. So it’s not a perfect circle, it’s more like a fat oval with some bumps.
14 You Weigh Less at the Equator
Your weight is just a function of how much gravity acts on your relative to your mass. And because the pull of gravity is slightly weaker at the Equator than at the poles, you would naturally weigh less – but not by much. A 200-pound human would weigh about a pound less at the Equator than they would at the North or South pole.
13 You Could be Moving 1,000 Miles an Hour
Yes, right now. Depending on your location, you could be moving at about 1,000 miles per hour – the rate that the Earth spins at the equator. Of course, if you’re standing at one of the poles, you may not be moving at all. And if you’re anywhere in between, which you probably are, you’re moving somewhere between 0 and 1,000 miles per hour, as we whip through space.
12 The Moon Gets Earthquakes
Earth’s Moon is a mostly dead, inactive chunk of rock. But recent discoveries show a number of new trenches that have different features than the rest of the Moon’s surface. Those are the kinds of trenches that appear because of earthquakes. From the information we have now, it’s assumed that the Moon has had some sort of tectonic activity within the last 50 million years, but scientists admit it could just as easily have happened within the last century. And it could still be active today.
11 Antarctica is a Desert
And not just any desert. Antarctica is actually the biggest desert on Earth. Deserts aren’t just places with a lot of sand – they’re defined as places that get very little precipitation. Antarctica gets less than two inches of precipitation a year – mostly snow. The Sahara Desert gets more rain than that on a regular basis.
10 Magnetic North is Moving
The magnetic north pole is not actually the very northernmost point on the planet. And it’s also not stationary. It’s currently moving eastward, toward London, due to the shifting of mass on the planet – primarily the melting of the polar ice caps and land water mass shifts in Europe and Asia.
9 Everest Technically isn’t the Biggest Mountain
Mount Everest’s peak is technically the highest point on Earth at 29,035 feet above sea level. But if you’re looking for the biggest mountain from base to peak, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is taller by about a mile. While the inactive volcano only stands 13,796 feet above sea level, its base extends to about 19,700 feet BELOW sea level, for a total height of about 33,500 feet, almost a mile taller than Everest.
8 Earth Had Two Moons
The prevailing theory is that Earth once had two moons, and at some point, they collided to form one. That explains why the moon’s two sides are so drastically different. The near side of the moon – the side we can see from Earth – is generally flat and even, while the other side is very mountainous and rugged.
7 Exploding Deadly Lakes
Central Africa is home to three lakes that are positioned directly above volcanic activity. Magma travels below the surface, occasionally belching out carbon dioxide into the water above. The result of this can be an “explosion” of carbon dioxide that is so overwhelming, it can push the oxygen away and asphyxiate anyone in the area. Lake Nyos, in Cameroon, killed more than 1,700 people when it exploded with carbon dioxide in 1986.
6 Earth Used to Be Purple
The “purple Earth” theory states that early plant life didn’t use chlorophyll to absorb light, which reflects green light. If early plant life was retinal-based, as studies seem to suggest it was, then the earth would have been covered by plant life that reflected purple light instead of green. And the “purple Earth” theory isn’t just limited to plants.
5 The Oceans Used to be Toxic
Scientists have discovered evidence of heavy amounts of “purple” bacteria in the oceans of prehistoric times. That means two things. First, because that particular type of bacteria requires intense sunlight to survive, it most likely gathered towards the surface, changing the coloring of the ocean to be purple. And second, because that type of bacteria is sulphuric, it could not have survived in an ocean with fish and mammals. Which means the oceans went for a long time without fish and mammals in it.
4 The Stromboli Volcano is Always Erupting
Or at least it has been for about the past 2,000 years. This volcanic island to the south of Italy just never shuts up. For the past two millennia, it has been a near-constant eruption of lava. This has, for some reason, made it a popular tourist destination.
3 The World’s Largest Living Thing is a Fungus
The Armillaria, or “honey fungus,” is a mushroom that networks itself over massive sections of forested areas. The largest known one is in Oregon and is known as the “Humongous Fungus.” It’s about 12,500 feet wide, covering 2,385 acres of land, and is thought to weigh as much as 35,000 tons.
2 Earth’s Rotation is Slowing
Very slowly, the Earth is slowing down on its axis. Every year, days go by just a little bit slower. Of course, the difference is unnoticeable to the average human. At this rate, it will be hundreds of millions of years before we get to the 25-hour day.
1 Earth is the Densest Planet in the Solar System
It’s no big surprise that Earth – being a tightly-packed ball of rock – is denser than huge balls of gas like Saturn and Neptune. But thanks to a very sturdy crust, and a core made of nickel and iron, Earth is the densest planet even including the other terrestrial planets, at 5.51 grams per cubic centimetre. Mercury comes in a close second at 5.43 grams per cubic centimetre, while Saturn sits in last at 0.7 grams per cubic centimetre.